Sunday Classic / Respect Thy Tarpon Guide

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It’s not all peaches and creme being a tarpon guide. Photos by: Louis Cahill

I respect tarpon guides a great deal.

As a trout guide, I run into many of the same struggles they do on the water, but tarpon guides have to deal with managing them at the extreme level. They spend their days on the water guiding in some of the most demanding and technical fly fishing conditions on the planet, and to make things worse, many of their clients have never experienced the saltwater fishing conditions before in their life. Getting the job done, day in and day out, is rarely easy for a tarpon guide. I imagine there’s plenty of silent prayers being made on those poling platforms, begging for a starving fish to show itself at just the right angle, and that a good presentation follows.

Friends that guide for tarpon tell me of occasional periods where the skunk doesn’t leave the boat for days at a time. Hookups that are short lived, are the only thing that keep them sane and focused on the prize. It’s not that they aren’t spotting fish and getting plenty of opportunities during the day. Most of the time, their hands are clean and the skunk falls on the operators standing on the bow. It’s hard to hit your targets if you haven’t taken the time to sight-in your fly rod before you begin the hunt (pre-trip casting preparation). Consequently, a large percentage of the fish catching opportunities witnessed by tarpon guides fizzle out before they can materialize, from presentations missing their intended targets. And don’t get me started on the unstable emotions that plague newcomers to chasing tarpon on the fly. That’s a whole-nother can of worms. I’ve been on the bow many times, where I completely fell apart after locking eyes with a 100+ pound poon.

They also tell me that many times when they’re fortunate enough to get an experienced fly caster on the bow of their boat, they often get dealt the shitty weather card. A cold front will show up out of no where and most of the fish will run for their lives to deep water. When a cold fronts aren’t the problem, strong winds blowing the wrong direction, end up depriving them access to prime water. Focus, patience, and persistence are three attributes you better have if you want to hack it guiding in the salt. For myself, I’m glad I’m a trout guide, I don’t think I’m cut out for the saltwater game. I’ve gotten way too used to being able to consistently bring fish to the net for my clients. Plus, it’s safe to say that my horrendous case of A.D.D would create serious safety issues. Props to all you tarpon guides out there that work hard to make the miracles happen.

On the bright side, when everything does come together for tarpon guides, they usually end up walking away with the “first place guide trophy” for providing the fondest fishing memory of their client’s life. When you land a mature tarpon on the fly, it’s a life changing event. One, that my pretty 18-inch trout, can’t come close to living up to. Respect thy tarpon guide. They deserve every bit of it for what they endure and bring to the table.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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One thought on “Sunday Classic / Respect Thy Tarpon Guide

  1. I’ve been tarpon fly fishing for roughly twenty years and have done OK* with a few big boys and girls and many adolescents. All but one of the tarpon guides I’ve hung around with have been great, helpful and even sometimes successful in hooking up with nice fish. Most have been patient – one was a complete a**hole and we only spent four hours together. The first tarpon to the boat, on my introduction to salt water turned my fishing life around and I’ve never looked back.

    *There were a good number of fish-less years

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