Saturday, March 19, 2011

Puta Madre Sabalo Grande!

Mother &*$%@#$ big tarpon.

That's why you go to Holbox, for a shot at one of the biggest, strongest, and most challenging fish on the planet on a fly rod. Tarpon, especially the big ones, don't come easy. For many anglers with a freshwater background (Fast Jimi and I very much included) the transition to bigger, heavier, and more powerful rods and a strip set are the first couple of adjustments that anglers need to make to be successful.

As Jimmy already told you, the first big tarpon of the trip was a pretty short experience. A cast in front of a school of rolling fish, a thump as a 100-something pound fish engulfed my purple death, and a solid strip set drove a 6/0 600SP deep into the hard mouth of a monster tarpon.
Within a couple seconds, I was in my backing, in the process of losing just about every guide on the rod, and my brand new line. The fish jumped three of four times in the process, and Jimmy was able to snap these pictures as the fight ended with a sickening crack.

Choose your four letter word here...
And one last jump before he disappeared for good...

Rigging up a new 12 wt. and line on the Gulf on Mexico.
Weather limited our opportunities to fish for these monsters, but we did get out a couple other times during our stay.
Jimmy vs. Tarpon

Separation anxiety.
Jimmy was leaving on a Wednesday, and after a couple beers and a quick glance at the weather forecast, Sandflea proclaimed that Thursday was going to be the Whenever a guide says something along those lines, it's a very bold prediction - and something that isn't said lightly. But let's just say that Sandflea was right. We hooked a half dozen monsters, had a double on, and got these shots...

Hooking a big tarpon is like getting into a bar fight. In the opening seconds adrenaline shoots through your veins and your mind struggles to fully understand what is happening. The fish is already shooting off at mach 2, and you're left behind just trying to catch up.

You look down at your reel, and the handle is spinning so fast it just looks like a blur. A silver rocket shoots out of the water along the horizon. It's the fish you're hooked up to, but you can't believe it's that far away already. As the fish crashes back down in to the water, doubts start to materialize that you can actually tame the beast and get it back in.

As the fight approaches an hour, you start to realize that you are the weakest link in the process. Rod, reel, line, and backing are doing their job, but your body aches from the fight. When you rest, the fish rests, and just maintaining pressure on a fish that weights just as much as you do takes its toll on your strength.

After the fish makes a few more runs and jumps, you've finally drawn it close to the boat. However, the fish senses the significance of the moment, and clears water again, head thrashing, trying to throw your fly. The jump starts below the surface - a dark spot turns in to a silver bullet as the fish powers upwards, it breaks the film of the water, gills flared, eyes wide, and then flops back down

The struggle has just begun once the fish is close to the boat. The fish tries short runs, quick rolls and jumps, and desperate moves under the boat to try to escape. But you've almost got him, and soon, he's yours.

Most of them get away - more than any angler fishing for them would like to admit. But when one comes to the boat, the picture says it all.

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