Settling into a routine, by this time the WorldCast Anglers crew had been on the mothership long enough to hit stride with the Avalon team and each other. I’d been introduced to Mike Dawkins and Chris Littauer, the principals from WorldCast. I’d also been seated next to Mike’s father Peter Dawkins at dinner and at breakfast.
Every meal was an opportunity to hear stories about my pal Simbo who had worked with the WorldCast team booking and tending the desk of the shop for several summers. It was at breakfast when I learned his other nickname, “C.L”. Easy to figure as his email address starts with those letters. It began in the fly shop as a joke and then when WorldCast Anglers acquired a beer license for the fishing clients, their biggest selling beer was CL or Coors Light Smooth and that helped the new nickname hold fast.
We also got used to visits from the ship’s doctor. He wore bright colorful outfits and carried a digital thermometer. Temperatures were taken before breakfast, after getting off a skiff and at random times in the evening as we moved about the boat.
Once out on the water, Oysani got us moving quickly and we headed south for about 30 minutes. The skiff skipped along on top of a light chop on the bright sunny morning. We started on the edge of a mangrove lined island that must have been a mile long. Our guide stood on top of a platform over the engine, spotting tarpon moving along the edges of the long roots that hold the islands in place. As the morning went by we spotted and casted big purple flies to several fish with no results.
After an hour our guide moved us deep into a mangrove canal, at the end there was a small lagoon, not a whisper of wind broke the water’s surface. He spotted a tarpon in a shallow corner and Simbo put the fly in play, it was game on. We were in very tight quarters, Osyani instructed Chris to keep his rod tip down, in the water, “let the tarpon take line”. The fish thrashed and flashed then rose out of the water and tail walked across the lagoon. Very exciting, it was the first time I’d seen a tarpon hooked in person.
After a quick fight with the 35 inch fish Chris had his tippet on the end of the rod and Osyani quickly released the tarpon without lifting it from the water. In tarpon fishing, when the guide touches the tippet that fish is considered caught. Releasing quickly with a minimum of stress is the ultimate goal.
I enjoyed my lunch of rice, beans and sliced ham and had the first and last Cuban “coke ”, finding it to have about ⅓ the flavor of a regular Coca-Cola. After the quick break we continued moving south and fishing mangroves until 5pm with no results.
Then there was a 45 minute choppy ride back to the ship. We were greeted by Amerilles & Melkie with wet, hot towels to wipe the salt from our faces and iced pineapple fresco (a blend of still water, pineapple juice and pineapple chunks). A few minutes later they passed small slices of pizza and the crew settled in on the aft deck to trade stories of the hard day of fishing. It seemed to be a tarpon day. Mike’s Dad Peter (Pappa Pablo) caught the prize fish of the day in a channel, a tarpon estimated to weigh 70-80 pounds.
Today I learned that as a rule baby tarpon spend most of their lives in the shelter of mangroves and channels until they reach 3 years of age and weigh over 25 pounds. Then, adolescent tarpon move into open water where food is more plentiful but the threat of being a shark’s lunch increases dramatically. Pappa Pablo’s tarpon had definitely been cruising the deeper water for sometime, where the tarpon grow at a faster rate foraging on larger and more plentiful bait.