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Florida Keys, TarponI haven’t posted on Flies & Fins for a while now, I guess I”ve been too caught up with the unimportant things in life … school, sports etc. However, a tale I’d like to share is about my 6 days spent this past May in the Florida Keys doing battle with the most magnificent creature that swims – The Megalops Atlanticus, more commonly known as the Tarpon. I’ve been fortunate enough to have fished the Florida Keys for the past 10 years or so, landing my first baby tarpon on fly when I was 11 years old. Recently, I’ve traded nearly everything and spent almost every dime I’ve ever made (or borrowed from my parents) to travel down to Marathon Key for tarpon season. This season, in particular, was one that will never escape my memory. I began my excursion just days after finishing my first year at college, little did I know the pressures of school would never compare to the pressure of making that perfect cast. Cutting back on expenses I stay with a FLA Keys guide named Cpt Paul Fisicaro. Paul happens to be one of my closest friends, my guide, and my adopted uncle as I like to refer to him seeing as I’ve probably spent more time on the bow of his boat than i have with some of my family members. The first night after dinner we sorted through our arsenal of gear and Paul was ecstatic to have created the perfect fly for ocean run Tarpon. I can’t go into too much detail because he guards his pattern like it’s Fort Knox. Bottom line is that it’s a chocolaty brown color. Our first day on the water we were faced, as we usually are, with sub par weather conditions. 20 MPH winds and some cloud cover. The two of us have never been discouraged by weather and wouldn’t dare bring anything but a fly box and a few sticks on the boat. Paul has fostered nearly everything I know about salt water and one of the first things he ever told me about big tarpon was you have to “bring some pain” when they eat the fly. Early on our first day a string of fish came down the flat. We could barely see into the dark water because of the cloud cover. I threw a backhand cast into the school of fish that were just a few feet from the boat. Paul’s secret fly lasted about 3 seconds in water before an aggressive tarpon broke the surface and crashed on it. 20 minutes into the season I was a little rusty and managed to get the fly line wrapped around my leg and broke off my first poon of the year. Luckily, we had plenty more chocolate in the fly box and quickly tied on another. Minutes later we saw a single fish heading the opposite direction up the flat heading straight towards the bow of the boat. “Northbound singles” as we refer to them are the easier fish to feed if you can make the perfect cast. I punched the fly through the head wind and my heart raced as I saw the silver king begin to track the fly. The dark shadow became larger and more defined as he rose in the water column. My trembling hands slowly stripped the fly as the curious fished followed. A flash of silver shined in the sunlight as the massive creature sipped the fly. “He ate it! He ate it!” Paul yelled from the platform. Remembering my fly fisherman”s jedi training, I buried the hook set perfectly and held on as the fish burned line from the Tibor. After some huge jumps and a forearm burning battle we had the fish to the boat. We got some pictures and a clean release, and in a moment I’ll never forget, Paul and I looked at each other elated and simultaneously dubbed his new fly the “Chocolate Pain”. Over the course of the 2010 season we brought a lot of pain to some massive fish and as always had a great time on the water. With high expectations for 2011, Paul and I eagerly anticipate unleashing the Chocolate Pain on the Megalops Atlanticus of Maraton Key as we do battle in the land of kings once again. If you’d like to fish with the creator of the chocolate pain, and cast it for yourself, visit his website www.stripstrikecharters.com