Tarpon – Day 2

Half past noon and Capt. Paul Hawkins www.capnpaul@flatsguy.com is finally where he wants to be. We (Hawkins, Bill AuCoin and I) are about 100 yards off the shore of Shell Key near Tampa Bay in Hawkins’ 18-foot skiff.

We’re waiting for a tarpon to swim within casting distance. Three tarpon have already slipped past us before we could get a line in the water. Sight fishing for tarpon is basically a one-and-done proposition, meaning that you usually get one cast.

Hawkins is a highly skilled fly fisherman and has his 12-weight rigged and ready. Given the right conditions sight fishing is ideal for fly-fishing.

Conditions are good but the wind and waves make them far from ideal. A storm is brewing. Hawkins suggests we start thinking about heading back to the dock. AuCoin spots a pair of tarpon and casts. One fish turns and takes the bait.

AuCoin (pictured left) sets the hook and the fish makes a 150-yard run then jumps twice. Before AuCoin brings the fish to the boat it delivers another seven jumps.

Hawkins reaches for the bait just as the leader breaks. The tarpon rights itself and swims away.

“Whew!” an exhausted AuCoin says.

Whew, indeed.