Candlelight. Three of them are lit since there’s no electricity here at night—and so are you, thanks to the unbridled joy of being on island time. Why is it that sometimes finding yourself on the cusp of fishing is as surreal as actually doing it? There have been a few planes and, finally, a two hour Panga ride to this 1950s-era concrete block home with a simple, palm-thatched roof. The fly tying vise has already cranked out a half-dozen tarpon flies and you whip finish a lime green barracuda eel popper for good measure, and then call it a day. You are going to need the rest.
A couple hours before sunrise you are already rolling out in the skiff with Ixtaro, who has lived here his whole life and guided for decades. There’s no need for words, since you’ve fished together for years. You both know the routine. At first light the entire horizon lights up with immeasurably beautiful ceruleans and azures as you fly along the reefs and passes. There is the brief cloudburst of a tropical passing rainstorm, but you forgo the slicker, since you know it will pass and you want to feel every moment of this. Plus, a skiff going 38 mph will dry you in no time.
It takes a while, but you find them. The school of some 30 tarpon amble mesmerizingly across the flat a couple hundred feet out and are set to cross paths with you in seconds. This is it, why you came so many thousands of miles, for no matter what the rest of the world calls “making a living,” this is the only kind of living that matters to you. A world of concrete and cubicles has never made sense, nor will it ever. “Yea boy you get ready for a shot at around 11 o’clock at 80 feet when I say, and don’t you trout set me mon!” You both laugh.
Game time. There are endless people who freeze up, fall apart, and come undone when it’s time to deliver the cast, but that has never been you. There’s just plain nothing to be unnerved by, for this is about connection to water and the feeling of being unequivocally alive. You know these moments are so few and far between, and there are so many hoops to jump through to get to them. You know this rod and what it does, how it responds, and most critically, what it is about to do, thanks to all of the water it has seen and shared with you. A hundred feet of fly line is stripped to the deck at your bare feet.
“Dey turning the other way hard, mon, you gonna have to hit ‘em at three right now!” That’s fine, for you know a 60-foot back cast is simply the last haul before a front side 90 footer. There is the ever sweet loop of the fly line, taut and serpentine flying past your right shoulder, the luminescent scales the size of your hand as you see the tarpon flare its gills, the creamy bone-white maw of the fish lunging, the wicked haymaker punch of the eat, the tumultuous swirl─SET-SET-SET and again for all you can give it. There is the arc of water as the fish runs, and so does the drag while you ride the lightning. And eventually, there is five feet of wild fish alongside the gunwale with your steady hand supporting it as it swims away.
Lunch. A homegrown molasses sweet pulled-pork sandwich on sourdough bread, along with some fresh mango slices. From tin cups you even sip some gin on ice with a macerated lime and a spoonful of cane sugar crystals thrown in for mojo and bloom. You draw breath more peacefully than you have in quite a while, and you know there is nothing ahead of you but day after day like today. There are a few favorite stories retold while you eat, and you think about bonefish, ‘cudas, or what you both may be up for next. It’s all good. Looking over your shoulder, Ixtaro shouts out, “Hey mon, look at this, dey are coming through the reef point again and there’s some even bigger ones!”
Lunch can wait.
WORDS BY: Nathaniel Riverhorse Nakadate
Camp Walker navigates the high stakes work of guiding in the Florida Keys to become one of the best in the game, and he’ll tell you how he got there. Just don’t ask about his boat…
Bonefish to Tarpon, presentation to power, recommendations from our reps and ambassadors on the perfect saltwater season setups.
The ideal bonefish combination should be able to effectively handle conditions that can vary from completely calm to extremely windy and this set-up does that to perfection. It will effortlessly deliver a silent presentation that won’t disturb even the spookiest bonefish in quiet shallows, yet it is equally as efficient when it comes to driving a tight loop into a strong head-wind with precision. The high-capacity reel’s silky-smooth drag never misses a beat and protects the lightest tippets even when a double-digit monster heads toward the horizon on a signature blistering run. When it comes to stalking bonefish, this is the quintessential outfit.
Catching a permit on fly requires patience, perseverance, and the right fly rod and fly line. To be successful you must be accurate with the fly presentation in all types of conditions. The 9 weight SALT HD rod with RIO FlatsPro Fly Line gives you the confidence to be successful and meet the demands of permit on fly.
Bar none, Tarpon are the most rigorously demanding shallow water gamefish of an angler’s tackle, and the SALT HD stands up to the test. The responsiveness of KonneticHD Technology provides my anglers with the ability to present flies delicately at short distances to laid up Tarpon in off-colored water, while still maintaining the ability to reach out far to strings of swimming fish. The low stretch properties of DirectCore incorporated in the Flats Pro makes the insurmountable feat of penetrating a Tarpons mouth more feasible and ensures in increasing more quality hook ups, amounting to less fish jumping off. The dynamic duo pairing of the SALT HD with the Flats Pro aids in leveling the playing field for all anglers in pursuit of these mythical dinosaurs that lurk beneath the surface.
- SALT HD 1190-4
- SPECTRUM MAX 11/12
- RIO DirectCore Flats Pro WF11F low-viz color Gray/Sand/Kelp
Achieving precision is not always easy or quick. At Sage, our handcrafting process includes an attention to detail in the cut-and-fit stage that far exceeds the industry standard. We taper fit each of our rods, one section at a time, starting at the tip. Our rodsmiths hand-cut and hand-fit each individual section. Then they check and refine the connections for wobble or tightness as well as fit and flex before the rod makes the grade.
The result is pure harmony—a smooth, end-to-end connection from a handcrafting process that results in a lighter rod with precise alignment. It’s complicated, but even a thickness-of-a-hair variance can drastically alter the action of a rod. Yet we believe every millimeter and every cast matters, which is why we take the extra time to make it right. It's our trademark.