So the Minister of War & Finance and I had a nice vacation in Key West this past week. Got in early Monday the 10th and came home yesterday.
Monday was beach/pool time and the Duval Crawl. Your's truly was in fine form. Somehow I got pulled up on stage at a great bar called Irish Kevin's to partake in a contest to see who could down a pint of Guinness the fastest. I was about 2 sheets to the wind at this point and then the dude running the contest decides to torpedo my pint with about 2 shots worth of Jameson- whoa nelly this is gonna hurt. Anyway, I posted a respectable time of 6.4 seconds but some 22-year old kid from University of Florida, who didn't have his Guinness torpedoed downs his in about 3.5 seconds. He's still competing on the regular tour, I've evidently moved on the to the "masters" division.
Some non-fly fishing action in the interim as I split a trip with a buddy and he was on the bow when he took this permit on a live crab out in the Marquesas (he doesn't fly fish but I'm working on converting him). Then we took the ladies offshore Thursday and got some nice mahi (plus feeding tarpon at the docks) but Friday & Saturday I went out with Capt. John O'Hearn. John is a well known guide down there and is the dude running the boat/poling in this video: https://vimeo.com/83816888
Friday I took Mrs. Finn along. She didn't really want to fish but wanted to see what all the fuss was about. To her credit she was a total trooper. It was super calm and hot. We killed about 3/4 of a case of water and 6 32oz bottles of Gatorade.
We left the ramp at 6:30 Friday morning and headed to some flats where he'd been seeing tarpon and were looking for rollers as the sun came up. He said this time of year most of the big girls have moved on but there are still plenty of poon in the 40-70# class. Throwing my 10wt and little tiny flies (for tarpon anyway) on size 2 hooks. John said he's a stickler for using IFGA leaders. Which means a 16# class tippet of at least 15" and bite tippet of no more than 12". He's so hard core about it he's got 2 little marks tattooed on one shin (that he did himself with a fish hook and India ink) to mark the proper length for the bite tippet.
Anyway we head into the back country where we're looking for rollers until the sun gets high enough to sight-fish them. We pole up to where we see some rolling and I make a cast at a roll, strip, strip, BAM! And damnit, she's gone. Reel it in and there's the telltale curlicue at the end of the bite tippet- the knot failed. And it was the guide who tied it on. He was apologetic and was OK with me busting his balls over it the rest of the day.
We see one other big tarpon (easily a 100# fish) in the back country flats but I rushed my first shot and was off-line as the fish was slowly moving away and when I lifted my fly off the water to make a second shot the sound spooked her and she took off. Soon the back country flats quiet down as the sun gets higher and it's too hot on the flats so we move oceanside on the white sands out in front of Ballast Key (about 15mi west of Key West https://www.google.com/maps/place/Ballast+Key,+Floridafirstname.lastname@example.org,-81.9646565,1816m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x88d1cf37fbb9bbbf:0xee8b8e2d37e7fe71
Here we found a ton of smaller tarpon up to about 50#.
I got 3 more to eat but each one of them either broke me off on the hookset or I hit bone and they spit the hook. I had several more flat out refusals and a couple where the dang needlefish beat a tarpon to the fly.
Saturday morning it was just me on the skiff and it was not nearly as calm and we had crap light but we found the tarpon again working bait balls out on the white sand in front of Ballast Key.
So about 8:45 Saturday morning after getting some refusals John says, "there she is, 1 o'clock 40 feet out, 2 of 'em coming right at you" (I had been looking the other direction and they came onto the white sand off a darker bottom) and I make a snap-shot cast strip, strip, SHE ATE IT! And then all hell breaks loose. She's jumping and cartwheeling and stripping drag. After about a 10 minute fight we bring her alongside the skiff, it's about a 45# poon and John grabs the leader. My first official tarpon catch. But, as he's about to go from the leader to grab the mouth for some pics, out pops the fly and she's gone. WOW! What a rush.
The bite tippet is shredded so we tie on a new one and wait. I got another one to eat but she must have gotten the tippet down into the corner of her mouth because she bit through 50# bite tippet like a pair of scissors. Then we had some weather come up and we had to wait it out.
Finally, about 12:30 we're sitting in in almost the exact same spot as the first fish and I'm sitting down on the casting platform having a drink when John says, "there she is, 3 o'clock, 30 feet out, heading to the back of the boat" I throw my Gatorade into the cockpit and rush out a short backhand cast that lands 6' in front of the poon. A couple strips across her vision and she turns to follow and inhales the fly not 15' from the skiff. I come tight and rather than jumping she heads for the bottom and runs out to sea. She ran through all kinds of sargassum patches, tried to wrap me around a lobster trap buoy, and just ran. After about 20 minutes we get her alongside the boat and John grabs the leader when she decides to make another dive and CRACK! she snaps my Scott Tidal 10wt at the first ferrule above the handle. We try to hand-line her up but the tippet pops and she swims off. Oh well, she was an official catch and went about 70#. I ain't even mad about the rod.
At this point I decide I should go ahead and close on a high note and we head back in for celebratory beers for the first 2 tarpon I've officially landed even though I don't have pics- I have the memories.
Rather than posting all the pics here's a link to the slideshow. Password is: keywesthttp://s719.photobucket.com/user/dfstarr/slideshow/Key%20West%20August%202015