Posted on April 29 2008
The other day I was fishing with Tommy Locke and George Anderson for laid-up tarpon. The conditions weren’t perfect, but we found fish — some quite high in the water and black from months in the tannic basins of southwest Florida — so the targets were obvious. We made plenty of good presentations that were refused by the fish. We also made some bad casts and like any honest tarpon fishermen we shrugged and laughed those off. But one wide, dark fish that we saw coming from 300 feet out gave me a perfect opportunity, and I waited patiently, then nailed the cast. The only problem was that just before the fly landed, the line shooting off of the deck wrapped around the back of my flip flop and the only way I could get it free was to kick the flip flop off. It landed in the water. More laughter as six feet of fish swam under my rod tip. “Maybe you guys will bring your A game tomorrow,” Tommy said.
Sometimes the absurdity of situations like this, where your inadequacies as an angler are bared to the world (which in this case consists of your guide and partner), incites the mind to become quite agile in its desperation. After a few minutes I said, “You know, I’ve been fishing for tarpon a long time, as you guys have too. I’ve seen a lot of flies thrown at tarpon. And you know what I’m about to say is true: It’s got nothing to do with presentation.” I let this sink in. “It is all about the fly.”
There is plenty of time to pause in a boat conversation, and Tommy and George, who had spent a good part of the morning hashing over fly choices, just waited. “You make a perfect cast, the fish doesn’t eat it. You throw a fly twenty feet behind the fish, he turns around and runs back to it. You know what I’m saying, and I’m right. It’s all about the fly.” Tommy was the first to laugh.
The fish began eating after that.