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Articles: Pesca de sábalo (tarpon) con mosca

by: Carlos Godoy

Tarpon Fly Fishing

The Tarpon ( Megalops Atlanticus ) has proved to be without doubt one of the most amazing game fish for the fly fisherman. His acrobatic leaps and the way he wrestles when he feels trapped by the hook are scenes that will remain in the angler´s memory forever.
Tarpon are primarily found in tropical waters along the coast of the Atlantic ocean in North and South America, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean islands and the tropical coast of Africa. There is a small population of tarpon on the Pacific coast of Panama. It seems that they crossed the canal and were seen in 1930 for the first time.
Some people find it hard to understand how such a huge tarpon can be attracted by a tiny 3/0 fly. It is thought that it may be a reflex action remaining from the early stage when he feeds on larvae and minnows.
The tarpon reaches over 200 pounds but there may be bigger fish. On the African coasts, fish weighing over 350 pounds have been spotted, even though no angler has ever reported such a catch so far. In the American continent, the heaviest tarpon has been found in Homosassa river, on Florida´s Gulf coast. Jim Holland Jr. set a new record for tarpon fly fishing in those waters in May 2001. This tarpon weighed over 202 pounds, breaking the former record of the legendary Billy Pate in 1982, with a 188-pounder.
Tarpon fly fishing can be divided into three categories: baby tarpon, tarpon and giant tarpon.

Tackle for baby tarpon: in his early stages, the tarpon stays close to the mangrove areas where the food is abundant and they are protected from predators. Tarpon at this stage don´ t weigh over 25-30 pounds, so the ideal rod for this size of fish is a rod of #8 weight. They move in shallow waters, so a floating line is the best choice. Hooks size 1/0 or 2/0 will do to have the control of a baby tarpon. You must have an excellent quality reel with a whisper smooth, tough drag mechanism and you shouldn´t worry about the yard-backing it can accommodate. When a tarpon is hooked in the mangroves, the first thing you should do is to prevent him from racing to the roots to find shelter and put as much pressure the leader allows you to. The leaders shouldn´t be over 12-16 pound test with a 30-40 pound shock tippet.

Mid-size Tarpon (30-60 pounds)
When the tarpon reaches this stage, it has already started moving in open waters and has grown considerably, so it requires a 10 weight rod and a smooth disk drag reel with a capacity of 300 yards of 30 pound backing. Unlike in mangrove areas, when the tarpon feels hooked, it will start a long run trying to get away from the pain.
A floating line may be sufficient, but it all depends on the place we are fishing. In Mexico, waters that are home to the tarpon are usually deeper so sometimes sinking or intermediate sinking lines are necessary.
A 12-16 pound test leader should suffice for these tarpon but some anglers would rather use 20-pound leaders just in case. An 80-pound test shock tippet is also needed to hold tarpon this size. By far the most effective size for tarpon flies is a pattern tied on a 3/0 saltwater hook.

Giant Tarpon (from 60 pounds)
When it comes to giant tarpon, everything is different. Wrestling an adult tarpon requires the use of techniques and appropriate equipment.
You need a #12-13 rod and reels specially designed for large species with a capacity of at least 300 yards of 30-pound test backing.
In Mexico, tarpon this size are found in deep waters so sinking lines are mostly used. However, lines combining a floating and a sinking section may be also used (F/S).
If your aim is setting a world record IGFA*, over 20-pound test leaders shouldn´t be used. But if you are looking for high chances of catching a tarpon on your fly, don´t hesitate to choose 25-30 pound test leaders. More class tippet weight is not advisable because it wouldn´t let the fly fall into the water properly when it is cast. For big tarpon, a 100-pound shock tippet is required to have a chance of landing the fish.
Flies should be tied on 4/0 hooks or over and be made of top quality material. I´ve seen hooks breaking off thousands of times due to the amazing strength of these majestic fish.
Flies: the most important thing for a tarpon fly is that it must be tied on a hook sharp enough to penetrate his hard mouth.
The traditional flies for tarpon are tied on regular-length hooks and the material is presented from the middle backwards. Some anglers like to include eyes in their flies but the experience of the most renowned anglers seems to indicate that tarpon prefer flies without them.
In shallow waters, lightly-dressed flies are used. On the other hand, in deeper waters flies should be dressed heavily to create an attractive movement in the water.
Tarpon fly fishing is an experience a flyfisherman cannot miss. Don´t hesitate to give it a go if you have the chance; we guarantee it is an experience you will never forget.

Carlos Godoy
* International Game Fish Association

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