June in southwest Florida is everyone’s favorite month for tarpon fishing.
The big migratory schools, which started showing up in early April are still here but their numbers are really picking up as they move north from the Keys. The little resident fish, and by “little” I mean any tarpon under 30 pounds, are also out of their hiding spots and a regular sight on the inshore flats and residential canals all along the coast.
If you’re a fly angler, these are the ultimate saltwater gamefish no matter what their size. You can target them with an easy casting 8-weight for the juveniles and up to a beefy 12-weight for the full grown ones.
Tarpon will eat a variety of relatively simple patterns, and with the right leader you can have them whipped in a lot less time than most folks realize. So let’s talk about that leader system for both juvenile and adult fish.
When I first started guiding two decades ago, back in the monofilament era, tarpon leaders were remarkably complex creations of several 12 to 80 pound test line segments held together by a mix of Bimini Twists, Homer Rhode loops, and Huffnagal knots. I would start tying these in December and each leader usually took a quarter of Monday Night Football to construct.
Fluorocarbon, which is effortless to keep straight compared to mono, changed everything. Tarpon leaders can now be tied while motoring away from the ramp; I definitely don’t miss those mind-numbing leader building sessions at all.
For small tarpon I use Seaguar red label fluorocarbon to create a 10 foot leader I call a “4-3-2-1.” That means four feet of 40 pound, three feet of 30 pound, two feet of 20 pound, (which is the class tippet) and just over a foot of 40 pound for a shock tippet. If you think you’ll encounter larger fish, then bump that last part up to 60 pound.
All these lengths are joined together by double surgeon’s knots which are effortless and hold at nearly 100 percent of the line’s strength. The fly is attached to the shock tippet with a perfection loop, which I also use for all my spinning lures.
If you tie your knots properly and test them afterwards, they won’t let you down. These leaders are more than strong enough to beat a three foot tarpon into submission in less than five minutes on an 8-weight.
If you hook up with a 100 pounder on a 12-weight, you should have it boatside in no more than half an hour. Homemade leaders are simple, effective and very inexpensive compared to prepackaged ones which can cost up to $10 each.
Give it a try!