With Spring in full affect down in Southwest Florida, the temperatures are warming up, and the rain is right around the corner. This means a few things, the most important to most fly fisherman, is that juvenile and baby tarpon season is upon us. Being eager to eat flies, pull hard, fight mean and always so acrobatic – these little guys are dream fish for many anglers.
Tarpon are often seen rolling when they come up for air, which can make them fun to fish for, and it’s also a great way to locate them. Early morning in the spring in summer is of the best times to locate these rolling fish. Finding these little guys can be difficult, so here are a few tips I have picked up to be more affective while targeting small tarpon on the fly rod.
Location & Depth Changes
Finding the right fish for fly fishing can mean the difference in actually catching fish or just casting all morning at rolling fish. Tarpon generally like staying in deeper holes or canals where they can have safety in the depth. However, when they are eating, they will push into shallow water, edges and mangrove shorelines chasing small baitfish and minnows. This is where you will have a much higher success rate in getting one to eat your fly. Which brings us to the next tip..
Streamer Patterns, Colors, & Size
Smaller size streamer “baitfish & minnow” patterns is a must in my book. Flies like the EP micro minnow, Schminnow and Laserminnow are a few that have been proven to produce in many conditions. The smaller the better sometimes – especially when they’re keyed in on the tiny fry bait.
For colors to use, I go by the old rule of thumb — dark water, dark colors like blacks and purples; light water, light colors like whites chartreuse and natural colors. This can also be applied to the weather conditions. During the mornings/evenings and also low light days when its cloudy darker colors, you can throw a better silhouette and brighter sunny days bright colors can be less intrusive.
Having the right gear is important so you can have an easy carefree day on the water. I generally like to use smaller rods that will still allow you to cast in the wind or punch larger patterns like small gurglers. The Axiom ll or Axiom II-X in 5-6 weight has been great for this job and was built for these salt conditions. Fishing in tight conditions like mangrove tunnels crazy stuff happens so its nice having a rod that is backed by its company with an unbeatable warranty.
For the reel, I use an older BVK reel, but the BVK SD reel would be a great affordable choice. Sometimes to get way back where the little guys live kayaking or wading can be your best access which often leads to reels getting submerged or wet. This makes the BVK SD ideal with its light weight frame and sealed drag.
Retrieval & Strip Patterns
Last but not least, for a productive day of baby tarpon fishing, getting your strip cadence down is imperative. Juvenile tarpon are aggressive fast fish and 90% of the time I like a short consistent fast strip. Even if you feel a bite, just keep stripping. They will often miss or short strike the fly so it’s crucial not to rip the bait away from the fish. There has been many times where I have had a single fish take multiple swings at a fly in the same retrieve and finally hooked him on his 4th or 5th try.
Juvenile Tarpon are an awesome fish to target on light fly rods for anybody from beginner to expert and applying a few simple principles can make your time on the water much more productive. One of my main tips for anybody is to keep it simple and have fun!
Words and photos provided by Logan Totten. Logan is a TFO Ambassador based out of Englewood, Florida. He also works at TFO dealer/fly shop West Wall Outfitters in Port Charlotte, and runs a guiding service on the side called Backcountry Paddle Adventures. For further questions, you can reach out to Logan at firstname.lastname@example.org.