2015, April 6-10, Florida Everglades Tarpon Trip Summary: Our Tarpon trip in April of 2015 was haunted by a cold front that blew in from the East and the memory of a Tarpon swimming off with my rod tip. At the time, New York was getting pounded by late season snow and a low pressure system was sitting over the Eastern part of the United States blowing unforgiving winds into Florida. For this short trip, we would be staying at a rental condo at the Apollo Condominium Complex in Marco Island with convenient beach access and a restaurant called the Sunset Grill which serves some great Ahi Poke. It’s nice to come in after a long day of fishing, enjoy an appetizer and a cocktail and head down to the beach to watch the ritual setting of the sun. The sunsets are gorgeous on Marco Island and the soft color tones and cloudy skies create an artist’s palate of pastel colors as the sun’s soft rays fade to blue drowned by the horizon of the gulf. Once the light is completely extinguished, a spectacle worthy of a Michael Jackson Thriller video takes place as thousands, if not millions, of slithery mollusks creep from their sandy, watery graves into the blackness of night. On this trip, the fishing proved to be much more challenging than the mollusk hunting. Plagued by winds and rough dirty water in the area known as 10,000 Islands, we fished the area around Everglades City the first two days with very little to show for our efforts. This was a quick trip with four days of fishing that we split between two guides, Captain Bill Faulkner and Captain Kevin Mihailoff. The first two days of our trip were spent searching sheltered lees out of the wind and praying for a good shot at a laid up fish. The wind and wind driven tides had whipped up the outlying 10,000 island area into a whipped cocoa latte and the first two days we blanked seeing very little life beyond the occasional 8 foot bull shark that makes your stomach leap into your throat when they swim beneath the casting platform you are balancing on at the bow of the boat. Of course this happens as the boat dips and bobs in the waves throwing you off balance. The next two days were spent heading south and abandoning the unfishable conditions in the islands in favor of open water that had some clarity as it was begrudgingly dragged into the Everglades by the forceful gravity of the moon. Here the clear water revealed a couple of large manatees (not what we had come for) and more importantly Tarpon. Now from our experience, Tarpon tend to get lockjaw when they experience a sudden temperature drop brought on by a cold front and we certainly casted at a few prehistoric specimens that rolled away from our fly with their dorsal fins erect as if to give us the middle finger. However, after a dozen good shots at fish in clear water, one finally decided to bless us and eat the fly. The fight was typical with the disoriented fish trying to rid itself of its feathery attachment by violently blasting from the water and ripping backing out to sea, but the result of the fight would be different from what I had planned. A tarpon is a fly caught fish once the guide is able to grab the leader, and to that end, the day was a success as I got a nice fish in the 80 -100 pound range up to the side of the boat. As I went to the side of the boat to view my catch, there in the blackened reflection of its crinkled eye, the two of us sized each other up – me planning to grab the fish alongside the boat for a victory photo, and the fish deciding it was going to make chopsticks out of my fly rod. With that it surged out of my guide’s hand, leader and all, dragging my fly rod and tightened drag with it between the boat and trolling motor where with a loud crack, the tip section separated along with the fish and the rod and fish were no more. In the role of high speed sports photographer, Diane was quick to document this divining moment when my rod spontaneously combusted turning into nothing more than kindling. After the line snapped under the force of the surging fish, the lost tip section sank out of sight into the empty sea. Thankfully Orvis accepted my admitted failure to avoid the trolling motor and replaced my rod for a nominal fee. With that, our Tarpon trip was over - one tarpon to the boat, with an asterisk next to it because I am still not sure who ultimately won the battle.

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