April has just began and I am already claiming the “Fish Of The Month” The hard-facts: This fish is the biggest Tarpon taken on fly in the flat areas of Cayo Santa Maria and beats the former flat record from Christer Sjöberg himself by 39,5pounds. The area is well known for big fish up to 160 pounds but they are mainly in the deep channel areas – the size of that old lady is exceptional for a shallow water area. Our guide Ulisses, Rickard Sjöberg and I were stalking the flats from a skiff when that big single fish showed up. 10wt. Equipment was rigged up with a 60pd. Mason Hard Mono Shocker since we were expecting nothing but the cracking average size fish of 60-80pounds. I couldn’t really tell the size of that fish when it was 25 meters away, but I knew that it was bigger than the others that we jumped this day. The fly at the end of my shocker was a orange/tan Tarpon-Toad, which has proven with several other fish up to 80 pounds that it works out. Cast came left to the fish which was heading our drift direction. First strip caught it’s attention but I really had to work the fly to trigger the final reaction. After two little sprint-ups it rolled over in a massive boil. The seconds that I counted down in my head felt like hours… Tension on the line that was running gently thru my fingers than I hit the fish three times really hard and it went balistic! The moment it was fully airborn my heart stopped beating and I realized all over sudden that I was connected to a fish that is pretty likely to be the fish of my lifetime. The 55minutes till I finally landed it myself were just purest agony, nothing really to enjoy. Everything that I learned from my saltwater mentors, Stefan and Alexander Haider, was to be proven. I think I did justice! A lot of down and dirty, a lot of bowing for the king, a lot of pulling this unbelievable weight while Rick cheered me up and Ulisses had some beers while he offered me to pull the fish into the boat with a lip-gaff. I refused, I felt nothing but greatest respect for that approximately 50 year old fish that was fighting at the other end of my line. Finally I jumped into the water, landed the old lady with a lip-grip, took a couple of shots and measurements (mainly underwater), released her and watched her swimming away vividly.
In between the lines: With 23 years I caught the fish of my lifetime just to realize nothing but the feeling of preserving these magnificent animals. Tarpon fly fishing humbled me and the simple idea that this particular fish was swimming around in the caribbean sea for the past 50years, surviving predators, water pollution and oil-spills, crossing my path of untamed fly fishing worldwide on exact that flat is astounding! When you search the net you will find a lot of pictures of gaffed Tarpon or bigger fish that had been dragged onto the boat for a so called heroshot – I feel pitty for those guys because most people are not aware of the fact that these fish are badly injured and most of them will not survive. There’s just one way to take a picture of a fish bigger than 60-70 pounds: in the water. Treat these fish with respect! Not even a possible fish of a lifetime excuses unfair handling. I would rather refuse the chance of landing it instead of gaffing it at all, and that’s not just a phrase – I proofed it too. Seeing a Tarpon dying because of handling or playing it for too long would be most definitely the end of my fly fishing career, simply because there’s nothing more important than keeping the spirit and those great animals alive. I want to thank Stefan & Alexander Haider for teaching me the right attitude towards Tarpon fishing, for sharing their enormous knowledge about fishing and preservation and simply for being such a great company in the past and hopefully for a long time on future trips!
Stephan Dombaj/ April 2011
- Date: 15.04.2011
- Location: Cayo Santa Maria – Cuba
- Rod: 10# 9,0ft. LOOP Evotec Salt
- Reel: Loop Evotec G4 9/13 BiColor
- Line: Rio Tarpon Camotip WF11F
- Leader: Tarponleader tied with Ande Mono
- Shocktippet: 60lbs. Mason Hard Mono Shocker
- Fly: Tan/Orange Tarpon Toad tied on Owner AKI 4/0
- Weight: 156,5pounds with a F.Length of almost 190cm
- Duration: 45 Minutes till I touched the shocker – 55 Minutes till I landed it myself