Select Page

I’m on the bow of Capt. Kevin Mihailoff’s flats boat deep in the Florida Everglades with my friend Roger, sitting behind me. As we silently turn toward a laid up Tarpon, Kevin quietly says, “Straight out in front, 30 feet, put it in the air, I’ll tell you when.” So, I do just that and then Kevin says, “Ok, drop it.” The black 3-0 fly plops just behind the head of the resting fish and I strip short pulses easily back over her back. Five strips, and she sees it, her wake bulging behind the fly. The enormous fish chomps down on the hook and erupts with her mouth opening. Shaking her head, she looks directly at me and turns down and away, I strip-set twice to drive the barb in and Kevin yells, “Yes!”After less than a minute, I have only 1/8-inch of backing left on the reel and Kevin abandons poling to the fish and starts the motor. Twice we chase down the Tarpon as I recover line and renew pressure to make the fish expend energy. Kevin urges me to put maximum pressure with the 12-weight on the fish and as I added some more torque to the already stressed rod. I could feel the mood of the giant fish turn ugly. I had pissed off this fish.Suddenly, the huge Tarpon raced 20 yards to my left sending a rooster tail of water behind the fly line. The fish then ran at the boat, straight at me, vaulted into the air, struck me on my left hip, driving my knee into the front podium, and passes over the boat behind me and in front of Roger who is sitting on the cooler behind me. There’s slime all over the deck and it’s a brief frenzy of team line clearing as the three of us yell, “Woah, Holy $#@%!” and other stuff you only say when you’ve never seen something as extraordinary. That fish hit me! I recovered all of the slack pretty fast, thanks to Roger and as he toweled up the slimy deck I slithered for good footing, the Tarpon made another huge surge out away from the shoreline. “Dude, did you rip your pants?” I reached back and felt tatters and I knew that this Tarpon had tried to take a chunk out of my butt. My knee stung, but I was now more determined to subdue this fish. We had to start the motor again and chase down the Tarpon, but after an hour’s fight, I could feel the big fish begin to tire. Four or five times, we had the fish close enough to the boat for Kevin to grab the leader and each time the fish surged away with a push from the giant tail. The fight ended with the Tarpon alongside the skiff and as Kevin’s fingers were groping for the fly, the frayed loop-knot was evidence that the 60-pound fluorocarbon had been worn away at the hook eye. A perfect release, an experience of a lifetime and a battle where I was attacked by a 125-pound Tarpon.