Fishing for back country tarpon is special. Tarpon can be caught in a variety of locations, but finding them in the wildest of places, makes back country tarpon the pursuit of many fly anglers. Fishing around Sarasota, Florida means that there is endless back country to explore. The fisheries of Tampa Bay, the Manatee River, the Myakka River, the Peace River, and Charlotte Harbor provide ideal hunting grounds for tarpon in the back country.
The tannin stained waters of our brackish rivers provide some of the best and most scenic tarpon fishing around. Cypress trees and cabbage palm lined shorelines give way to mangroves as these rivers meander closer to their salty end. Splits and confluences with smaller creeks create a maze of wild beauty that confers a sense of awe and appreciation in every angler. Wading birds of all kinds call the back country home. Spoonbills, colored in pastel pink, are a favorite of many. The appearance of the occasional alligator, lazily pushing a v-shaped wave along the surface, conveys the complexity of these ecosystems. Submerged underneath the wild beauty of the back country lies countless numbers of tarpon.
Back country tarpon fishing trips start early. Normally, we are making way in the skiff with the boat ramp in our rearview before the sun peaks over the horizon. Most mornings, the rivers are glass and only the tug of the tide pulling against crab traps and channel markers disturbs the calm surface. A good morning tide is a shepherd, herding baitfish and shrimp together and then funneling them down tide. Tarpon will be heading towards these feeding zones at first light. Along the way they surrender to instincts, rolling along the surface, unknowingly inviting us to follow along. Aboard the skiff, all eyes will be trained on the surface, searching for rolling tarpon. The first rolling tarpon of the morning is strong coffee.
Every morning and every tide are different. On the best mornings, tarpon will be rolling slowly and in high numbers. Discovering patterns to their movement will be simple. Positioning the skiff will be effortless and presenting a fly to feeding tarpon will be met with aggressive takes, tight lines, and acrobatic jumps. Other mornings won’t be as easy and more diligence is needed in the back country to find feeding tarpon. More attention to the size and color of the fly will be needed. The retrieve may need to be adjusted to meet the needs of difficult fish. But the payday of a tarpon exploding out of the water makes it all worth it.
Flies for the Back Country
On bright days, use bright colors. Yellow and chartreuse baitfish patterns have been more effective than using white. In overcast or low light conditions sticking with darker colors is a good bet. It’s hard to beat purple or black. The darker colors give tarpon a nice profile to track. Using flies with a combination of both black and purple is a solid approach. For lighter colored patterns, baitfish patterns up to 3 inches in length are effective. For darker colored baitfish flies, going all the way to 4” in length has been productive. Gurglers are a great back country fly as long as wind and wave action does not interfere with the action of the fly. Gurglers tied in both white and black/purple move fish. Materials well suited for the back country are: EP brushes, Marabou, and Mangum’s Micro Dragon Tails.
Booking a Back Country Trip
Back Country tarpon fishing trips are run seasonally. The summer months offer some of the best action. Booking in advance and reserving your date for a back country tarpon trip is highly recommended. The best way to do that is to either email Captain Brian Boehm at [email protected] or speak with him over the phone at 941-400-6218. Additional contact information is available on the Quiet Waters Fishing website’s contact page.
See you on the water soon!
Captain Brian Boehm
Quiet Waters Fishing
Guide at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters