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A little something I wrote a few years back....

“12 Seconds…A Tarpon Story”
By Capt. Jon Bull

“1000 shades of blue, 10 trillion grains of sand, and one sun to light it all up (Jamie Howard Films, 2007).” This was the backdrop of a scene beginning to unfold in front of me.

As breathtaking as this tropical scene was, my vision was tunneled into a window about a foot long. Within that window, I was intense and focused, waiting for a jolt of adrenaline, preceded by a flash of silver and an explosion.

Closer. Strip.

My hands were alert, but loose. Each of my fingers on my left hand was shaped in a way that I would not miss the line in each strip I took. My right hand felt the cork with an assertive grasp as my middle and index finger felt every inch of my strip cadence. My wrist twisted back and forth in a seductive manner while none feet of graphite imparted a breathing, undulating dance to the marabou fifty feet away from me.

Closer. Strip.

My eyes never met my hands. They maintained their focus through the copper colored lenses that reflected the chaos that was about to ensue. They remained focused on the five and a half foot long black line slinking toward me. This line, now forty five feet away, looked to be only five inches long from my vantage point. It moved like a snake; its spine bending to and fro, stalking its prey like a kitten getting ready to pounce.

Closer. Strip, strip.

My mouth was dry as I was breathing out of it by now. The hot June air was leaving a stale taste in my mouth. None of it mattered as my focus remained on the narrow column of vision before me: the end of the rod and the yellow line laying in a wavy line before going taught during every strip.

Closer. Strip. Thirty feet now. Strip. STRIP, STRIP!!

In the blink of an eye, the black line turned into a black hole, then, it disappeared. For a split second its eye looked into my soul, focused on my very being with yellowish and black intensity as if to say, “It is on!” Then, the scales! Five and a half feet of silver dollars reflected the sunlight into my eyes triggering adrenaline through my body.

Set!! Hit it!! Hit it!!!

Every muscle in my arm tensed up, my wrist locked, my right hand and fingers, once loose, pegged the line to cork while pulling back with everything I had repeatedly in attempt to drive home the chemically sharpened steel. My left hand was locked in a grip onto the line, ready to release at a moment’s notice once the first run began.

My legs and feet braced my body atop my perch in readiness of the sudden pull 150 pounds would bring.

Then, it happened! The jump!

This creature came out of the water, as if to ascend Heaven, for Heaven is the only place from which it could have come. The violence it brought forth from the depths made me freeze. It shook its head with a voracity that would render any human unconscious, if struck. Its gill plates flared, exposing the blood red organs which sustains its strength and might.

The black line, that seconds ago, was moving with ease below the water, was now blueish-green, bending to and fro high above the surface of the water. Every scale reflected the sun with blinding intensity, though my stare remained unbroken.

I blinked only when it landed back in the water. I blinked only when I felt the pop. I blinked only when the nine feet of graphite in my hand, that had a glorious bend in it, went straight. I blinked only when its eye broke my stare. I blinked only when it disappeared in an explosive splash. I blinked only when it returned to the Heaven on Earth, known as the flats.


The longest twelve seconds of my life. Twelve seconds that will haunt me forever and become the fibers of my obsession.

Tarpon - 1, me - 0.

727 Posts
Great read Capt. Bull!

I will never forget tarpon fishing with Harry Spear a few years ago near Panacea, FL and it was a very hot-slow day with little breeze. The water visibility totally sucked while the clouds were playing peak-a-boo with us making it hard to focus for any extended periods. All of a sudden he locks and loads and makes a fast cast at what he thought was a poon and nothing happened. After stripping in his fly line he looked back at me and said if you don't cast at what you think is a fish, you could have missed a great opportunity!

Fast forward to last year and it was at the tail-end of the tarpon run (August) for us and I was all alone lookin for somebody to play with without a dime in my pocket. Once again the visibility was horrible and I was seriously questioning my sanity of hoping to see one last fish before I call it a year here in Gulf! After a few hours of boredom/beers later I was trying to make a tarpon appear out of thin air and then I felt like there was a big dark shadow approaching quickly and my wonderful imagination said cast! My instinct took over and I managed a short simple roll cast and two strips later I almost sh*t in my pants!!

This BIG buck fifty poon ate what was two fly rod lengths away from my skiff and I did a pretty hard (reactionary) strip strike and the great surge of power and strength of this fish coming out of the water and rolling off to my right was mind boggling and I can still picture it like it was yesterday. All I remember next was the quick loud sound of my leader parting way with the fish and the party was over before we even got started! As I stripped in my fly line I could see that my leader was gone and somehow it had broken off at the welded loop and my 60lb butt section which I know is impossible, except when your hook Moby Dick.

276 Posts
Love it. Randy Wayne White has a description in one of the Doc Ford novels (I believe its the second or third book) of poling up on tarpon. The description is similar, except he tangles himself up and goes overboard. Can't say it hasn't happened to me.

I Love!
Sharp Hooks Matter
465 Posts
I hear you Shadowcast! I was ruined when I hooked my first tarpon with Capt. Bob LeMay. He was teaching me how to search for them by looking for bubbles at creek intersections and other places. I was not using fly gear but a lead head with a grub type plastic. Letting it drop to the bottom and fast, short jerks, repeat. Capt. Bob was ready to vacate the spot and me being me made another cast and got hooked up. I really think Cappy was surprised. Anyway, the Silver King made a couple of jumps and me having no idea to bow to the fish allowed it to spit the hook. I had that first tarpon on for less than 30 seconds but became addicted!
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