An Exceptional New Book About Flats Fishing
“Taking the bow of a flats boat can be transformative,” writes Bill Horn in his new book On The Bow: Love, Fear and Fascination in the Pursuit of Bonefish, Tarpon and Permit. “The angler joins a select club tuned into a unique shallow-water world world teeming with fascinating life. Only adherents know that the real bonefish doesn’t go on a grill, a tarpon isn’t caught for the dinner table, and a permit is not a fishing license.”
You will thoroughly enjoy On The Bow. This detailed handbook is the clearest, most concise introduction to fishing the Big Three of the Flats that we have read—perfect for the beginner or intermediate saltwater angler. Or, for that matter, any flats addict!
In an earlier Wild River Press newsletter we introduced our readers to Bill Horn, as a narrative voice in Dennis LaBare’s poignant Appalachian Grouse Dog. Same lover of setters, this time drawing on 50 years of fly-fishing experience in the briny. Here’s just a taste of Bill’s practical knowledge and ability to share, in brief excerpts:
The Seven Deadly Sins of Tarpon Fishing
- Failure to develop and practice casting skills before you get on the bow. Among the most deflating words a guide can hear is a newcomer picking up a big tarpon rig commenting, “Gee, this is a lot heavier than I expected.” A casting lesson is coming—while tarpon are swimming.
- The dreaded trout set . . . Tarpon presentations involve tight line straight to the fish, and a good strike has to drive a sizable hook into the porcelain mouth of Mr. Poon.
- So insidious that you will spend your entire angling career fighting it: failure to properly manage or tend your fly line . . . Too much line, which will never be cast, is an invitation for disaster.
- A big tarpon is doing its best Polaris missile imitation. The angler freezes at this spectacular sight and 100 pounds of airborne fish falls hard on a stretched-tight 16- or 20-pound test leader—goodbye fish.
- Can’t stand still on the bow of the boat, likely from excitement or balance issues. Work on correcting both, especially balance as the years mount.
- Showing up to fish in the bag or with a bad hangover. This can be a real issue in the Keys, especially in Key West. The siren song of Duval Street, demon rum and mojitos can be hard to resist.
- Failure to bring or wear the right clothing and gear . . . I take three rigged-and-ready rods for a usual day chasing ocean tarpon: a 10-weight, an 11 if it blows up a bit, and a 10 with clear or clear-tip line.
“Any reference to Goldilocks and tarpon triggers memories of the unique, unusual gold tarpon that periodically visits the Middle Keys each spring. The tarpon is a bona fide golden yellow, matching the color of sargassum weed but much brighter. Each year in Florida, reports of pale-colored or piebald-marked fish filter in. But this girl, now an 80- to 90-pounder, is pure gold throughout. She made her first appearance for me on April 29, 2011, swimming near Long Key. Captain Bus and I spotted the odd color, and had no idea what it was until it swam into range. I got a shot, but the fish wasn’t interested. I christened her ‘Moby Tarpon,’ figuring a rare fish like this is akin to Melville’s great white whale. Bus prefers ‘Goldmember,’ which always gets a laugh.”
Unaltered photo of golden tarpon courtesy of Dr. Neal Rogers