On the western edge of Everglades National Park there's an island community nestled amongst the mangroves. A local once told me that it's the only place where "you have go to north to get to The South." Chokoloskee and Everglades City are unique, quirky and warm communities and the natural treasures they hold the key to are worth the journey.
I made my second (hopefully annual) trip to Chokoloskee last month and once again met up with "Boss," that's Andy of Grassroots Guiding. Word was that the tarpon had showed up, but the weather had been all over the place over the course of March. The old man and I had three days on the water to come, so we'd give 'em hell while we could.
Tarpon fishing is, challenging, among other things. Like any challenging sight-fishery, a lot of things have to happen before you can find, hook, and land one. Water temperatures, air temperatures, sun, clouds, wind, tides, and availability of a boat and/or guide are factors that need to go right before you can even find a laid-up tarpon in the Everglades. Fly choice, fly presentation, fly depth, casting accuracy, casting delicacy and a happy fish are all factors that need to be right before you can hook one. A solid strip-set, a hook that holds, knots that hold, enough backing, a rod and reel with enough nuts, a fish that doesn't jump or roll on your leader and someone to get a hold of the fish are all things that need to happen to get that grip and grin photo. Most of the time, one of the many things above doesn't happen or go right. But sometimes they all do.
And when they do, it sure is fun!
Other helpful additions to a day of tarpon fishing include fresh-baked cookies and a guide that will do his praying mantis dance on the platform.