The following Essay was
sent to me by a customer of mine following a tarpon trip in April of 2012. His
words describe what a lot of us tarpon addicts felt like after catching our
first tarpon. He was 81 years old at the time.
SCOTT HUGHES, aka TARPON DU
Having fished most of my life all
over this continent, for almost every variety of fresh water fish, I became
intrigued with the many stories I’ve heard and read about Tarpon fishing in
Southwest Florida. Finally, this April I succumbed to those tales and went
Tarpon fishing with Captain Scott Hughes.
Having fished with a few captains
before, I was not totally surprised by Scott’s take charge attitude. He did
all the normal things one would expect, but had an uncanny degree of attention
to the small things. They are the things that let one catch, lose or even miss a
tarpon, and they are not going to happen on his boat if he can possibly help it.
After a few hours of drifting over secret sweet
spots he knew of, and lowering or trimming the depth of the bait, the distance
from the boat, the speed of the drift and countless other subtleties I probably
missed, it was beginning to look like we may not strike a fish.
After hours of Scott’s constant attention to winds, angles, rips, fish
sightings and boils, he suddenly
decided we were among lots of Tarpon, put out more lines, changed depths. and
distances of depths until all I could think was these were just obsessive
wrinkles in this man’s psyche, and we would just have to listen and perform
exactly as he asked until it was time to reel in and go home.
Late that afternoon, well into our fifth hour of drifting, and ten dozens
alterations of ways to do it, a Tarpon struck. Unknown to me, my two fishing
partners had secretly decided that no matter which line the first fish struck,
it would be my honor to take the rod and do my best with it.
(When and if you ever go Tarpon fishing, you will understand what a
generous gift this was!)
Only seconds later, maybe
milliseconds, the fish jumped, and in that furious, boiling, savage leap, all I
ever knew about fishing changed forever. It was life altering! No fishing of any
kind anywhere that I know of will ever match the power and fury of a Tarpon gone
mad. Helpful instructions of my fishing buddies were silenced, and Scott stood
by my side insisting on being the only instructor I was to have.
I cannot tell anyone how long this fight lasted. I cannot tell anyone exactly
how big the fish was. I cannot tell anyone how strained and sore my arms and
chest became. I cannot tell anyone how many times I wondered how in the world
any fish could sustain such power – and as it turned out – supremacy – for
so long. What happened was perhaps
inevitable. No one scolded me. No one found any fault with what happened. The
Tarpon was suddenly gone. As quickly as he came, he left.
For reasons I don’t understand, I was not disappointed.
I knew it would be released anyhow. I wished I had seen him just a bit closer at
least once. I hoped we might even get a picture of him aside the boat before he
was released. But none of that happened.
What did happen instead was a completely new
concept of game and sport fishing had been born, Yes, the trout and bass and
pike and other fresh water fish I had pursued all my life would still be
pursued. And so will the striped bass I love to chase. And so will other species
I have been fortunate to fish. But…
As I said above, a tarpon on the end of your line
is life altering. You will not see fishing the same again, no matter how many
decades of other fishing you have done.
This is the experience of one fisherman, new to
Tarpon, new to a captain who is as much a hunter as a fisherman, new to an
experience this late in life that still has the power to change it.
Do not say you were not warned!
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