Jack called me five years ago to inquire about fishing in Southwest Florida. He said he was a salt novice, but had caught small bass, perch, and walleye in Canada.
He had a bucket list of flats dream fish and was determined to catch a nice sized example of each one on the list. On top, but reserved for last, was the mighty tarpon.
Did you ever know people that shouldn't bowl, play golf or tennis, shoot or fish? Super nice folks but when it comes to (insert sport name) they are better off staying home. They just don't have the knack and just can't seem to pick it up no matter how hard they try.
Captain George Tunison
Our first trip started well. He arrived in Matlacha with brand new gear, lures, a fishing vest chock full of the newest cutters, scissors, pliers, scents, even a small compass. He started lugging two huge tackle boxes, a huge cooler of food, drinks, and two new rod and reel outfits down to the dock.
After convincing him to lock half of it back in the car he boarded the boat and sat down. The wind was whipping that day and minutes after warning him to watch his hands around the dock my bay boat slammed up against the dock breaking two of five fingers on his casting hand. Trip over.
Jack returned a year later for round two. He managed some small snook, two rat reds, and school trout along with releasing two pelicans, a tern, and a cormorant that he hooked.
At home again he decided that he needed to become a salt water fly fisherman and on trip three he appeared with all the latest fly paraphernalia as if he had bought one of every item in the Orvis catalog. After locking two thirds of that equipment in the trunk we hit the water.
Always carry medical equipment onboard to remove hooks from fly fisherman's scalps, skull, ears, and necks. By 9 his shirt was bloody. He had driven the fly into his scalp/skull twice and once into his neck on his dangerous forward casts.
I did manage a clean release all three times. By 10 he had hooked me twice in the hat and once in my hand as I poled the boat. Fortunately, I had brought two spinning outfits just in case. We finished the day catching a variety of species without losing an eye.
His fly fishing days thankfully now behind us and a few rat reds and juvie snook under his belt it was time for Jack to concentrate on the big prize, the mighty tarpon.
The next three trips saw broken leaders, broken hooks, sharks, bad hook sets and just Jack's plain bad luck rule trip after trip as the tarpon continued to beat him.
I loved the guy and we always had fun. Even with his terrible luck on and off the water he maintained a great attitude. He was old, sick with cancer yet still determined to complete his bucket list.
I got his call early in May. By mid-June, we were back in the boat anchored under the stars by the Midpoint Bridge. Lines in the water, using dead bottom baits and a single live ladyfish under a balloon, roaming around the shadow line trying to avoid trouble.
In 40 minutes the dead bait rod nearly doubled as a supercharged 75-pound class tarpon launched itself into the night ricocheting off a bridge support. Jack pulled the rod from the holder and held on, then slipped, fell, got up and went to work with all he had left which wasn't a lot.
Soon I had the fish by the jaw as Jack easily pulled the hook then hugged me. "We did it! Thank You!" he yelled over and over.
Jack's new found luck lasted until this past Tuesday.
You did it Jack!