There are many out there that think 13 is an unlucky number, maybe we can thank Hollywood for that one. Deep down, I was hoping for some fish mayhem, horror movie for a mullet apocalypse…a bad day to be a toad fly, you get the picture. I spent the night before in Islamorada, could barely sleep thinking about the next day where I would be chasing Tarpon with Captain Tad Burke. Going over mental checklists of how to not screw up, rigging rods, and drinking a few cold ones. This was to be a quick working man's holiday, praying for months for a lucky 13.
I woke up five minutes before the alarm went off at dark hundred, grabbed my gear and met Tad at the ramp, we were the first ones there. We quickly loaded everything up and idled out away from the ramp way before sunrise. A big moon had everything lit up in silver light as we hauled ass fifty miles into the backcountry of the Everglades.
We pulled up to the spot and Tad slowly poled the boat into the box and I pulled out all the line off of my reel and dropped my fly over the gunwale of the skiff. I hopped up on deck and went to make the first cast of the day and stretch out that flyline. I was hooked to something already. A small seatrout was chewing on the fly underneath of the boat when I pulled up to cast. We got a good laugh out of it, didn't even make a cast and landed a fish. A good omen to start the day, if you believe in that kind of thing.
It was not long before we began to see a few rolling fish, and as the light and incoming tide got better we began to see big, brown backed Tarpon sliding their way north and south and got a handful of casts to them. The next southbounder lumbered towards us, quartering at 11 o'clock. I put out a fifty foot cast out eight feet in front of her and paused then gently bumped the fly. Every Tarpon eat is special, this one was no different, a colossal arching surface eat. Watching that brown smudge turn into a tarpon closing it's mouth in full detail was amazing. I got tight quick and I could feel layers of skin on my finger start to melt as I cleared the remaining line. This fish took my extra forty feet of line in about a second and a half and made a wild jump and fell back into the crater and went full bore towards the horizon.
Twenty five minutes later we had this beautiful creature to the hand, took a few quick photos. I held her upright as Tad put the boat in gear to revive her, we went twenty feet and she was kicking and ready to continue her journey. This fish kicked my ass more than any other fish that I can remember. It could be that am am not twenty something anymore or my rod lacked sufficient butt power, or I spend too much time playing around with trout back home, or I do not do this as often as I should. We took a quick break, then got back after it and got more shots and two other eats (which I screwed up) and more close calls. As the tide began to slack up, we called it a day and had a few celebratory cold beers on the long ride home. We wound through Mangrove lined creeks filled with amazing bird life, passing through almost endless flats and channels. The backcountry is a special place, and it is a privilege to fish it with a guy as magnetized as Tad Burke, call him early and bring your best if you want to go!
Captain Tad Burke- The Wild Side