The bad news is neither of us caught a tarpon, which is the only fish that matters when I join this fellow on his boat. We found a number of fish but both of us were unable to put a hook into one. Just finding some was a minor accomplishment. The amount of freshwater outflow has the salinity almost zero all along the coast, and quite far offshore outside the river mouths. Another major problem is how it still feels like summer. Usually, well historically anyway, by October there would be a drop in water temperature out in Florida Bay, and tarpon being tropical critters would move in to the relatively warmer waters "inside". It is now mid-November and it still feels like summer. So, no temperature differences, and apparently no reason for the tarpon to come in yet. What we need is an influx of baitfish, which usually has happened by now, but few were obvious on this trip.
What the trip did allow me was a chance to finally fish with a few new rods that have been torturing me for months. Until this trip all I could do is look at them and play with 'em. I don't think I have been that frustrated since dating in highschool.
And let me tell you, the disparity between rods that have a similar number written on the blank could not have been more glaringly demonstrated. Compared to my previous "go to" tarpon rod, one was massively stronger and the other was shockingly lighter. The "bigger" rod was less appealing to cast but the confidence factor it supplied was very comforting. On the other hand, the other rod was such a beautiful casting tool, but I had some doubt as to it being up to the task for fighting a big tarpon. So, not having the chance to pull on a fish's face was disappointing. So, the jury is still out.
One thing that was apparent was that both are an upgrade from what I have been using, but in fairness that rod is a few generations old. It served me well and has brought a decent number of tarpon to the boat, but recent rod technology has definitely improved the options that are now available.
Another thing that I had an opportunity to evaluate was my own casting mechanics when using heavier tackle. It is something that, until recently, I really did not pay too much attention to. There are so many other things to concentrate on, when a fish is in the sights, that I would normally just focus on putting the fly where I wanted it to land instead of paying much attention to what I had to do to get it there. The onset of nagging little pains that apparently are the result of aging and a lifetime of fly casting has changed things. So, now, out of a desperate attempt at self preservation, I am paying a lot more attention.
On this last trip I realized that I am leaning on a few crutches. The first is when I am picking up the fly and the flyline off the water. With a floating line I will start the back cast with the rod butt tucked against my forearm to alleviate the strain on the tendons on top and at the elbow. I am convinced that my "caster's elbow" damage is a result of the pickup. If I am fishing a sinking line, usually only an intermediate, but that too has to be brought up from some depth, I will work the fly up essentially with a series of rod tip wiggles to put a very technical term on it. Once the fly is at the surface and the line can be drawn into a D loop, I roll cast it out for water haul pickup... once again with the butt tucked.
On the presentation cast I realized I deliberately avoid much use of my hand and wrist. Whether from the onset of arthritis or continuous use damage, my hand and thumb joints are not what they used to be. Instead, most of the energy I put into the cast comes from torso rotation, shoulder rotation, and hauling. The torso rotation is around a vertical axis, while the shoulder rotation is horizontal. The former I gleaned from watching Steve Rajeff, and as for getting the shoulder muscles involved I have Mac Brown to thank. Using these larger muscle groups (and the haul) I can cast this larger tackle not entirely effortlessly, but pretty much all day and not feel like a cripple the following week.
And while I can cast lighter tackle "normally" with a lot of input and nuance from my hand and wrist, I find that I am slowly beginning to incorporate a bit of these body-centric techniques into my every day casting. The amount of energy that can be input this way is just too efficient and I have always been accused of being a lazy caster... or something like that.