Key West fly fishing for tarpon in June

Fly Fishing For Tarpon In The Florida Keys


The Florida Keys and fly fishing for tarpon are synonymous. This is where it all started, and where we continue to perfect our craft. Tarpon are the glamour species of the flats. These big girls have an ancient power in them that is hard to explain unless you have felt it for yourself. Fly fishing for tarpon is to many the pinnacle of our sport. No fish test your stamina, your nerves and your instincts like tarpon.


The coolest thing about fly fishing for tarpon is that you can convince them to bite. Tarpon that are not hungry or have other things on their minds will take a fly that is fished correctly. With time you learn to read the silver kings body language and can manipulate the fly to get the grab. I forgot to mention the BITE is incredible. Whether it slurps it off the surface or it looks like someone dropped a couch in the water it’s one of the coolest things in fishing.

Florida Keys Tarpon Fly Fishing


The tarpon fishery is made up of two vastly different fisheries. Most of the year we fly fish for tarpon in the backcountry of the Florida keys. These places consist of big basins, channel edges, banks, and mangrove shorelines. The tarpon back here are generally more relaxed and therefore easier to catch on most days. Some of these tarpon are resident fish that call the Keys home year round. Starting in February and March migratory fish start to lay up around the basins and banks. They periodically use these into the summer.


In late April the Big show starts on the beaches of the Florida Keys. The beaches from Marathon Key to the Marquesas Keys turn into a tarpon highway. The annual tarpon migration in the Keys draws anglers from around the globe to do battle with these living dinosaurs. A train of tarpon moves East and Westbound in great numbers. These oceanside fish are known to be picky and indeed they are. They can be caught and the visual spectacle of big schools of tarpon swimming in gin clear water is hard to beat.

Get information on Florida Keys tarpon fishing season

For detailed information on fly fishing for tarpon in Key West click the link.

Fly Fishing For Tarpon Tackle Suggestions For The Florida Keys


Most folks bring a 12wt fly rod. I prefer a 10 or 11wt personally because of accuracy. The fly must get to right place before you ever need to worry about fighting one with a broomstick (12wt). I suggest bringing the biggest rod you are comfortable and accurate with in the 40 -60 ft range.


Reels on the other hand need to be high quality with plenty of backing. A minimum of 300 yds is suggested. Nautilus, Tibor, Hatch and Hardy all make good reels for tarpon fishing in the Florida Keys. As always you are welcome to use my gear if you would like to. You can call me for more information on tackle suggestions for fly fishing for tarpon in the Keys. I love talking shop when it comes to fly tackle and would be glad to point you in the right direction.

Click here to see a detailed article on tarpon fly fishing gear

Florida Keys Tarpon Flies


I use a lot of hand tied original patterns I have developed for tarpon in the Florida Keys. If you are interested in bringing flies for your trip I suggest tan and chartruese toads tied on a 1/0 hook. Gurglers in tan, chili pepper palolo worm flies and tarpon tapas in multiple colors. You are more than welcome to use my flies of course. If you are interested in fly tying, visit my page about Florida Keys flies for tarpon.

For information on tarpon conservation in the Florida Keys visit

fly fishing for tarpon in Marathon Key
fly fishing for tarpon in Sugarloaf Key
fly fishing for tarpon on the flats
Florida Keys fly rods and reels for tarpon
lemon drop tarpon fly for the Florida Keys

Different Approaches To Fly Fishing For Tarpon In The Florida Keys


There are basically two different schools of thought when it comes to fly fishing for tarpon. You are actively poling a flat or a beach looking for them, or you stake out and wait for the tarpon to come to you. They both have distinct advantages. Due to my ADD nature in most cases I prefer to pursue the fish. I also believe firmly in poling my skiff, not using a trolling motor. It’s bad for the fish, but I could write a book on this subject. I like the feel of hunting, and because fish routinely change their habits it gives us the best opportunity at a maximum number of shots.As an added bonus I often will spot tailing permit higher up on the flat that we can go after. A lot of times this can be a day maker.


Fly Fishing For Tarpon – The Stakeout Method


Staking out for tarpon is a traditional method still used to this day. It involves sitting in one spot either on anchor, or with the push pole stuck in the flat and waiting for the tarpon to come to you. In certain areas, and on the beaches tarpon will use distinct travel paths day after day. By intercepting them you have a distinct advantage of knowing which direction they will most likely come from and can pick the correct angle. This method is most suitable for those new to fly fishing for tarpon because it allows time to prepare for the shot. That being said the more time you have, the more time you have to get nervous.


In conclusion, I use both methods depending on weather, tides and what I think will be the most productive in a given situation. Over the years both have proven effective in our quest to catch a tarpon on fly.







fly fishing for tarpon using the stakeout method
fly fishing for tarpon poling method

Tips For Fly Fishing For Tarpon In The Keys


1. Learn to cast accurately back handed. Tarpon flies are generally light so the ability to present the fly back handed will put you way ahead in the tarpon game. Tarpon are constantly moving and can pop up at anytime anywhere around the boat. Speed of delivery is often what makes the difference on the flats, and a quick back hand cast can tip the scales in your favor.


2. PRACTICE. Get as comfortable as you can with your fly rod before your trip. Learn to double haul if at all possible. Practice when it’s windy with a fly attached to the leader. Fly fishing for tarpon is about quick accurate presentations. Get dialed in at 40 – 60 feet with a maximum of 2 false cast.


3. Tarpon are always moving and you have to lead them a bit. The fly needs to get there before they do. If you can try to visualize the tarpon coming at you when you are practicing. Some people even take the fly off and  practice casting at their moving pets!


4. Learn to set the hook. When you set the hook while fly fishing for tarpon, you want a long quick set. The longer the better. My hand often ends up behind my back when I’m strip setting on a tarpon. The more travel your arm has the better off you will be. Listen closely now. Don’t ever lift the rod while you are setting the hook. This is the number 1 mistake made by those new to fly fishing on the flats.


5. Learn to lay the fly in there gently. The lighter the presentation the closer you can put it to the tarpon. This is key especially when fishing  for laid up tarpon in the back country of the Florida Keys. The idea is to keep the fly in front of, and slightly above the tarpon’s eye level as long as possible.


Finally, steady those nerves. These are big beautiful fish that will make your knees weak and heart pound. Try not to over think it. It’s just a fish after all. If you follow these suggestions and practice, you will find success fly fishing for tarpon in the Florida Keys.


Visit here for information on fly fishing for tarpon in Tampa and the West Coast of Florida.