Fly fishing rod

Salomone: The lights are brighter at night

Tarpons are dinosaurs with eyes as big as tennis balls and a gruff, sane face that even mom might not like.
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When you’re on the ocean at night, the city lights breathe life and pulsate through the thick, humid air. But it’s quiet, you don’t hear his voice in every car, train and local outside group.

Just the water, you can hear the water. I am aboard a small single scull with Captain Scott Miller of Reel Intense Fly Fishing and we are looking to dance with the locals under some of the best “city lights” you can find.

We met at the boat launch at 10pm with no other fishermen in this normally crowded area. The parking lot was completely empty and without the sheriff’s substation located in the same parking lot I would be worried about a burglary. I parked the Cadillac 400, an unexpected upgrade, under bright light for my late night departure, picked up my gear, and met my friend.

Captain Miller has developed a strong bond with our little mountain valley. He spends his vacation skiing at Beaver Creek every year. And he exchanges trips with fly store managers and guides who go to South Florida. It’s a win-win situation for both guides involved.

Captain Miller’s minnow.
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On a plane across the bay behind Macarthur Beach State Park, one of my wife’s favorite beaches, we pass Munyun Island on our way to the first “discotech”. We maneuver the agile boat around stilts, docks and boat lifts.

The underwater glow of the purposefully installed fish attracting lights illuminates the silver disco ball scale tarpon that has gathered for the show. They blink and roll, chasing minnows swimming in the light. Sometimes three or four compete against each other to hunt the suddenly targeted baitfish.

The view from Delray beach.
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It’s a fun game, getting into position with the silent hum of a trolling electric motor, getting by for a light shot and a clear back. The margin of error is as small as the launch target. The tarpon explodes using a hook and heads straight for the obstacles to free the connection. Holding one of the barnacle encrusted poles is a game won with the captain of the boat. Getting the boat out of danger while the fisherman tries to contain the cargo train attached to the fly is a game won as a team.

Measuring the throw distance with precise targeting and being careful not to snag wood, carpet or cables is a tricky game. Combine these variables with limited light and the world of fly fishing takes on a whole new meaning. Anything that attracts salt water uses the weight of the tides to build speed and muscle. The wide tails push the water out with a force not found in freshwater.

The tarpon’s solid bone mouth appears to be wrapped in aluminum foil and protected by lips of sandpaper.
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Tarpons are dinosaurs with eyes as big as tennis balls and a gruff, sane face that even mom might not like. Their sturdy bone mouths appear to be wrapped in foil and protected by sandpaper lips. They have no trouble bending cheap hooks and killing flies.

Intertwined with the smaller class tarpon, there is a big snook. Leap on shrimp and glass minnows, the ever favorite snook, also see how the game of chess unfolds among the dock lights. Working for structure and cutting thin tips with rough mouths and sharp glass gill plates, the lightweight dock snook is a tricky fish on the fly.

Tarpon and snook, like this one here, are the big players when it comes to fly fishing for dock fires around West Palm Beach, Florida.
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We go up the Ermine river by car. A smaller pinch of water that has a more noticeable current to the tide that we are experiencing and places the fish in a more predictable position. Captain Miller uses his knowledge of the local water, lights and the tide to choose our route. We bounce back, revisiting a few lights after giving the fish and the water a break.

Tarpon and snook are the main players in fly fishing in the dock lights around West Palm Beach, Florida. Going around the many nightclubs where these fish love to dance is a game that every fly fisherman should experience. City lights at night give these well-known fish a whole new perspective when you target them at night on the fly.

Michael Salomone moved to the Eagle River Valley in 1992. He began professionally guiding fly fishing in 2002. His freelance writing has appeared in numerous magazines and websites including; Southwest Fly Fishing, Fly Rod & Reel, Eastern Fly Fishing, On the Fly mag, FlyLords, Pointing Dog Journal, Upland Almanac, Echo website, Vail Valley Anglers and more. He lives on the shore of the Eagle River with his wife, Lori; two daughters, Emily and Ella; and a pair of yellow labrador retrievers.

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