As they say, the more we learn, the more we realize how little we actually know. That is exactly how I feel about fishing. It is my passion in life, my future career path, and the source of my happiness and serenity, but man, do I still have a lot to learn. I am determined to take in every ounce of information I can and share with others what I have learned.
71 percent of this planet is water. Water waiting to be explored and new species and forms of life waiting to be discovered. Throughout my life, I have been blessed with the incredible opportunity to fish different bodies of water across this planet, from the Amazon to Alaska, and learn about their diverse fisheries. I am in love with each and every fishing opportunity I am granted, but the waters that have enticed me the most throughout my explorations are the ones in my very own backyard - The Florida Keys.
The hook set and initial run of a timid bonefish, the intelligence and brute strength of an elusive permit, and the heart pounding dance of the silver king, otherwise known as a tarpon. These are the things that keep me coming back to learn more and it is a fishery that I recommend each and every one of you get to experience in your life time.
Typically, an 8 or 9 weight rod is used during bonefishing. A bonefish’s diet is primarily crustaceans such as crab and shrimp. Imitation patterns of these species make for great bonefish flies...some with weighted eyes and others with lighter beads for eyes to present them at the right level of the water column. After you set the hook on a bonefish lift your rod in the air because they will be sure to make a screaming run to start off the fight. The first 30 seconds of catching a bonefish is by far the most exhilarating.
Fishing has singlehandedly taught me the value of discipline and patience. I would have to say catching a permit on fly is the biggest accomplishment you can make in the sport of fly fishing. I have caught one permit on fly after many failed attempts. Tears of happiness rolled down my face when I landed the fish and I jumped in the water with her.
Why are they so challenging though? Permit run in the jack family. They are strong and powerful, but they are also skittish and finicky. That is what makes a permit so challenging. It is best to catch a permit in windy conditions. On a glass flat day a permit will sense your presence from the other end of a flat. Permit love strong tides which can be found in certain passes and banks where large volumes of water are pressed through relatively narrow habitats. They are also often more active during nearly full or new moon phases where bigger stronger tides are prevalent.
Permit used to be my favorite species until they hurt my feelings one too many times. Now Tarpon have taken their place. You can catch tarpon cruising on the ocean side or laid up in the backcountry. Tarpon on the ocean side are primarily migratory fish that can be traveling on their own, or in schools of 100 plus fish. Their season peaks from late April to June, yet they can be caught year round.
Tarpon fishing in the backcountry means early wake ups, pitch black cruises to their feeding grounds, and fishing for the rolling tarpon at first light. While fish can be found throughout the day, they often tend to feed most aggressively near the top of the incoming, and the early part of the falling tide.
When a tarpon jumps, the angler bows, giving the line back so he doesn't pop the leader or straighten your hook. Typically, while tarpon fishing you are using a 4 section leader with the lightest section being IGFA standard, 16 LB test. Line strong enough to put pressure on the beast, but weak enough where finesse is absolutely essential for success.
To have success, great eyesight is immensely important. When it comes to eyewear, Costa Del Mar has created the best lens technology for sight casting fish on the flats. The green mirror lens helps to enhance vision and contrast in the water. If it is an overcast day, dawn, dusk, or any low lighting condition, the silver sunrise will bring your surroundings to life.
See whats out there. Experience new fisheries. Meet new people. But most importantly, don't forget to enjoy the journey.
- Heather Harkavy - Florida State University