Tarpon Fly Fishing Gear


So you have been pipe dreaming about fly fishing for tarpon in the Florida Keys for some time now, and you’ve decided to finally pull the trigger. Before you head down to the beautiful islands of the keys with tarpon visions dancing in your head there are some things you can do to increase your odds out on the flats. Fly fishing for tarpon is incredibly rewarding, but it takes time and preparation to get good at it.

You have invested the time and the money to get to the Florida Keys. You want to be armed with the right tackle when it’s crunch time on the flats. The following is a short list of some of my favorites to do battle with tarpon on fly.


Fly Rods For Tarpon In The Florida Keys


It goes without saying that you don’t want to bring a knife to a gunfight. If there is a chink in your armor a tarpon will find it, and destroy it. Tarpon are ridiculously strong and I have witnessed rods shatter and reels seize way too many times. Quality equipment is critical when you tangle with tarpon in the Florida Keys.


A 10 weight fly rod is the minimum when targeting adult migratory tarpon. I use a 10 wt rod quite often because I like a lighter presentation. I have seen plenty of 100 lb tarpon landed on 10 wt rods. If you aren’t used to casting in strong winds or presenting the fly backhanded you might want to consider an 11 or 12 wt fly rod. They provide more backbone during the fight and a little more power in the wind. Be mindful of not picking out a broomstick though. A lot of lower end 12 wt fly rods are stiff cumbersome sticks that are a nightmare to cast all day. Fast action rods seem to be the best bet for tarpon in the Florida Keys and here are a couple of my favorites.


Scott Meridian in a 10, 11, or 12 wt size. These are great sticks from the folks at Scott fly rods. They are powerful, but forgiving fly rods that are suited perfectly for targeting big tarpon. They cast like an absolute dream in the wind and are backed by a lifetime guarantee. The quality and workmanship of Scott fly rods are impeccable. I always smile when I see a client walking up with a Scott meridian in hand.


Orvis Helios 3 in an 11 or 12 wt. I have never been a big Orvis guy, but they have came a long way from their tweed soaked past. The Helios 3 is one bad ass fly rod on the flats. It’s feather light, powerful, and very responsive. They are fast action fly rods that can punch flies 70 feet plus in the wind. You can’t go wrong with the Helios when it comes to fly fishing for tarpon.


Fly Reels For Florida Keys Tarpon Fishing


Nowhere else in fly fishing is the reel more crucial than when fly fishing for tarpon. If your reel isn’t quality the silver king with tear it apart. Tarpon rip line at breakneck speed initially and then put prolonged stress on the drag. We have to fish tight drags so if it hesitates a break off is inevitable. Fortunately there are many great tarpon reels on the market today. Here is a couple of my favorites for the Florida Keys.


Tibor Gulf stream – Tibor has been making high quality big game reels for over 25 years. The gulf stream has a super high line capacity to hold loads of backing and minimize line memory. The drag is silky smooth and has the power to stop big tarpon. Tibor was once the only real game in town and is still a great reel. I have nothing but good things to say about them.

Nautilus NV or MonsterNautilus makes great reels and these two models are serious tarpon tamers. They are powerful, smooth, and beautiful to boot. Made in Miami, the folks at Nautilus are truly passionate about turning out quality reels. They are favorites of many tarpon fly fishing guides for a good reason. They have certainly impressed me.


Leaders and Flies For Tarpon In The Florida Keys


Most guides myself included tie their own leaders. I adjust them according to conditions while we are tarpon fishing. I use only flourocarbon leader material for tarpon. Most prepackaged leaders are cumbersome and are meant for chasing tarpon in 1975 not 2018. If you want to bring some flourocarbon leader material 40, 50, and 60 lb. Seaguar is what I use most often.

Tarpon flies are also best left up to the guide. Most commercial tarpon flies are too big and I prefer to throw flies that I tie. If you decide to fish with me there is no need to bring any flies.


A Final Word On Tarpon Fly Fishing Equipment

Fly fishing for tarpon in the Keys will test your tackle, so get the best you can afford. It will help you on the flats and should last for many years to come. That being said don’t feel like you have to go out and drop 1500.00 on a new set up. I would rather you spend that on extra days fishing with me. The equipment won’t make you a successful tarpon angler, but time on the water will. You are always more than welcome to use my selection of tarpon fly rods and reels when you are fishing the Florida Keys.