Rod & Reel

Although I strongly advocate taking a backup fly rod in case of accidental breakage, a good 8-weight saltwater rod is all that you will need. It will allow you to cast in windy conditions and has more than enough backbone to handle even the largest of the baby tarpon.

In my opinion, in this type of fishing, the reel functions only to hold the line. Fishing among the mangroves requires immediate control over the tarpon, and you seldom have the opportunity to get the fish on the reel. I think of it as hand-to-hand combat of the finest

kind. The exception is if you move away from the mangroves and fish the deeper water of the flats. Even then it is rare that you would need to get the tarpon on the reel. Most of the tarpon’s fight is vertical; they really aren’t known for long runs.


Lines, Leaders and Flies

You need both a floating and a sink tip line, although more than 90 percent of your fishing will be with the floating line. Personally, I’m a big fan of the new, crystal-clear lines currently being marketed by Scientific Anglers and Airflow. I think they make a big difference when casting to fish in shallow, clear water.

Leaders can be as simple or complex as you wish to make them. Many of the locals use a single 8- to 11-foot piece of 40-pound monofilament.

I favor a leader consisting of 5 feet of 30 pound, 4 feet of 20 pound and a 2-foot bite tippet of 40-pound. I find I can present the fly more accurately with the tapered leader. I also prefer using fluorocarbon for my leaders, but my friend Alex,

jefe(boss) of Campeche Tarpon, tells me that fluorocarbon material sinks too quickly. It is important to check your leader for abrasion after every fish.

Many different flies are effective for attracting baby tarpon in the Campeche region, and an outstanding local flytier, Eduardo Arece Ortiz, is constantly developing new patterns for the area. The characteristics that successful flies have in common are their relatively small size(size 1 or 1/0 hooks), sparse dressing and liking to swim in the upper portion of the water column. I particularly like four of his sparsely tied Tarpon Toads(chartreuse, red/white and banded), a purple/black EP Tarpon Streamer and, my favorite, the Black Gurgler. I credit the Gurgler with 70 percent or more of the tarpon I landed.

Writer: Steve Jensen

Steve lives in Springfield, Missouri, and is a retired biology professor and department head from Missouri State University. He is a life member of the IFFF, a demonstration tier and coauthor of the No. 1 book on mayfly taxonomy,“The Mayflies of North and Central America.” In his spare time he frames

the fly plates for the Federation’s Legends of Fly Tying Fly Plate Project.


Special Thanks: International Federation of Fly Fisher