Lefty’s Short Course for Giant Tarpon

Lefty Kreh (left) and Stu Apte on their first journey aboard Mother’s Work. (Photograph courtesy Stu Apte)

This text initially appeared within the December 2009 situation of Fly Fisherman journal.

“Get your rod!” I yelled as I struggled to tug the pole from the underside. The tarpon cornered a college of mullet within the bend of a 10-foot-deep channel, about 200 ft from us. After I reduce the gap to round 100 ft, I pointed with the pushpole and stated, “Do you see that huge inexperienced patch over there?”

“You imply that inexperienced backside?”

“That’s not backside; that’s a bunch of huge tarpon. I’m going to pole you a bit of nearer. Prepare.”

It was 1966 and I used to be working as a industrial pilot and residing in southwest Miami after 5 years of creating my residing as a backcountry fishing information and residing on Little Torch Key within the decrease Florida Keys. Lefty Kreh had not too long ago grow to be supervisor of the Metropolitan Miami Fishing Event, shifting from his residence state of Maryland to South Florida a couple of block-and-a-half from my home.

We spent many hours tying flies, rigging deal with, and discussing strategies and I promised Lefty that I might take him all the way down to my previous tarpon haunts the primary time we had a superb climate forecast for the prime moon tides in April, when the tarpon began exhibiting up in giant migration numbers.

I made certain we began this brief course for big tarpon at my home the day earlier than we went fishing, engaged on the correct knots, and the easiest way to rig gear. I emphatically advised Lefty that no element may be missed, that each piece of apparatus used to battle the big highly effective fish should be checked and in first-rate situation.

Our first morning, at what Lefty referred to as an “unholy hour” of three o’clock, we left Miami for a three-hour drive to Little Torch Key the place I saved my boat. At Torch Key the winds had been gusting and roiling the usually clear water. Fishing would require excessive focus to see tarpon. After an hour or extra of intense scanning Lefty stated that his eyeballs felt “like they had been protruding a foot in entrance of my face” making an attempt to identify fish.

I noticed tarpon about 70 ft away, and yelled, “Over to the left, 70 ft, 9 o’clock, fast forged to them!”

“The place?” Lefty exclaimed.

Lefty's Short Course for Giant Tarpon
Lefty’s first tarpon was an enormous studying expertise—as it’s for everybody. (Photograph courtesy Stu Apte)

“Dammit, fast, forged the place I’m pointing,” I yelled, as I pointed with the pushpole.

Lefty made a false forged and shot the heavy fly 70 ft virtually earlier than the phrases had been out of my mouth. The wind, blowing 15 knots, pushed the heavy streamer three ft to the left. The fly hit the water and the underside blew up as three giant black-green tarpon boiled and scattered.

Recalling that first encounter with tarpon, Lefty says I groaned in anguish and ranted at him like a preacher at a revival assembly. He hung his head in despair, and stated he was in search of a silver fish, not realizing that below most circumstances the darkish inexperienced backs of tarpon look virtually black. Then he glanced again at me and muttered, “This brief course may be tough on inexperienced tarpon fishermen.”

Within the gusting wind I laboriously poled us throughout three extra flats, discovering just a few tarpon however by no means getting shut sufficient for Lefty to make a forged.

We two had two hours to kill earlier than the tide received proper once more, so Lefty poled me over a big shallow grass flat the place I had been discovering bonefish throughout that tide part.

Immediately he stated, “Hey Stu! Isn’t {that a} fish at 11 o’clock, 60 ft?” A allow swam swiftly towards the boat as we drifted downwind towards it. I simply had time to roll the fly out of my fingers, shoot a bit of line on my backcast, and drop the bonefish fly two ft in entrance of its face. I rapidly stripped line to work the fly forward of the quickly advancing boat, my coronary heart in my mouth as the big allow adopted the fly virtually to my rod tip earlier than it swirled away. I turned to Lefty and stated, “I’ve forged to tons of of them, and have but to get one to take a fly.”

We had been up since 2 A.M. The solar was scorching, and we had been beat, so I shoved the pushpole into the gentle backside and harnessed the boat to it with a dock line and we stretched out on the boat seats and took a nap.

Lefty awoke first and caught two small sharks on a fly. I later awoke to the sound of a college of mullet being scattered by a bunch of feeding tarpon.

Lefty watched the fish intently as I silently moved him nearer. “Let me know whenever you pick particular person shapes of fish,” I stated.

“My God they’re tarpon!” Lefty yelled.

“Forged up-current, to the top of the college,” I replied. “Hurry, they’re beginning to slowly transfer away.”

Lefty drove the fly 80 ft, permitting for the left-hand crosswind, and let it fall 12 ft in entrance of the fish, which had been slowly shifting into the present towards his fly, because it sank to their depth.

I held my breath as he started foot-long sluggish strips, shifting the fly with the present with the rod butt nestled in his stomach. I may see the fly go two large fish, each greater than six ft lengthy. The fly glided by one large fish after one other, till it appeared as if the fly had handed by way of the entire faculty.

I used to be beginning to get that sick feeling within the pit of my abdomen after I observed a protracted black form swing away from the college, angling in the direction of the fly. The tarpon slowly gained on the fly, and when it was solely 15 ft from the boat, it moved up with a sleek of its tail, opened its enormous mouth and sucked the fly down into what seemed like a black gap.

Lefty waited for the mouth to shut, and because the tarpon started to show away, he struck repeatedly, deeply embedding the hook.

After which all hell broke unfastened.

Lefty's Short Course for Giant Tarpon
One other shot of Lefty’s first tarpon. (Photograph courtesy Stu Apte)

The fish leapt straight up—greater than 5 ft above the water, showering us each with spray. I hoped that regardless of the extraordinary pleasure of the second Lefty would bear in mind what we talked in regards to the night time earlier than: Overlook the fish, be certain the road feeds easily by way of the guides.

The fish made two wild greyhounding jumps going instantly away from us, screaming 75 yards of backing off the reel. Lefty did an impressive job of “bowing” by extending his arm and the rod towards the fish every time it jumped, stopping the fish from falling on the road, and extra importantly serving to to melt the shock and pressure on the tippet. (I had defined to Lefty {that a} 100-pound tarpon within the air weighs 100 kilos, however the identical 100-pound tarpon within the water weighs about solely 10 or 15 kilos due to its displacement within the water.)

After a 30-minute combat, Lefty had the tarpon close to the boat and each time it swam to the left, he pulled the rod down and to his proper; when it swam to the suitable, he pulled down and to the left. Every time I may see the fish yielding a bit extra till it gasped on the boat aspect and Lefty gasped for air. His first tarpon weighed over 100 kilos.

Through the 40-odd years which have handed, Lefty has taught 1000’s of individuals how you can grow to be higher fly fishers, and he’s caught numerous different tarpon and different gamefish throughout the globe. I haven’t spent almost as many days fishing with him as I would love, however I cherish that day that he took his first huge tarpon on a fly. And I hope that the day was as thrilling and fulfilling for him because it was for me.

Stu Apte is among the nice innovators in flats fishing for tarpon, bonefish, and allow. A Korean Battle vet, and retired pilot for Pan American Airways, he tells his life story in his self-published autobiography Of Wind and Tides, obtainable at and different shops.

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