Sunday, September 27, 2009

Something Silver this way Comes

It was 4:00 AM, and my phone’s alarm was screeching that it was time to wake up. Two hours earlier I had arrived at a small town hotel in Mexico after travelling all day. After a brief stint attempting to get comfortable in a bed so short that a spider monkey would have been forced to adopt the fetal position, it was time to fish.

The pre-dawn darkness revealed little about our surroundings as we made our way to the docks. A small marine light illuminated our home for the next several days, a nicely maintained panga-style flats boat with a 60-horsepower outboard.

Our guide put us at ease by asking us to stay alert and watchful as we sped through the blackness, explaining that many fishing boats lacked lights and that three pairs of eyes were better than one. The motor then broke the morning stillness, and we raced towards the mangrove jungles to the North under a tropical sky filled with shooting stars.

SuperPanga - Blue

Before long we were rapidly approaching the entrance to a tidal river, and the motor suddenly fell silent. Dawn was breaking to the East, and I grabbed my 8-weight and stood on the casting deck while attempting to discern the shoreline as we poled through a series of tiny mangrove islands.

The Pole

The water was gin-clear and without so much as a breath of wind the surface was like an expanse of glass. Looking down, I noticed the constellation Orion was mirrored on the sea as though it were my own reflection. Then I heard it: The sound of rolling tarpon.

This type of fishing can quickly become an addiction. Casting a fly towards fish you can see, then stripping it near the surface only to see a powerful wave begin pushing water towards it as the tarpon charges. The take is ferocious.


The hook set must be strong and well-executed in order to endure the coming spectacle. The first jump comes quickly, and is often followed by half a dozen others within the first few minutes. It is not uncommon for these fish to clear the water by 6 to 10 feet or more.


Blast Off


Flats fishing was short-lived on this trip as the sun began to rise. It was then that things would get interesting. The tarpon would retreat deep into the mangrove jungles, and we would follow them. Initially the guides would use poles to push the boats into the mouths of tidal rivers, and begin moving us upstream. It would not be long until these waterways would turn into tunnels, leading under dense forest canopies while narrowing rapidly. Spiders with the diameter of a baseball would periodically drop into the boat with a “thunk” and cause no small amount of spontaneous movement. At times fleas which were easily size 14 could leap into the boat from the surrounding vegetation and make a mad dash for the nearest gringo.

Pushing Water

Tidal River


Ultimately we would be laying down flat on the casting deck, pulling the boat forward by grabbing mangrove roots a few feet at a time. Invariably, the ever-narrowing rivers would give way to small lagoons, at times more than a mile from the ocean. Here the tarpon would be, and here epic battles would ensue as powerful fish were hooked in confined spaces surrounded by snarls of root systems on each bank. It seemed like a land before time, and when everything occasionally went right – bright fish would come to hand and smiles would glint like scales in the sun.

Scouting the Fish

Tarpon Tail

Open Wide

Side Scales

Galvan Tarpon

Baby Tarpon

Tarpon Dorsal Selective

Baby Got Back

Seeing is Believing

If anyone is interested in trying this adventure out for themselves, drop me a line. I would be more than happy to put you in contact with the guys that made this happen. Thanks for reading.



Saturday, September 5, 2009


Certain tempestuous malcontents have offered the unsolicited opinion that I own defective camera equipment, capable only of fish photography. I find the best response to these confrontations is to smile inscrutably, which is no easy skill to master, especially if you don't know what "inscrutable" means.

It was fun spending a little time with my nieces tonight, and taking a couple of snapshots.