Catching your first tarpon on fly is an essential rite of passage for a first time angler here in the Keys. Often times, visitors' first tarpon on fly is not a mega fish on the ocean, but a baby tarpon hidden deep in the mangroves. They offer great fun for anyone, and can be found in a variety of situations that will sharpen your skills to prepare for the big ones. Baby tarpon are acrobatic, fierce, and beautiful regardless of size! The flies listed below might help you find some willing tarpon.
This is merely a catalog of some tarpon flies we regularly sell here at the shop, that are easy to fish and will work. For folks who fly fish in the saltwater all over the world, you can definitely bring them with you on all your trips to put them to the test. Enjoy the hunt, and don't forget to get outside the realm of your own comfortability - that is when the cool stuff usually happens!
Give us a call at the shop if you would like to tie, buy or chat about these, and other flies! (305 - 440 - 3406)
The surf candy is a dynamic fly that holds its roots in Northeastern striper, bluefish, and false albacore fishing. As far as I am concerned, and to the best of my knowledge, Bob Popovics invented this fly and it has always been a go to fly in my box for a myriad of fishing situations. Similar to classics like the Clouser Minnow and the Deceiver, the Surf Candy can be fished in many different colors, sizes, with a variety of strips to animate the fly differently. Point being, you can't go wrong with one of these, and its a great 'Hail Mary' kind of fly when nothing else is working. I never go fishing without some iteration of this fly in my box! Check out some other colors offered, and styles, like this one here.
2. Nice Glass
A really versatile fly for your box with a thin profile, it allows you to match small baitfish hatches with its pronounced eye and hard body. In my experience, I have been able to take a pair of scissors and trim the tail off this fly on the water if the bait is almost microscopic. This allows you a ton of range when you are hunting baby tarpon, both in the day time and at night. The fly is also durable, so bouncing it against mangroves, bridges, and anything else that hurts a fly will be no worry!
I became addicted to the concept, and action of the topwater eat when I first started fly fishing. Growing up in Maryland, I would often flock to the bass ponds and smallmouth creeks when the summers got too hot for trout fishing, and ever since, I have loved seeing a fish come up to the surface and eat a fly. Baby tarpon are nothing like bass, quite obviously, but they can be coaxed to the surface in specific conditions. I like to have a few floating flies in my box just in case. If you have never experienced a top water tarpon eat, you should definitely try it (especially early in the morning or just as day turns to night. This fly, which is tied by Mike V. at Twisted Fly, can be fished in a violent, quick popping motion, or in a slow slide - both can be effective! Give it a shot.
4. Guide Gummy
The controversial Guide Gummy! Is it a fly? Is it a lure? Does it matter? Either way, it fishes great, and is small enough to cast pretty easily to match a glass minnow. I have found that this style of fly is universal to use on anything that eats a fish. Cuda, snapper, tarpon, tuna, mahi...fish like these will devour it!
The Crafty Minnow is a fly that is almost painstakingly simple. It can be shrimpy, it can be baitfish-y (is that a word? now it is...), and is a universal 'do it all' kind of bug. The fly features a spun deer hair head that allows it some buoyancy, and a craft fur tail to give the fly its movement. In muddy water, I have tied it with more deer hair to push a bigger wake, but when the fly is tied sparse, I find it is most effective. You might also note that there is very little (none) flash, which is a direct decision to allow the movement of the fly to do the work for the angler. Try this fly out, whether you are tying it yourself or buying it from the shop. It grabs the essence of the term 'guide fly' as it is easy to tie, simple, and effective.
Give the shop a call, or order online if you would like to give these bugs a try next time you are hunting baby tarpon. While these are just a small sample size of flies that get the job done, understand that here are millions of other flies that work out there - just try new things and be patient with seeing those results!
All of these flies are photographed here at the shop on the Renzetti Master Series Vise.