Fly Fishing: Respect Thy Tarpon Guide

I respect tarpon guides a great deal. As a trout guide, I run into many of the same struggles they do on the water, but tarpon guides have to deal with managing them at the extreme level. They spend their days on the water guiding in some of the most demanding and technical fly fishing conditions on the planet, and to make things worse, many of their clients have never experienced the saltwater fishing conditions before in their life. Getting the job done, day in and day out, is rarely easy for a tarpon guide. I imagine there’s plenty of silent prayers being made on those poling platforms, begging for a starving fish to show itself at just the right angle, and that a good presentation follows.

Friends that guide for tarpon tell me of occasional periods where the skunk doesn’t leave the boat for days at a time. Hookups that are short lived, are the only thing that keep them sane and focused on the prize. It’s not that they aren’t spotting fish and getting plenty of opportunities during the day. Most of the time, their hands are clean and the skunk falls on the operators standing on the bow. It’s hard to hit your targets if you haven’t taken the time to sight-in your fly rod before you begin the hunt (pre-trip casting preparation). Consequently, a large percentage of the fish catching opportunities witnessed by tarpon guides fizzle out before they can materialize, from presentations missing their intended targets. And don’t get me started on the unstable emotions that plague newcomers to chasing tarpon on the fly. That’s a whole-nother can of worms. I’ve been on the bow many times, where I completely fell apart after locking eyes with a 100+ pound poon.