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KW Tarpon 2024

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Fergal

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Well, my 7 days fishing down here are over, I start my travel tomorrow AM @5. Two words to describe the trip - extremely disappointing. Out of the 7 days I had 2.5 days of good weather and only 2 continuous days of good weather. The first day saw building wind. There were a few fish around in the AM but what little life that showed rapidly dwindled and the day went on and the winds increased. The second was a loss for all practical purpose. We saw one fish roll early and that it. Day three, we got up a little earlier, hit the harbor and found good life with smaller fish that were initially willing to play with several fish on but none to hand. As it got light out we hit the usual spots with no life and opted to quit at 11 and come back out in the afternoon when the winds were supposed to drop. They did and it was slick calm. The first flat that we came to had three groups of permit showing but they disappeared and we did not see any more. The bonefish were out in force and were tough in the calm conditions and very low water. I had several shots, landed one, lost a few and dropped flies right on top multiple fish disappointing my guide in the process. The next AM saw calm conditions and building tarpon numbers but they were very fussy and not showing well. We again opted to stop early and come back out later. Once again the first flat showed some permit and after an initial muffed cast I was able to make a good shot, get a follow and that was it. Again, the permit were not seen again. Bonefish action was good, had a couple of fish. The next AM saw more tarpon in a bit of a better mood but they were still fussy. We decided to drop down to a 30lb bite and take our chances. We were rewarded pretty quickly with a solid eat and a fish on for a good bit. The first was tiring and getting close when the bite wore thru, that was expected and while it wasn’t a caught fish it was pretty close and I was satisfied with the outcome. We thought we would continue to see fish but they pulled a vanishing act. Again we opted to come in and head out later, that was canceled when the winds came up and the tide didn’t drop as expected. We opted to hit the harbor early again. We did so multiple times, leaving the dock at 4am. I landed a few, missed a bunch but they were all smaller fish unfortunately but fun none the less and a bit of a trip saver. The last  day we bagged early due to screaming winds again.

 

That was two trips in a row with **** weather. While I don’t expected great weather every day I would say that 75% of my Feb & May time had weather that flat out sucked, to the point of making fishing essentially pointless. On this trip, my guide busted his ass. Between the early starts and the second outings he certainly earned his money.

 

All of my tarpon fishing was with 10wts, I never even threw an 11. Bones were all 9s. As I noted in another thread, I fished the Hardy Marksman Z. I bought a 9 and loved it. Fairly on I tried my guides 10 and never put that down for the rest of the trip, I joked that it was coming home with me. That rod is phenomenal. I didn’t get to throw the 11 tho. Lines, I used SA’s new clear lines in either full cleat or the clear tip. While one can debate the value of using a clear line they were excellent. SA nailed it with those lines. They performed perfectly, pleasant to cast and not coilly pieces of crap like some of the other clear lines (Rio and the craptactular garbage from monic). I’ll post separately about the lines later.

 

I’ll be down for tarpon in May next year and probably a permit trip too. Keep at it and hope for a good weather trip at some point. Sooner or later that has to change.

 

ASMFC - Destroying public resources and fisheries one stock at a time since 1942.

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10 mins ago, Fergal said:

Well, my 7 days fishing down here are over, I start my travel tomorrow AM @5. Two words to describe the trip - extremely disappointing. Out of the 7 days I had 2.5 days of good weather and only 2 continuous days of good weather. The first day saw building wind. There were a few fish around in the AM but what little life that showed rapidly dwindled and the day went on and the winds increased. The second was a loss for all practical purpose. We saw one fish roll early and that it. Day three, we got up a little earlier, hit the harbor and found good life with smaller fish that were initially willing to play with several fish on but none to hand. As it got light out we hit the usual spots with no life and opted to quit at 11 and come back out in the afternoon when the winds were supposed to drop. They did and it was slick calm. The first flat that we came to had three groups of permit showing but they disappeared and we did not see any more. The bonefish were out in force and were tough in the calm conditions and very low water. I had several shots, landed one, lost a few and dropped flies right on top multiple fish disappointing my guide in the process. The next AM saw calm conditions and building tarpon numbers but they were very fussy and not showing well. We again opted to stop early and come back out later. Once again the first flat showed some permit and after an initial muffed cast I was able to make a good shot, get a follow and that was it. Again, the permit were not seen again. Bonefish action was good, had a couple of fish. The next AM saw more tarpon in a bit of a better mood but they were still fussy. We decided to drop down to a 30lb bite and take our chances. We were rewarded pretty quickly with a solid eat and a fish on for a good bit. The first was tiring and getting close when the bite wore thru, that was expected and while it wasn’t a caught fish it was pretty close and I was satisfied with the outcome. We thought we would continue to see fish but they pulled a vanishing act. Again we opted to come in and head out later, that was canceled when the winds came up and the tide didn’t drop as expected. We opted to hit the harbor early again. We did so multiple times, leaving the dock at 4am. I landed a few, missed a bunch but they were all smaller fish unfortunately but fun none the less and a bit of a trip saver. The last  day we bagged early due to screaming winds again.

 

That was two trips in a row with **** weather. While I don’t expected great weather every day I would say that 75% of my Feb & May time had weather that flat out sucked, to the point of making fishing essentially pointless. On this trip, my guide busted his ass. Between the early starts and the second outings he certainly earned his money.

 

All of my tarpon fishing was with 10wts, I never even threw an 11. Bones were all 9s. As I noted in another thread, I fished the Hardy Marksman Z. I bought a 9 and loved it. Fairly on I tried my guides 10 and never put that down for the rest of the trip, I joked that it was coming home with me. That rod is phenomenal. I didn’t get to throw the 11 tho. Lines, I used SA’s new clear lines in either full cleat or the clear tip. While one can debate the value of using a clear line they were excellent. SA nailed it with those lines. They performed perfectly, pleasant to cast and not coilly pieces of crap like some of the other clear lines (Rio and the craptactular garbage from monic). I’ll post separately about the lines later.

 

I’ll be down for tarpon in May next year and probably a permit trip too. Keep at it and hope for a good weather trip at some point. Sooner or later that has to change.

 

Mother can be challenging, March and April historically are dicey. I may have 6 or more those periods of nasty, sometimes 2 weeks. Depending on winds and tempsI varied fishing from upper Key Largo to Cudjoe key, Ended up fishing passes in the upper keys. Great report , still better than not going

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That trip does not sound like a total loss... You saw fish, had shots, got eats... caught some bonefish.

 

Last Keys trip i took.  I fished with a guide for 3 days, 2 were cut short because of wind, rain and lightning.  Day 3 the skies cleared but the water temp had dropped like 7 degrees so nothing swam.  I think i took one cast over 3 days for some jacks swimming by.

 

I dont mess with the keys anymore... way too fickle for someone like me who can only afford the occasional trip in a predetermined locked in window with a guide.

 

 

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Thanks for the trip report.  Sorry to hear the weather did not cooperate.  It's funny but I've seen the Keys get windier and windier in the spring since 1999 progressed to current day.  I used to have 2nd week of May booked for life pretty much and I used to be able to depend on the wind being reasonable by my week or two in the Keys.  Sometimes I would book April and it was invariably a cr*pshoot if it was going to be blown out or not.  When I hear trip reports that are blown out I miss the Keys less...but I still miss them nonetheless.

 

I've fished the SA clear lines for many years, like them but surprised by your comment on the Monic.  I also fish Monic and after they fixed their line melting issues 10 years ago I like them as well, I actually prefer their taper.  I do have both the Liquid Crystal and the Phantom lines on different outfits depending on my druthers that day.  I have not tried the Rio clear, just curious what you don't like about them?  I look forward to reading about your experiences with the lines.

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That’s the game of planning trips, weather is the unknown factor.  My last couple of years going to Louisiana have been similar, we usually end up with one day where the wind and rain is too bad to even go out.  I’m going a month earlier this year which is risking the big bulls not being up in the shallows yet.  My Belize trip this past summer had some tough wind and rain conditions with the week prior and after being beautiful.  We have to adapt to the hand we are dealt, it’s still frustrating though. 
 

I have never fished the keys.  It was “the place” I wanted to fish when I was younger and working in a fly shop, 20+ years ago.  Now it seems I hear more stories like mightyrime, “it was great back when…”.  I imagine I will get there at some point just to check it out and say I’ve been there.  

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Thanks for the report. I really wish people would make more reports like this. All you tend to see on social media are reports (and fish species is irrelevant its all the same) of the oh we hammered them look at me stuff.  New anglers get such a skewed perception of what fly fishing trips and travel are really like.  Weather is a huge factor in both fish behavior and fisherman ability impacts especially in saltwater stuff.

 

Its part of the game. My favorite reports are the yahoos who talk about redfishing in LA with the "man they just jumped in the boat.....any idiot can catch tons of bull reds in the marsh,...." Simply not true but sure sets some guys expectations.

 

I rarely post fishing reports anymore because I just don't care to take the time to do a decent writeup. But when I do I try and post the whole story. Not just my hero days.

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Nice report, glad you found some fish in the windows you had. 

 

I have to say, I am intrigued by this sort of fishing, but it's the weather that deters me from booking a trip. I would be seriously frustrated booking a week fishing trip, prepping for months, spending thousands, and fishing only 2.5 days. I give you guys who do it major props. You are far more patient and understanding than me! 

 

I think the only solution is to retire and go spend a month and just fish on the "good" days! 

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14 hours ago, formula1 said:

 

 

I've fished the SA clear lines for many years, like them but surprised by your comment on the Monic.  I also fish Monic and after they fixed their line melting issues 10 years ago I like them as well, I actually prefer their taper.  I do have both the Liquid Crystal and the Phantom lines on different outfits depending on my druthers that day.  I have not tried the Rio clear, just curious what you don't like about them?  I look forward to reading about your experiences with the lines.

I think he is referring to the new SA Magnitude lines.  


 

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36 mins ago, numbskull said:

I think he is referring to the new SA Magnitude lines.  


 

 

I didn't even know they had a new clear line...I'm looking at it on their website.  $179???  With that I think fly lines have finally gone completely bonkers in terms of cost.  

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49 mins ago, formula1 said:

 

I didn't even know they had a new clear line...I'm looking at it on their website.  $179???  With that I think fly lines have finally gone completely bonkers in terms of cost.  

 

1 hour ago, numbskull said:

I think he is referring to the new SA Magnitude lines.  


 

Yes, those.

 

I needed a new 9 & 10 line for this trip, 2 of mine were pretty worn from practice casting. I thought the same thing regarding cost but when you consider what 7 days of fishing costs, food, travel, etc - what’s another $50 for a line? I figured it would be worth a shot.

 

SA hit it out of the park imho. Previous attempts at clear lines (or clear tip lines) have largely underwhelmed and underperformed. Generally, they’re stiffer than desirable and they do not perform as well as the non-clear Rio Elite/SA Amplitudes and any possible benefits to those lines is lost due to their issues (imho, ymmv). The Rio clear tip is somewhat usuable but it just doesn’t handle like the regulars. Monic, their lines can double as weed whacker material if needed and it would likely perform better in that regard than plain’ol weed whacker line….

 

I did not notice any difference with the clear lines vs their non-clear versions. SA has kept the same tapers in the new lines (Grand Slam, Infinity, Tarpon, etc). So you can get the exact same line that you’re used to. I thought that the clear lines might be difficult to track while actually fishing but I did not have any issues there and I am not the most experienced flats fisherman. Going forward I expect to use these and as I need new ones I will replace them with the newer clears. The only thing that remains is their durability. I will say one thing - they do not like even somewhat cool temps. I tried throwing them on the lawn before I left and I found that they were stiff and unruly with temps in the 60s. So they probably won’t be an option up here but in Florida and the warmer temps, they were completely fine.

 

 

ASMFC - Destroying public resources and fisheries one stock at a time since 1942.

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3 hours ago, Gilbey said:

Nice report, glad you found some fish in the windows you had. 

 

I have to say, I am intrigued by this sort of fishing, but it's the weather that deters me from booking a trip. I would be seriously frustrated booking a week fishing trip, prepping for months, spending thousands, and fishing only 2.5 days. I give you guys who do it major props. You are far more patient and understanding than me! 

 

I think the only solution is to retire and go spend a month and just fish on the "good" days! 

That's fishing - you pay your money and take your chances.

 

The more that I think about it I’m pretty down about my last three trips there (this one, this past Feb, last May). All three of those had significant weather issue days vs good days. Surprisingly, my Feb 2023 trip was largely perfect, 5 days, I basically had bad weather one afternoon and the following morning. Otherwise it was excellent. The issue with the last three trips wasn’t just some wind, it was a lot of wind. Most of the days had winds right near 20 and many had wind above 20. Additionally, this year, for whatever reason, the wind really put the tarpon off. They completely disappeared on the windy days and they were gone instantly. They didn’t dwindle, they were completely absent from the flats and even dredging the channels wasn’t productive. If it wasn’t for the little fish in the harbor the trip would have been pretty much a total loss.

 

I’m already looking at some other options for next year.

ASMFC - Destroying public resources and fisheries one stock at a time since 1942.

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Great info Fergal.  I use clear lines mainly for skinny clear water and skittish fish.  I find many fish species don't need them.  I know that many Keys guides prefer their clients to use clear lines if they are able to fish the lines.  There are a couple of Keys guides who do not like clear lines at all (I recall one or two on Andy Mill's podcasts stating specifically this preference).  Many people do have issues with clear lines in general because they have trouble tracking the fly.  I know for myself if it's a very windy day it becomes problematic because it's easy to lose the fly (especially the small worm flies that are almost required these days for ocean side fish).  Key is, IMHO, good casting, you have to know where your fly landed.  After that good eyesight and experience to know where your fly is, which can be harder with clear lines or if you land your fly way off the mark and are attempting to strip the fly into the spot you need (12 inches in front of the fish's nose).  In any water that's not skinny clear water I don't use clear lines.  

 

That said I may have to try the new SA clear line.  You mention the Rio clear tip, but Rio also has a new clear line as well, have you had a chance to try them?  Also is it the handling that you find deficient in the prior clear lines that you've tried, or is it the tapers don't seem well thought out?

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I haven’t tried Rio’s full clear and I don’t intend to. I think that they’re same material as their clear tips.

 

The SA clear tip is a good compromise - 10’ of clear, so you can still see some line. Admittedly, I struggle to find my fly once it’s in the water. I watch for where the fly hits vs the fish and I keep track from there by guesstimating how much line I have retrieved from splash down and what the fish have done. Also, I rely on my guide. He can track the fly, so I listen to him.

 

While these lines are fully clear the fish are still aware of their presence. While bonefishing there were a few times when we threw to fish farther out only to have fish right at the boat too. Those close fish would usually avoid the line and not swim under it. We also had that happed with some tarpon too. I threw at some fish probably ~70’ only to have a few fish appear near the boat, they also avoided the line as well (they wouldn’t swim under it). 

 

I agree, clear lines definitely aren't needed but why not if it can help, even if it's just a little bit.

ASMFC - Destroying public resources and fisheries one stock at a time since 1942.

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17 hours ago, formula1 said:

 

I've fished the SA clear lines for many years, like them but surprised by your comment on the Monic.  I also fish Monic and after they fixed their line melting issues 10 years ago I like them as well, I actually prefer their taper.  I do have both the Liquid Crystal and the Phantom lines on different outfits depending on my druthers that day.  I have not tried the Rio clear, just curious what you don't like about them?  I look forward to reading about your experiences with the lines.

I just realized I had brain fade here (I'll blame old age lol) - I meant to say Cortland Clear Lines, not SA as SA has not had any clear lines that I know of before the new clear they have out.

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7 hours ago, Fergal said:

That's fishing - you pay your money and take your chances.

 

The more that I think about it I’m pretty down about my last three trips there (this one, this past Feb, last May). All three of those had significant weather issue days vs good days. Surprisingly, my Feb 2023 trip was largely perfect, 5 days, I basically had bad weather one afternoon and the following morning. Otherwise it was excellent. The issue with the last three trips wasn’t just some wind, it was a lot of wind. Most of the days had winds right near 20 and many had wind above 20. Additionally, this year, for whatever reason, the wind really put the tarpon off. They completely disappeared on the windy days and they were gone instantly. They didn’t dwindle, they were completely absent from the flats and even dredging the channels wasn’t productive. If it wasn’t for the little fish in the harbor the trip would have been pretty much a total loss.

 

I’m already looking at some other options for next year.

 

Very true.  If winds are 10-15 kt I consider that good :).  But like you in the last 5-7 years I frequently had winds 20 and up.  A lot of times it's wind direction - tarpon, IIRC in conversations with my guide and guide friends is that tarpon like an easterly or south easterly wind, and north to north west no good.  I'm a bit surprised that they disappeared completely though.  Honestly one of my buddies used to split a boat frequently with me for 2-3 days (in Islamorada) then go down to fish with another guide in KW and his luck wasn't very good (which meant my luck as well too) in seeing fish and even more important seeing fish that were high and happy.  Eventually my friend gave up for greener pastures (I got him hooked on Loreto and he's also been going to Australia) and we talk about the Keys every year, question always being from him "are you going down there this year?"  It's tough when you know the weather has changed so much and there is now tremendous fishing pressure down there affecting the way fish react.  I remember one year I fished some extra days leading up to Memorial day weekend and on the Friday of that weekend we saw tons of tarpon....and tons of boats.  All the tarpon were fast and unhappy, I must have seen several hundred that day and not a single one wanted anything to do with my fly...it's why I'm looking at other options as well.  It's pretty disappointing when you spend as much money on the guides there, not to mention travel, hotels, etc and the fishing isn't up to snuff.

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