It was two days into the second week of one of the biggest adventures of my life. My good friend, George had flown in from Idaho to join me on the hunt for the elusive Silver King. We were deep into the vast, estuarial jungle that makes up the wilderness of Everglades National Park, advancing on a creek I’d scouted to take advantage of the falling tide. The low, golden light of the afternoon sun was at our backs and George slowly pushed the skiff up current. Then things escalated. Sunlight revealed a small group of adult tarpon, some fifty feet away, laid up on a bank underneath an overhanging mangrove. Shallow water, increasingly so as the moon pulled back the tide.
Charged with adrenaline, my twelve-weight launched the fly. Too far. Rather than a targeted splashdown, the fly found mangrove roots; the hook biting into the unforgiving wood. “Dude…bad shot, we are so screwed now,” George said, as he poled toward the snag, knowing the fish would inevitably spook. As we closed in on the bank to dislodge the fly, a subtle flash lit up in the corner of my eye. George saw it, too. Somehow, the biggest tarpon of the group remained, now fifteen feet off our bow. This fish in particular had a distinct marking behind her left eye – a big white scar. Equally perplexed and anxious, George was beside himself at the size of this fish and our proximity to it. “It’s all good, baby,” I told him, helping him relax.
Seconds felt like minutes. Stealthily as possible, I reached for another rod in its holder, stripping out sufficient line to make the short cast. The fly landed six inches in front of the scarred tarpon’s face, virtually levitating between her eyes. Summoning enough patience to let the fly sink, it took just one strip and her paint can-sized mouth opened. In one gulp, my fly disappeared. One hard strip and the line came tight!
Chaos in the water, but focus on the bow as the line cleared the rod’s guides, eluding the twelve weight still at my feet, the one with fly still hooked to the mangroves. In a sudden explosion, all six feet of Scar Face launched from the water like a missile; an unforgettable image imprinted in my mind. But, as fast as they started, things came unglued. Whether from her sheer weight or a vicious slap from her tail, Scar Face snapped the tippet, and the vibrant life in the rod fell dead.
Disappointed in the moment, but the battle ignited a lifelong fuse. Getting to this place, disconnecting from the world’s distractions, seeing the lengthening shadows chase the last glimmers of gold off the water, putting in the effort, smelling the sea spray and the cypress; it all made sense that this experience had to be shared.
So, join us here and take in these sights, scents, and sounds. Feel a fly rod come alive, savor restaurant-quality cuisine from the comfort of our mothership, and lift a celebratory toast as the moon rises over the mangroves.
Don’t settle for the ordinary; go farther than you have ever been.