Easterly morning winds will have the gulf waters flat close to shore and make seeing tarpon a lot easier. Get out at daybreak and stay close to shore with the sun behind you, which will allow the silver kings' backs to glisten as they roll on the smooth water's surface. Careful observation will teach you how to pick "happy fish" over those on a mission to get somewhere without eating along the way. A few trips will get you accustomed to their favorite places to appear, giving you a pattern of preferred routes. Pick a relatively shallow, light-colored bottom area where fish can be seen far enough away to not surprise you. It's usual to see large tarpon very close to shore, even inside the swim markers. To sight fish, you must see them first. A close shot to undisturbed fish is ideal. Lead them with an accurate cast. Never chase them with an outboard or electric motor. Position your boat ahead of the fish and have them come to you. Attempts to cast to fish going away or at more than a right angle are a waste of energy, and if one spooks, they all will leave in a panic. Learn to cast quickly and accurately. Get an experienced fly caster to help with preparation. Do an Internet search for "saltwater quick cast" and study and practice a technique that fits your comfort zone and abilities. Don't try a 60-foot cast if you never cast farther than 40. And respect other fishermen's space.
Fly fisherman Pat Damico runs charters in lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpat.com and (727) 504-8649.