Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Guest Post: Wintertime Kayak Tarpon in Boca Grande - By Nick Doumel @

Wintertime in the midwest is a tough season to get through. This year has been especially tough due to frigid cold temperatures and record amounts of snow. Many afternoons are spent doing things around the house and relaxing on the couch with a couple of logs burning in the fireplace, WFN on TV, and a nice warm cup of coffee steaming on the table next to me. Luckily, an escape called Boca Grande exists where my kayak silently slips through the expansive flats, twisted mangrove forests, and across Boca Grande Pass.

As I arrive at the beach, I unload my kayak and in what feels like only seconds, I am making my way across the incredibly crystal clear waters. As I paddle, I pass a boat that is clearly hooked up with a huge fish that is going absolutely crazy. As I continue to paddle, the tarpon starts to tail walk RIGHT AT ME!! I thought I was far enough away but I suddenly found myself right in the middle of the entire thing!! Luckily the fish went under before it reached me and took off in the other direction. The problem for this guy is that the fish is headed right towards a bridge! 

Don't get stuck!!!
I'm not sure if they ever landed it or not because once they followed the fish under the bridge, I lost sight of them. After all, I was here to catch a tarpon; not watch someone else catch one. Really though, if I wanted to watch someone catch a fish, I could just sit in front of the TV.  I did realize, at least, that this was a good sign!! Anyways, I kept paddling and the fact of that matter is that there are way too many power boats out here for my comfort. If I were to hook up out here, the fish would probably drag me right through the entire pack of boats and I just don't want to deal with that. 

Waaaay too many boats for my comfort!!
So off I went...In almost no time at all, I found myself deep into mangrove country. Finally! This is the stuff dreams are made of! The water was unimaginably calm and crystal clear, the sun was high in the sky, and I could see silver flashes of feeding tarpon in the distance. I was all alone out here with absolutely nothing but my kayak and a fly rod. PERFECTION! 

Now that I was here, it was time for stalking tarpon mode. I stood up so I could see a bit further and it wasn't long before I had spotted my target. This was a big fish that was clearly feeding on something out there so I pulled some line off my reel, made a couple of quick false casts and, with a good double haul, I had landed the fly right in front of his face! Strip, strip, strip...I could hear that textured line slipping through the guides - HE SEES IT!

"KEEP STRIPPING!!!!" I yell to myself through clenched teeth.

 HE'S ON IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The line tightens up and rips through my fingers and guides at blazing fast speeds!!! 

Within seconds, he has me deep in to my backing and heading straight to the mangroves! "STAY OUT OF THERE!!!!" I yell as I squeeze the line a bit tighter while praying the tippet doesn't break. Luckily, it holds strong and am able to get him slowed down a bit which only makes him launch out of the water!!

STAY ON!!!!!

As if I have someone in my head telling me to give him a little bit of slack, I let up a bit while his head violently shakes in midair. The shakes resonate through the line, up the rod, and into my hand with intensity that I have never felt. Every little movement is somehow amplified. Not once in my entire life have I felt this kind of feedback from any other fish or any other fly rod. It's almost surreal!!!

As the epic battle continues with the prehistoric giant, my arm begins to go numb. I can feel what was, just a second ago, the most astonishing sensitivity that I have ever felt rapidly start to fade. First, the sensation disappears from my very furthest tip of my finger. Then it fades up my fingers and into my hand. Next my wrist is completely without feeling. I can suddenly hear a voice waaaay off in the distance....It keeps saying something but I can't quite make it out. As the feeling of numbness continues its progression from my wrist to my elbow, the voice grows proportionately louder and louder. 



What the...? Why can I hear my wife calling me? She's supposed to be stuck at home over 1,300 miles away...

Her voice is getting louder and I've completely lost all feeling in my entire body. I can see the fish, the water, the mangroves, and even the fly line but I can't feel a thing!! I'm now starting to panic as I feel fluid falling from the corner of my mouth. Am I bleeding? Am I dying? Everything fades now from my vision and turns to a nearly complete whiteout.  My wife's voice is almost crystal clear and I can suddenly see her standing over me. Is this...heaven? How did she get here?

"Babe!" She yells out with a clear aggravation in her tone.

I look up at her...

"Wake up! It's your turn to make dinner!" 

"And clean up that drool!" she snaps as she walks away. 

SON OF A...........!

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