On that day the light was still subdued by enough clouds to limit visibility to less than 100 feet. That left hardly enough time to present a good cast. The fly has to sink to their level. Neither the line nor the leader can cross their path, and the fly cannot approach them or they will simply dodge and then continue their determined course. Their reaction is not unlike a flock of birds suddenly presented by an electrical power line: it is simply just another obstacle in the way, and definitely not something to consider eating. Once one of the fish in the string or pod flushes slightly all the others take note. This, of course, is all conjecture on my part, but I have observed this reaction hundreds of times and it sure looks like that to me.
As luck would have it, on that third morning I managed to present a cast correctly to a poon traveling solo, and it ate the fly without hesitation. After being snubbed by uncountable fish previously, the eat caught me totally by surprise. I was fishing from the poling platform at the time and even though it all happened right in front of my eyes I failed to react and the fish immediately jumped and threw the hook. That was the only fish to take a fly during the entire morning. Even so, we considered the session a success and I am sure my buddy was appreciative of my obvious angling skills.
After some lunch and a siesta, we returned to the same location only to find the opposite sun angle a detriment. It did not matter, there again were no fish to be found anyway. So, we resorted to a default location where evening fish are commonly targeted on the edge of a large channel. An appropriate analogy would be to have high hopes of fishing a dry fly upstream only to realize the only way to get a bite was to swing streamers down. And even though our tackle was in the 12wt range, swinging streamers is exactly what we did.
When preparing for the trip I dug out and dusted off my first, and quite cherished at the time, 12wt tarpon rod. It is a two piece Mega blank wrapped by a now-defunct local rod maker specifically for a tournament. Back then a tarpon rod was supposed to be able to really honk on the fish and this rod has that in spades. It is also rather heavy by today’s standards. It took a few casts to get a feel for it again but within a short time, I found what I had to do to cast it decently. Unfortunately, the decades casting with a “thumb on top” grip has taken its toll on my right thumb, and this rod highlighted that particular discomfort. The good news is after casting with that rod for a while, I picked up my usual 11wt, which I had considered a handful to cast, and it now felt like a quite pleasant casting tool.
That spot on the channel edge had been our default evening location. Again to use trout fishing terms we were on river right with an upstream breeze. So, to cast from the bow without endangering my buddy or myself I had to cast left-handed. Since I had spent the last few days doing that because of my arthritic right thumb it really was not a big deal. The tactic was to cast quartering downstream and allow the fly to swing back toward the edge, where hopefully the sinking line and weighted fly would intersect an unseen tarpon working up current.
That is exactly what happened. After a few moments of pandemonium followed by about a half hour of sweating, we released the stunningly beautiful fish at boat side. With little poetic license, I would say the fish was in the 75# range. And that was all the trip produced, fish-wise.
Such trips, spending days in a small boat with a buddy sharing a common goal creates a bond hard to explain to the uninitiated. To wit: when I got home and thought about it, I realize that was my first “left-handed” big tarpon! I have caught other fish casting left handed before but usually on purpose. When I mentioned it to my good buddy on a follow-up phone call, he responded just as I expected, with a perfunctory, “Fuck you”!