Fly Fishing Key West, April 10

April 11, 2004 By: Marshall Cutchin

The last of three days in Key West started out as well as it could for tarpon angling — 5-knot SW wind and slightly overcast, keeping the oxygen levels low for the first couple of hours of the morning. We left the dock at 7AM and headed east again to the Pickle Barrel. The fish behaved much differently than the day previous: they had moved about 200 yards north and were highly agitated, perhaps because of the presence of sharks. We didn’t get a response from any rollers out on the flat, but David D. finally got an eat from a fish rolling in one of the finger channels. Unfortunately the fish fell off. We fished the Barrel for another couple of hours until the sun got up a bit and we could begin seeing laid up fish. It was David’s first peek at what a true laid-up tarpon looked like, and he seemed to like it. After a couple of dozen casts he got one of those imperceptible eats (“like trout white-mouthing a nymph,” he said), but didn’t come tight.
From there we ran over to Peanut Butter Bank and found a few fish, but the water proved eponymously murky and we couldn’t see into the water well enough to get on the fish.
I decided we’d better run west and catch the last of the incoming on near the northwest channel, but we stopped at the Swimming Hole on the way and cast fruitlessly at the dozens of individual fish cruising through that vast area; but without light we were really wasting our time.
We continued west and pulled in at the south end of Lost Key, where we found fish again rolling in dirty water. Then we tried to see if any fish were departing the Jewelry Store on the other side of the channel, but other than the hundreds of fish rolling in 40 feet of water didn’t see any tarpon.
Finally we returned to the top of Lost Key and immediately began finding tarpon crossing the flat in a brilliant, deep afternoon light. David cast for a bit before Scott C. hooked and landed a nice 70-lb. fish that practically did a somersault trying to eat his fly, missed, then came back to make a vicious take about 15 feet from the boat. After that, Scott and David made me cast to several fish, but I couldn’t make them eat.
We ended the day by doing a quick dredge on the outer edge, where David immediately hooked a 40-lb. fish that ran about 150 yds. before some toothy critter sliced his shock tippet in half. All in all a good way to end the trip.