Forum Posts

Captain John Tarr
Jul 13, 2022
In General Discussions
I have no problem admitting that I have lived a very blessed life, including that portion associated with fishing. My grandfather, Bill McEwen started me along the path, introducing me to fishing as soon as I was able to walk and sit in a boat. For those that don't know, my grandfather was the originator of Strike King Fishing Lures; a company that he started in his garage, in Memphis, TN. I was fortunate that as life happened, it would have us move in with my grandparents, move to Florida, get a boat at the age of 9, and take up fly fishing at the age of 15. I started down the fly fishing road because of a show I watched, on a rainy Saturday morning, while I really wanted to be fishing. The show featured Flip Pallot, fly fishing for redfish, in my home waters. I had never seen fly fishing in saltwater, but that day I decided I wanted to do it. My grandfather and grandmother made sure it happened. That afternoon I was taken to the local fly shop, The Fly Fisherman, located in Titusville, FL. I walked around mesmerized for a long time, looking at the rods, reels, flies and tons of other equipment. That day, for my 15th birthday, I was presented with a new fly rod outfit and a few flies. Fast forward the time line, several new rods/reels, a new career, and becoming a guide, and I actually became the manager of the very shop that got me into the life. I thought the circle was complete, but I was wrong. A few weeks after taking over the shop, I was rearranging some stock when I heard the rumble of a motorcycle pull up to the front. I kept concentrating on my task at hand until the front door opened and I went to give my greeting, like I did with every customer that walked through the door. It took me a few moments, but then I realized I was looking at the very man who had introduced me to fly fishing, Flip Pallot. Flip needed a few items for an upcoming trip and had heard the shop was under new management. We spoke briefly, he made his purchases and off he rode. In my previous job I had met a lot of important people: Presidents, television and movie stars, athletes, and more. But, none of them had ever had such an impact on my actual life. I won't say I was in awe, but I was happy that he had come in to meet me and introduce himself. A few weeks passed and once again I was at the shop, completing some task. I heard the rumble of the motorcycle as it pulled in and a few moments later, Flip walked through the door again. This time I was quite happy to have a longer conversation with him. I rigged a line for him and while I was doing it, he sat there and listened to my story of how I got into fly fishing. He knew the exact episode of the show and we talked about making the episode. When I got done and he went to check out, I told him that I would be honored if he would ever allow me to push him around and fish. He looked right at me, smiled that Flip smile, and commented a now very familiar response, "I can't go until tomorrow." I was taken aback for a moment, commented that I couldn't go on Sunday, because of family, but that I could go Monday. So, we made plans to meet Monday and he left. I got home that night and felt like a kid the night before Christmas. I don't know what my wife thought, but she listened to my excitement that day and throughout the following day. When Monday came, she told me to have a good time and wished me luck. I can't remember if I slept much Sunday night, but I remember being ready to go early the next morning. I had prepared everything at least three times, wanting to make sure nothing went wrong. I will not lie and state that I remember every single detail of the trip, because I don't. I do remember it was a sunny, calm day and that I felt like this was perhaps the single biggest guide day in my life. I also remember it didn't feel like work, just a lot of fun. I know Flip caught fish and that I was impressed by his ability to see, listen and actually fish; not just cast, but actually do it all, proper casting, reading the fish's reaction, fighting the fish, all of it. Then came the most surprising and perhaps the most intimidating portion of the entire day. Flip looked back, reeled up his rod and stated he wanted to take the poling platform and push me around. There was only one person I would be more nervous casting in front of at the time and that would have been Lefty Kreh. Well, you don't tell Flip Pallot no (at least I didn't back then) so we switched positions. I had put us on a flat that was covered in beautiful seagrass, with very visible potholes. The flat typically held redfish and seatrout, but on this day, it was better than normal. In every single pothole we saw, and visibility was good out beyond 100 feet, a big seatrout was laid up. I began preparing to make my first cast, thinking about not screwing up and probably more nervous that I had ever been. I made my cast and to my relief, it went exactly where I wanted it. Cast after cast was made and I was quite happy they were going where I wanted them or where Flip directed me to place them. However, cast after cast was met with a complete refusal by the fish. We spotted a bigger seatrout in a pothole about 60 feet away and I made a perfect shot; now I was pumped. I began stripping the fly, expecting the same refusal. To my surprise, she bolted forward, crushed the fly and I stood there, trying to take in what was happening, as she just as quickly spit the fly out and swam back to her resting point. I hadn't even tried to set the hook! Seriously, one of my idols just put me on what at that time would have been my biggest seatrout on fly, and I choked! I was horrified at myself. I knew I was about to take an absolute verbal bashing. I'm just waiting when I hear, in a very flat tone, "That one wasn't big enough"? UGH! That was even worse that being beat up! I looked back and Flip has a smile on his face and just says something about setting the hook. I couldn't say anything other than I surprised that the fish had eaten. There was no complaining by Flip about wasting his time poling, no screaming about me not being a good fly angler or blowing a perfect opportunity, nothing other than that little bit of a sarcastic statement and then him continuing to pole me to another shot. Fortunately I was able to redeem myself later in the day and catch a fish, proving that I wasn't a complete idiot. More importantly, I was able to make a connection with someone that has become a long time friend and mentor. Since that day, we've shared the boat hundreds of times, watched each other catch tons of fish and also observed each other make the same mistakes that every angler out there makes, resulting in some incredibly funny misses. While we don't get to spend as many days on the water together as we used to, I still cherish every day that I do get to spend with him. We laugh, we cuss, we catch fish, we miss fish, and sometimes we just spend the day running around and enjoying what Natural Florida has to offer. Like I said, I have been blessed and I thank God for opportunities like this and for all of the other opportunities that life has afforded me. I hope that you also get the chance to live a blessed life and enjoy some time with a person that inspires you. To Flip, my Grandfather and my Grandmother: THANK YOU for leading me down this path and this incredible life! To God, THANK YOU for blessing me with such wonderful people! Tight Lines and Screaming Drags, Captain John Tarr
First Time Fishing with Flip Pallot content media
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Captain John Tarr
Jan 26, 2022
In General Discussions
While I am going to write this forum from a fly fishing perspective, the same can be said for conventional gear too. Like most avid anglers and professional guides, I am on quite a few fishing forums throughout the internet. I believe these forums are a great way to share information, get some tips, and meet like minded people. In my business, it is also a great way to meet potential clients and a "must do" in order to appear in internet search engines. In almost every forum, the same questions always get asked: what rod should I buy, what reel should I buy, what line should I use? These may be the most popular questions in the fly fishing forums, right after, "Where should I fish?". After the question is asked, there comes an outpouring of information that can be very confusing and downright intimidating. While I have no doubt that every answer is an honest opinion by the writer, I do have a problem with 99% of the answers. Simply put, the answers are usually nothing more than an opinion from someone who likes a certain product. While that in and of itself isn't an issue (everybody has an opinion) it doesn't help the individual asking the question. What am I talking about? How can it not answer the question if you give them an honest opinion? Simply put, you don't have enough information to answer the question. Your answer could be 100% on track, or it could be be 1000% wrong. If you are wrong, which there is a really good chance you will be, it could hinder and frustrate the person asking the question. How? Well, let's just look at an easy example. What rod should I buy for chasing redfish? This question appears to be a simple one. However, I can guarantee there will be 100 different answers from 120 people asked. Sage, Loomis, St Croix, Temple Fork, Thomas and Thomas, Orvis, Redington, Uncle Bob's Custom Rods, the list will go on. Each person giving the answer actually believes they are giving the best answer, based on their experience. However, none of them bother to ask some basic questions before answering: what casting style do you have (fast, moderate-fast, moderate, slow, rocket-like), where will you be fishing for redfish (Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Mississippi or even more specific locations), what type of budget are you looking at, do you care if it is made overseas or the US, will you be traveling with it, do you want it for redfish only, the list could go on, but you get the idea. While most of these questions may seem like they are too specific to worry about, they must all be taken into consideration when you want to give an educated answer. The rod that I use to catch redfish in Mosquito Lagoon, during winter, is not the same rod I would take to Louisiana, or the same one that I would take to North Carolina. Perhaps the most important question, that needs to be answered though, is what the individual's casting style is like. Here's the problem: without knowing them and seeing them cast, it is still an educated guess at best. I consider my casting style to be moderate to moderate-fast. However, some consider it to be super fast and others consider it slow. To make it more difficult, my casting style, like most, will dramatically change based on the needs. So how do you answer it? Simple, I give them the same advice I give to everyone that has the ability. Go to a local professional fly shop and test cast rods. Any shop worth anything will allow you test cast all of the rods, before making a decision. When I had my shop, I would select every rod in the weight they were looking for, and told them to cast them. I told them not to look at the price tag, just cast each one a couple of times and see which one felt right. This was easier for experienced anglers than beginners. For beginners, I watched their casting stroke and helped point them in the right direction. Everyone has a natural casting stroke speed, so it isn't that hard. Yes, they'll still have to learn a proper stroke, but at least they will have a rod that matches their speed. The same thing can be said for reels. Where will it be used, budget constraints, and most important, what balances the rod? These issues need to be known before you can tell someone which reel to purchase. Most people overlook the balance issue and then wonder why they get tired after casting for 10 or 15 minutes. A properly balanced outfit will allow you to cast all day without wrist strain, elbow strain, and arm fatigue. As for lines, it only gets more complicated. Here, you need to know the rod, the style of fishing, where they are fishing, when are they fishing, and more. Sure, there are lines that will do most things relatively well. But, that doesn't necessarily make it the right line for the person asking the question. I have too many stories about people's trips being ruined because of the wrong line or worse yet, total frustration that made them give up, simply because they had the wrong line on the wrong rod. What if you don't have a professional shop near you? Reach out to some fly instructors in your area. I'm always happy to let people try all of the rods I have. In fact, when I have a new client that I am teaching, I take them all, so I can point them in the right direction. This is where having over 30 years of fly fishing and being a certified casting instructor comes into play; we know what to look for and how to identify certain aspects and mistakes. So, before you just ask a question on the forum or answer a question on a forum, take a little more in depth look. Make sure the advice you are giving is based on known information. If not, ask for more details. If they provide them, you may be able to answer. If they don't then I would avoid answering them. Then they cannot blame you for giving them bad information.
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Captain John Tarr
Jan 12, 2022
In General Discussions
The Spartina Turner was a fly that I designed after one of my first fishing trips with Flip Pallot. Flip and I had spent a day chasing large Gator Seatrout, with very minimal success. We had two main problems that day, due to clear, low water conditions: 1)The large flies we tried to use were spooking the fish and 2) Smaller flies were not getting the attention of the fish or causing them to react. The one fish that did react, ate a Seaducer, but the majority of the fish just ignored the offering. I went home that day determined to come up with a new fly design. I need the design to accomplish the following: - Be large enough to attract the attention of the fish - Be light enough to cast with a 5 or 6-weight fly rod, while using a minimum of a 12' leader - "Breath" enough to entice wary fish to eat - Have a jig-like drop to get reaction strikes from laid up fish - Imitate a variety of bait Yes, I was asking a lot from a single fly. However, I knew that if I combined the right materials, I could get the results I wanted. I opened drawers of tying materials and started going through them, selecting the items that would attain my goals. In the end, the Spartina Turner was designed. My selection of materials was based on their specific properties and what I needed the fly to do. I started by using premium saddle hackles for the tail. You need premium feathers for this fly so they are long, slender and relatively stiff; this gives the profile I wanted and helps prevent fouling. Next, the collar was tied using Arctic Fox (originally it was cross-cut rabbit, but I wanted something longer). The Arctic Fox provided me with added fouling prevention and a beautiful breathing action in the water. The head material I chose was EP Fibers. I wanted a material that would shed water, to maintain a consistent sink rate, and would still allow the fly to sink like I wanted. Finally, I chose either x-small lead or beadchain eyes. I selected these eyes because they allow the fly to dive like fleeing prey, without destroying the action of the fly. The fly was an immediate success. The fly got it's name from the first cast. I was poling Flip through a cut when I spotted a couple of redfish cruising off the starboard side. They were close enough that I couldn't spin the boat, so Flip made one of his trademark weak-side casts and dropped the fly just past the fish and in between them. Before the second fish could rush forward and eat the fly, the first fish did a 180 over its own back and smashed the fly. We landed the fish and knew we had a winner. As we revived the fish, snapped a couple of pictures, and then released it, I told Flip the fly needed a name. He looked at it, laying in the water, and said "Spartina Turner". The rest is history. This fly has taken redfish, gator seatrout, snook and tarpon. It is a staple in my fly box and is one of go-to flies when hunting large seatrout and snook. Here's how to tie it: Step 1: Attach saddle hackles to each side of the hook shank, just before the bend. One or two saddle hackles per side. Flare them out for more movement in the water; flare them in for a slimmer profile Step 2: Tie in a collar of Arctic Fox around the hook shank. I try to make the collar extend back about 1/2 the length of the feathers, to help prevent fouling. Step 3: Move the thread forward and tie in the eyes, on top of the hook shank. I leave enough room between the eyes and the hook eye to tie in a weedguard. Step 4: Attach EP Fibers to the top of the hook shank, filling in the area between the Arctic Fox and the eyes. Use x-wraps to secure the fibers on top. I use clumps about 1/2 the thickness of a #2 pencil. It usually requires 4-5 clumps to fill in the area. Once they are tied in, use head cement or a UV epoxy on top and bottom of the hook, to help prevent the fibers from spinning after a fish eats it. Step 5: Trim the fibers to final shape. I use a wedge shape, tapering out from front to back. This allows the fly to drop at an angle, giving a better representation of fleeing prey. This fly can be stripped at various rates and lengths, to imitate everything from a baitfish to a swimming crab. Practice the various retrieves, so you can see the difference and utilize the various methods when appropriate. Give this fly a try and I am sure you'll be placing a few in your box. Tight Lines and Screaming Drags - Captain John Tarr
Fly Tying Tutorial (Spartina Turner) content media
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Captain John Tarr
Jan 09, 2022
In General Discussions
Winter time fishing can be challenging to those that are new to sight fishing the flats. There are a myriad of reasons, but the biggest challenges come from the water being clearer, fish typically moving a little slower, and in a lot of locations, the water levels being lower. All of these conditions can make fish much spookier and difficult to get to eat. This can be extremely annoying to new anglers, who may stop fishing during this time; when in fact, it is the perfect time to sight fish and perfect your angling skills. My conventional anglers will find the video that I did with Ray Stansberry informative and helpful for these conditions. It relates to downsizing your offerings. Downsizing your baits not only makes for a more delicate presentation, it also represents much of the bait in the area. Z-Man Fishing Products offers a huge variety of "finesse" baits, all of which work great during these winter time conditions. In addition to the information in the video, I also recommend the following: - use longer, lighter leaders; this makes it more difficult for fish to see the leader and shy away - use a rod that allows you to cast longer - cast sidearm; this reduces the shadow you cast, along with lowering the profile of the rod For my fly anglers, this same concept works. Downsize your flies and use flies with smaller weighted eyes. This will reduce the noise the fly makes when entering the water and help alleviate spooking the fish. The majority of my flies I use during the winter will be under 3", with very few exceptions. Additionally, try the following tips to improve your chances: - use a lighter rod; winter is the perfect time to use a 6-weight fly rod, as the water has plenty of oxygen and the lighter rod will not spook fish as much - lengthen your leader to 10 feet or even 12 feet and reduce your tippet size; the shallower and clearer the water, the more you may have to lengthen the leader and drop tippet size - learn to cast accurately with a sidearm cast; this takes practice, but it reduces the chances of the fish seeing the rod moving - limit your body movement; like the rod, the more your body moves, the more chances the fish has to see you - limit false casting; every false cast is a chance for the fish to see the fly line and you - lead fish a little more; in the clear water, you may have to lead fish by 5 feet to keep from spooking them Fishing techniques are not the only thing you need to change to have a better chance at catching fish. The way you operate the boat and approach fish needs to change too. Lower, clearer water makes fish very wary and the sound travels even further in the water than the air. Try these tips when operating your boat or when you are trying to approach fish: - stop your main motor further away from your fishing area; while 50 yards may work in the summer, it may need to be three times further or more during the winter - if you are utilizing a trolling motor, run it as low as possible and keep it at a steady speed; pulsating the motor up and down creates an artificial noise under the water that fish hear and recognize - when poling the boat (the best way to approach fish on the flats), use shorter poling strokes and keep the pole at a lower angle; again, this will reduce the chances of the fish seeing your movement - don't rock the boat; this is always important, but even more so during lower, clearer water times - take your time; fishing is about enjoying the time, not racing. Slower movement will create less water disturbance If you follow these guidelines, I guarantee that you will have more success. That success will lead to more enjoyment and more willingness to get out during these times. If you have questions, feel free to drop a comment and I'll get back with you. Until next time....Tight Lines and Screaming Drags - Captain John Tarr
Winter Time Fishing Tips content media
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Captain John Tarr
Sep 20, 2021
In General Discussions
There's an old quote by Henry David Thoreau that says, "Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after". When I was a kid, I could never understand what that quote meant. I fished to catch fish. Heck, as a kid, I hated slow days or those days when you didn't catch anything. I spent most of my developmental fishing days with my grandfather. He was beyond an avid angler. His passion had started as a way to provide food for a family, like so many others that group up during that time. Then, his passion turned into a business, when he started Strike King Fishing Lures in his garage. Yes, my grandfather was the original owner of Strike King, the multi-million dollar, world-wide company. It started in a small garage in Memphis, Tennessee. He started that lure company making handmade spinner baits that he and my grandmother would form by hand, pour lead by hand, and then paint with an airbrush. Why? Simple, he couldn't find what he wanted, so he made it. That same man was also responsible for teaching many of the BASS anglers how to fish, including legendary Bill Dance. I used to sit around with all of these people, never understanding who they were, other than fisherman. I did know one thing: they all listened to my grandfather and held him with high regard in the bass fishing world. Later, when we moved to Florida, I spent every day with my grandfather. I spent that time learning how to cast a baitcaster, perfect my angling skills, locate fish, select the right lure, and everything else associated with fishing. The days I got to spend with him, on the water, were the best in the world. He taught me how to operate a boat properly, with respect for the environment and other anglers. I owe the vast majority of my angling knowledge to him. Yes, I learned some techniques on my own, including fly fishing and fly tying, but in the beginning, it was him that provided me those opportunities and supported my new adventures. Then, like most older teenagers, our time together became less and less; school, work, and life just seemed to get in the way. I still saw him every day, but our time on the water was much less than it had been. Fast forward a few years and I got married, moved out and had a son. My grandfather loved that boy. He would hold him in his arms, like a gentle giant protecting him. They got to spend some very special moments together and we really enjoyed the time. I was hoping he would be able to teach my son everything he had taught me. Unfortunately, God had other plans. My grandfather was taken from us, after a brief battle with lung cancer. That morning still plays in my head, like it was just yesterday. I kissed him on his cheek, as he laid in bed, looking at the river. Then, I went to work. When I arrived, my boss told me that my wife had called and my grandfather had passed away; in a mere 30 minute drive, he was gone. I was devastated, even though I knew it was coming. For almost two years, I gave up fishing. I tried going a couple of times, but I just couldn't enjoy it. Many of my grandfather's best friends, who fished with him weekly, were the same way. As time passed, the pain eased, and I found myself being drawn to the water again. This time, I didn't have the need to go out and catch a bunch of fish. Now, I finally understood that quote! The water became a place where I could travel, alone, and relax, enjoy nature, and remember all of the great times with my grandfather. As more time passed, I had chances to introduce all of my kids to fishing, spending some great times with them and making memories that I will always carry with me. More time passed, and I started guiding, giving me even more opportunities to share my passion and knowledge, and make more memories with other great people. Each of those people came to water for different reason, but very few ever came the sole task of catching fish; even if they did, they learned that the catching was really secondary to what they were really doing: creating lifetime memories with special people. Yes, if you stay in the fishing game long enough, you will learn that catching fish actually has very little to do with fishing. It is a way to open your eyes, your soul, your brain, your heart, and share it all with very special people. TIGHT LINES and SCERAMING DRAGS -Captain John Tarr
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Captain John Tarr
Jul 25, 2021
In General Discussions
I had the chance to cast the new TFO Mangrove Coast rod yesterday. Personally, I fell in love with it. Now, I have to admit that I find very few bad fly rods in the world and I have the ability to adapt my casting style to meet the rod action. However, this rod felt wonderful from the start. First, this rod was developed by my good friend Flip Pallot. He wanted a rod that was moderately fast, but allowed the caster to feel the rod load and unload. This is important, as it allows the caster to actually feel the cast and become a better caster. The rod is designed for a longer casting stroke, not those short, quick strokes that many of today's super-fast rods are designed for. The slower speed and longer casting arc also enables new casters to have some room for error, while allowing expert casters to use the rod to its full potential. The Mangrove Coast is a re-design of the original Mangrove series It is lighter, absolutely stunning to look at, and has the TFO designed handle marks that tell you the rod weight. While it doesn't have Recoil stripper guides, it does have better stripper guides than the original TFO rods. These rods also have a lot of power in the butt section. This will enable anglers to put the pressure on fish and end battles quickly. It will also enable you to put enough pressure on fish to pull them away from mangroves, docks, oysters, or other structure they may try to get to. The trick here is to use the rod as it is designed and really put that bend at a low angle, getting it back into the butt section; this is not a rod to "tip" fight with. As far as fly lines go, I would suggest a longer taper than many of the "newer" short, over-weighted tapers. Look for a conventional saltwater taper, bonefish taper or similar fly line. Also, make sure it is a true to weight fly line and DO NOT overline this rod. If you want something that will handle that, look at the Axiom II-X; this is not the rod for that. This rod is smooth and relaxing to cast. It will definitely be a rod that you can comfortably cast all day without wearing yourself out. Whether you are chasing redfish, bonefish, snook, tarpon, permit, or seatrout, this rod will allow you to fish all day and enjoy it. They are made from a 6-weight to a 12-weight, so there is a rod in this family for the majority of your fishing needs. While I love my Axiom II-X rods, I will definitely be adding these rods to my quiver too. Honestly, you can never have too many rods. Check one out at your local TFO dealer and I think you will be as impressed as I was.
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Captain John Tarr
Jun 05, 2021
In General Discussions
This short film is part one in a three part fil that will cover the journey of a fly, from construction through catching. This particular fly, the Micro Feather Changer, is a blend of modern fly tying and old school materials. The fly was first invented by Blane Chocklett and complete tying instructions are available in his book Gamechanger. The use of the feathers and the articulated design make this fly dance through the water and entice some incredible strikes from predator fish. Tarpon, snook, seatrout, redfish, jacks, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and more find it hard to resist the movement and it is quickly becoming a favorite fly for many guides. I hope you enjoy the journey! -Captain John Tarr
A Fly's Journey (Part One) content media
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Captain John Tarr
May 16, 2021
In General Discussions
There is one trend coming out of the Covid-19 Pandemic that I have been happy to see: people returning to outdoor activities like fishing. While the increase in the number of people enjoying fishing does put more pressure on areas, it may also help benefit the outdoors like never before. I'll discuss some of these benefits later, but for now, I want to continue to encourage people to get out there and enjoy what the Natural World has to offer. As a fishing guide, one thing I have been pleasantly surprised with, is the number of "older" people wanting to learn how to fish. I'm not just talking fly fishing, although that sport has seen tremendous growth too, I'm talking fishing in general. Over the last year, I have experienced a number of people 10-20 years older than I am, getting into fishing for the first time. I was a little shocked at first, but then started putting two and two together. This age group would have spent their childhood in the late 1960's to the middle 1970's. This was a time when the Vietnam War had a lot of families torn apart, and the time when both parents has to start working. The parents of these children had also faced some difficult times, as they would have been raised in the time of World War Two, Korea, or just after. In any of these cases, it was a time when children were less likely to enjoy the outdoors with their parents and more likely to be working to provide for the family. Now, these same people are nearing retirement age, or have retired early due to the pandemic, and they are looking for ways to relax and enjoy life. As far as I'm concerned, there is no better way to accomplish both of these than to spend time outdoors; especially time spent fishing! People learning how to fish now have so many advantages over those that learned decades ago: YouTube Channels, websites, how-to everything, and people like me: fishing guides dedicated to helping those that want to learn. As I guide, I don't possess any "secrets" on how to fish, that I won't share. In fact, having taught fly fishing with Lefty Kreh, Flip Pallot, and Chico Fernandez, I have been mentored to share all of my knowledge with anyone that wants to learn it. Lefty was without a doubt, the greatest person to ever demonstrate this; he would share any and all of his information with new anglers and did so without hesitation. I made a promise to myself to try and do the same thing. This is the reason I teach seminars, post videos on various topics, and never hesitate to take out anglers that want to learn. So, if you are one of those people that feels yo may be too old to take up fishing, I want to insure you that nothing could be further from the truth! Reach out, ask questions, watch videos, read books, and find places like this website, where any question you ask will be answered with truthfulness and encouragement to learn more! It is never too late in life to learn how to fish and enjoy everything that the Natural World has to offer!
Never too Late to Learn content media
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Captain John Tarr
May 03, 2021
In General Discussions
I have several companies that I love to work with, but I have limited companies that I actually sign partnership agreements with. The main reason is that I rarely find companies that make products that fit all of my needs or that I like everything they make. However, I am very happy to announce a new partnership with Rapala Lure Company. Rapala fulfills my tackle needs in the hard lure category. They cover me for topwater, twitch baits, suspending baits, diving baits and trolling baits. I decided to join with them after using their products for several years and having great success with them. I love using them for snook, seatrout, tarpon, redfish, largemouth bass, bowfin, grouper, snapper, jacks, and more. I have pretty much found that if it swims and eats other fish, they have a lure that will be perfect. I'll be highlighting some specific baits in upcoming months, giving an example of when and what I use them for. When possible, I will also include some video of the action of each lure (usually only the deep diving plugs I use for grouper or offshore cannot be filmed). If there is a specific Rapala lure that you would like to know about, send me a message and I;ll be happy to answer it. Looking forward to sharing the information and helping others learn how to use these wonderful plugs to their maximum benefit.
New Partnership content media
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Captain John Tarr
Apr 28, 2021
In General Discussions
Here is a brief video overview of the Z-Man Fishing Products Bait LockerZ. This storage system is perfect for keeping a large amount of soft plastics in one area and ready for your fishing needs. Watch the video and you'll understand why I prefer it over a lot of other storage systems! Enjoy!
Z-Man Bait LockerZ content media
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Captain John Tarr
Mar 20, 2021
In General Discussions
People hire fishing guides for a variety of reasons, but the main ones are to enjoy a relaxing day and to have the best chance of success in fishing an unknown location. Guides know this and spend countless hours preparing and scouting for their trips. They do everything they can to make sure things go right and that the client has the best opportunity possible to catch their desired target species. All of the preparation and scouting in the world cannot make every trip successful and there is nothing worse than a bad day of fish not cooperating. But it is even worse when the fish are cooperating and things still don't go right. Hey, sometimes stuff just happens; call it bad mojo, bad luck, or just whatever else you want. Then there are times when the guide does everything they can and the client fails to produce. In order for the client/guide relationship to work, both parties have to be honest with each other. For the guide part of this, it means only taking those trips that you know you can do well. What do I mean by that? I specialize in fly fishing and artificial conventional tackle for my fishing (along with bow fishing). I do not claim to be the world's greatest live bait angler. Yes, I can use live shrimp as well as anyone, but I do not have the skill as many other guides with things like mullet or pigfish. No matter what many people think, there is a skill associated with these types of bait, along with needed equipment to keep them alive during a trip. I refer trips like this to other guides, who specialize in mullet and pigfish so that I do not disappoint a client. I would rather they have a great time with a guide that enjoys that type of fishing and has the skill to be successful. Now, I know not every guide does that. I know plenty of guides that have zero knowledge about fly fishing, but they'll still take a fly angler and it usually results in disaster and unhappy clients. That's the reason I write articles and teach classes on how to select the proper guide for your angling trips. Since you always want your guide to be honest with you, as an angler, you need to do the exact same thing for the guide. When someone calls me, there are a series of questions I ask. These questions enable me to make sure I can meet the potential client’s expectations and also to make sure they have the needed skills for what they want to do. While these questions pertain to ALL clients, let me pose them from a fly angler point of view, just for simplification of a perceived conversation. Question one, after we talk about dates, times, and how many people will be coming, is what species of fish are they looking to catch? Many times, clients are happy to target anything that is available. They just want to get out and experience a great day on the water and have some shots at fish. There are anglers that want to chase specific fish: redfish, big seatrout, snook, and tarpon top the list. If you have a specific species you want to target, let your guide know and let them know if that is all you want to focus on. There are a couple of reason for this and they include making sure the species is available at the time you want to go, making sure proper gear is selected and ready for the trip, and knowing where the fishing will concentrate. It also lets the guide know how flexible you are. I nearly always recommend being flexible on species, unless you have a lot of angling experience and there is a single fish that you want to cross off your list. But this is the client’s trip and I will do all I can make it happen. Clients also need to understand that if they decide to target a single species, the guide may not bring stuff for other fish or be in the right area; this can make for a long day if that single species doesn’t cooperate. Question two is the MOST important one for anglers to be honest about: what angling experience do you have? This question can make or break a trip. When I get new fly anglers to saltwater, I ask them about their casting experience. Many of these people, depending on the areas they fish, may never have cast a rod bigger than a 5-weight. If these same anglers want to target large tarpon, they will be throwing a 10 or 11-weight fly rod; they need to practice with this beforehand, to understand the huge difference and to make sure they can do it. Physical limitations can make it difficult and even painful for some people to try and cast a rod this big. If I know it ahead of time, we can talk about alternatives of chasing smaller fish, using smaller gear, and look at other angling options. The biggest issues come when we discuss casting distances and accuracy. I’ve had hundreds of anglers over the year that claimed they could cast 50-60 feet, with minimal false casts, and hit a plate without a problem. Then, when we get on the water, they cannot even cast 20-30 feet and their accuracy is less than a sawed-off shotgun. This happens with fly and conventional gear. I am always straight forward with people on what I need in casting ability: 40-50 feet, in two false casts, landing on a pie plate. I’ve only had a few tell me they couldn’t do that. When they tell me that, I tell them to practice before coming and then explain that we will take some casting lessons and practice on the water, before I put them on fish. It’s nothing major, I just need them to be honest. It also let’s me know what type of fish I need to find. If a person cannot make long casts, I’ll try to find the most relaxed fish I can. Why don’t I do that every trip? Because it limits the number of fish we will see and have shots at and can take a lot of time to locate them. Accuracy is also of major importance during these discussions. Many stream and lake anglers don’t realize how accurate saltwater casts need to be. They learn quickly though when they are trying to cast to a prize snook under a mangrove, with less than 6 inches of clearance and a pocket the size of a glass. Hey, sometimes it requires a lot of luck too, but having some skill leads to better luck. If an angler tells me they aren’t accurate, but still want snook, I will go somewhere I may find open water fish; there will be less of them, but if I know, I can try to find it. The overall point here is to be truthful with your guide. If you honestly assess yourself and give the guide the real information, both of you will be happier during the trip. We can all have bad days in fishing, just like any other sport. Those happen and we can work through them. What guides cannot do, no matter how good they are, is make up for a lack of skill the angler said they had and they really don’t. By being honest about your skills, your guide can point you in the right direction for the best success, can make a plan to help you improve your skills, and can enjoy the day as much as you. If you’re not honest, there is a good chance that both of you will become frustrated and the trip will turn into a clock watching session instead of a fish hunting session. I hope this helps you and feel free to leave a comment or what you think is critical in making a trip successful! Until next time, Tight Lines and Screaming Drags! -Captain John Tarr
Want Success? Be Honest with your Guide! content media
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Captain John Tarr
Feb 26, 2021
In General Discussions
One of the trips that I advertise and one of my favorite adventures that I do without clients, is bowfishing for tilapia. I love the challenge of this sport, which combines the needed stealth of stalking fish, much like flats fishing, with the ability to shoot a bow accurately and the mental ability to compensate for all of the variations you face; wind, current, water depth, distance of the shot, and angle of the fish, It is truly challenging and very rewarding when you are successful. I do not bowfish anything other than tilapia, I have ethical issues with bowfishing targets that have minimum and maximum size limits since you cannot verify their size before shooting them. In addition, tilapia are considered an invasive species and the state is trying to remove as many of them as possible. I find this a little amusing, since it was the state that brought them into Florida originally, to help with aquatic vegetation control. Once again, an oops on the part of the people that are in charge of maintaining things. This seems to be a common occurrence when they try to change nature. Still, it gives me something to bowfish and an activity that I love doing. My season for tilapia is primarily focused during their spawning time. This is when the fish are easier to locate, stalk and successfully shoot. During this time, many of the fish will transform from their brown, black and green colors (which make them almost impossible to see against the bottom of the areas we fish) to their mating colors of blue, gold, white, silver and a mixture of them all. In addition, when they start spawning, they will hold to the beds, staying there as long as they can and giving the angler a non-moving shot. The season start up depends on the winter conditions we have. In fact, as I write this, I am waiting for the sun to get higher in the sky, so I can go out today. It's a few weeks earlier than the last couple of years, but we've had a relatively mild winter and the fish appear to be starting early. The season can last for a month or two, and at times it has lasted into May. Needless to say, when the season approaches, I start advertising it more. This is where things can get a little weird. Every year I have a few people contact me and they are shocked that I would target these fish and even more shocked that I would promote eating them. These people have made comments that the fish are deadly poisonous, full of chemicals, and even some that have claimed the fish are genetically engineered, without scales or bones. I can understand some of their confusion, as there have been several negative articles about tilapia in newspapers and other internet articles. However, all of these articles are written about farm-raised tilapia; specifically, they are about the fish that are farm-raised overseas and then sent to the United States. I would never eat anything farm-raised in country other than the United States or perhaps Canada. Simply put, I don't trust what third world countries use to raise their fish. The fish I target are not the same. They are wild, free swimming fish that feed on an omnivorous diet of grasses, insects and small fish. These fish are just as safe to eat as any bream, catfish, crappie, bass, mullet or shad that you can catch in the St John's River. Now, I will admit that I would not eat them from runoff ponds or golf course ponds, two areas they are also bountiful. This has more to do with what is in the water than fish itself. As far as the comments about the fish being genetically engineered and not having scales or bones? Well, it is obvious that whoever started that rumor has never held a tilapia or tried to clean one. Like many fish, they are covered in thick, dense scales. These scales can dull a knife in a hurry and there is a trick to cleaning them without destroying the blade: get the blade under the scales and cut at an angle toward the front of the fish, for you initial cut. Then comes the fun part. Tilapia dorsal fins are very sharp and have spines almost their entire length. It is rare that I don't wind up pricking my hand at least once when cleaning a bunch of fish. Once you get past the scales and the dorsal spines, the only other difficult part is getting around the rib cage. The rib cage extends out quite a bit and takes up a large portion of the fillet bottom. I pull the fillet away from the ribs, almost peeling the meat back, while gently using the knife point to cut it. One tip I will give you is that they are much easier to clean after they sit on ice for about a day. Once you clean a tilapia, you will realize why they are such powerful, agile swimmers. Perhaps one other part of the tilapia that makes people question whether or not they are real is how tough the fish is. We jokingly refer to them as Zombie Fish. These fish have adapted to survive temperatures that are usually far too cold for them and an environment that has a ton of competition: bass, gar, turtles, alligators, eagles, ospreys, otters, bears, hogs, snakes, and more. All of these other animals are quite happy to eat tilapia. Yet, the tilapia not only survives, it thrives. I have witnessed the fish take a headshot from a bow that is shooting an arrow over 350 fps, and never miss a heartbeat. Numerous times, we have placed fish on a stringer, thinking they were dead from the shot, only to find out they were knocked out and not dead, when they start swimming around you a few minutes later. Place them in a cooler, without water, and they will survive for hours on end. This is one more reason I put them on ice for a day before cleaning them. A friend that raised them in a pond here, said that he found one a bird had dropped, on his front driveway one morning. He said the fish was dry and beat up, but that when he took him back to the pond, he began swimming. That fish was still alive, with visible scars, when he sold the house a few years later. Personally, I've had some extremely large fish swim off with an arrow stuck in them, never to be seen again. The physical toughness of these fish is pretty amazing, but the meat is far from tough. It is firm, flaky, and a fish that can be vacuum sealed and frozen without it becoming a mushy pile of bleh. The fish is wonderful fried, grilled or broiled, and can be marinated with your favorite blend of seasonings for added flavor. I don't usually add much, just a little salt and pepper if I fry them, and maybe a little lime juice and garlic if we grill or broil them. They are mild tasting as long as you remove the blood line. If you don't remove it, they do have a stronger fish taste, which some people prefer. I make my decision based on the size of the fish. The smaller ones, under about 4 pounds, don't usually need the blood line removed. I always remove it on the bigger ones, as the blood line gets rather large. The average fish we get is 4-8 pounds, but we get a few every year in the 10 pound range and we have seen some even bigger. How big do they get? I have no idea. I guess that remains to be seen as their territory grows and their ability to get larger increases. If you have the opportunity to try wild tilapia, I urge you to give it a shot. If you like fish, you'll enjoy it. Don't worry about all of the misinformation and garbage on the internet; unless you happen to be buying tilapia form somewhere that imports it from overseas; then choose something else! There are places here in Florida that sell the wild fish, as they are targeted by netters and routinely sold to fish markets. They can also be caught conventional tackle, where they wil really show their brute force to you.
Tilapia (Not Fake News) content media
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Captain John Tarr
Feb 12, 2021
In General Discussions
I had a situation that I found both amusing and disappointing. A few weeks ago I spoke to a potential client. This particular person was getting off another charter as I was coming in from a day of fishing alone. The guy saw me and came over for a report. First, allow me to say that I try not to get involved when someone is getting off another captain's boat; I just find it bad taste. In addition, I know that no matter how good a guide is, we all have those days where nothing goes right. There have been plenty of times where I caught fish and others didn't and just the opposite. So, on this day, I just told the guy that I'd had a good day, without any details. The guy said he recognized the boat, from photos that he had seen on the internet and asked my name. I told him. This is when I got a little amused and disappointed. The guy told me that he followed me on social media and almost booked the day's trip with me. I asked him why he didn't call me. His answer, "Well, I see who you fish with and I didn't think I was good enough yet." I asked him what he was talking about. He advised that he saw the photos of me fishing with Flip Pallot, Chico Fernandez, shooting films with C.A. and other similar stuff. He advised that he was just a beginning fly fisher and thought he needed to improve his skills before fishing with someone like me. He said that he had heard horror stories of guides screaming at clients that couldn't cast well and he thought it could make for a bad day if I was used to perfect anglers. I had to laugh and quickly apologize, as he looked a little disappointed that I laughed. I asked him to hang around while I finished loading the boat, so i could speak with him. I got my boat loaded and pulled into a parking space, so we could talk. First and foremost I explained that I was not laughing at him, but his comment about "perfect anglers". I know that I have been blessed to spend time with a lot of great people in the fly fishing world. My favorite times were spent teaching and learning how to teach from Lefty, Flip and Chico. I've also been very lucky to spend a lot of time on the boat with Flip. So, please understand that I know better than anyone: there is no such thing as a perfect angler! I explained this to the guy I speaking with. I have witnessed every angler in the world make great casts and I have witnessed every angler out there make bad casts. I have watched some amazing catches and have watched them all blow some of the easiest catches there are; from missed hook-sets, to missed presentations, to just things that make you go hmm. I then went on to explain my style of guiding: I have a teaching and coaching based method of guiding. I have never yelled at angler. In fact, except for a life or death scenario, I could never fathom why a guide would yell at their client. Do I know it happens? Absolutely. I have plenty of anglers tell me horror stories about guides yelling at them, belittling them, and even some stories about guides cussing them out. I have always been appalled at these types of stories. Maybe some people react in a positive way to this type of criticism, but I am not one of those people. As I've relayed to every client that told be a story like this, "I'm not saying who would get thrown in the water, but one of us isn't staying on the boat if someone speaks that way to me." I'm not sure what a guide thinks it is accomplishing by acting this way toward a client, other than to assure that the client will never come back; maybe that's what they want. As for me, I want repeat clients as much as possible. I consider my long time clients like family and I want all of my clients to feel that way. I love watching them grow from novice anglers to being the best they can be and I love that I can usually consider myself as being partially responsible for that growth. As we talked, the guy admitted that he made a huge mistake by not calling me. Unfortunately for him, the person he hired wasn't a fly fishing enthusiast, and preferred clients that liked live bait and spinning rods. He promised to call the next time he was in town and I am hoping that he holds to the promise. There is nothing I like better than getting a chance to bring a smile to a client's face with a nice fish, or helping them to improve their overall fishing ability. He is also the one that told me I should write this post. So, if I can help one person make the call, the post will be a success. I never want any client to feel that they are not as good as some of the people I am blessed to fish with. In fact, those very people (Flip, Chico, Lefty (God rest his soul)) would be sorely disappointed if they knew an angler felt that way. Every single one of these guys has spent their entire life teaching and helping people; they would never want anyone to feel intimidated by them. I love new fly anglers, as long as they are realistic and willing to listen and learn. I feel that I am at my best when I get to coach an angler and help them elevate their game. For me, there is nothing better than getting an angler a "first" fish and crossing off a wish on their bucket list.
Intimidating? Please no! content media
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Captain John Tarr
Jan 08, 2021
In General Discussions
You have seen the videos, pictures and watched the television shows. You notice how relaxing it appears, how much fun it looks like, and dream of what a challenge it must be: Fly Fishing, that next step in angling experience and skill. So, you decide you want to learn. What's next? Most people go online, maybe join a group on social media, and they start asking questions. What rod and reel should I buy? What fly line should I get? What flies should I use? How do I learn to cast? Where should I fish? Full of questions, but having limited knowledge, they accept every bit of information they are given, like a newborn child taking in the big world around them. The answers come from all directions, with such a wide variety of reasoning, that many begin to shut down. There is too much information and they all contradict each other. Maybe they visit a local tackle shop. Here, they ask someone behind the counter what they should buy and how they should learn; hopefully the person behind the counter is knowledgeable and experienced. Unfortunately, more times than not, they are neither. If they are lucky, the person looking for information has a professional fly fishing store near them and they visit. These shops, which are getting more and more difficult to find, are where you can get real information and learn from people that have experience; trust me, no one works at a fly shop to become rich, they do it because they have a passion for the sport. But, what if you don't have a true fly fishing store near you? Is all hope lost? No, there is ample information available, but you will still need some professional guidance from someone with a true understanding of fly fishing and the ability to share that knowledge in an easy to grasp method. So, let's start with the first question everyone has: what rod/reel should I purchase. The answer: I have no idea at this moment. No one can tell you what rod/reel they should buy without knowing some information: what are you going to fish for, where are you going to be fishing, what is your budget, and most importantly, what is your natural casting style. The first few questions can be answered easily or even looked up online without an issue. However, that last question is impossible to answer without witnessing you trying to cast. No, you may not have any idea of what a true fly cast looks like, the mechanics required for a successful cast, or anything else. But, you do have a natural movement in your arm, shoulder, wrist, and back that all translate into what style of rod will match your casting style best. Why is this important? Because if you select a rod that matches your natural style, it is one less thing that you will need to correct as you learn the actual mechanics of casting. Purchasing the wrong rod, especially in the beginning, can make learning even more frustrating than is needed. In fact, I have witnesses people quit because the rod they purchased was completely wrong for them; that can be an expensive mistake, but even worse, it can keep you from enjoying a wonderful sport. When I managed the fly shop, I had a simple rule for new people. First, I would take them outside and teach them a basic cast. Nothing fancy, just a simple task of picking up some line and putting it back down. Then, I brought out five or six rods. I would tell them to take two or three casts with each rod. As they cast, I watched. I watched how each rod reacted to their movements. Then, After they completed that, I took the three that matched them best, and had them do it again. Three casts with each one. Again, I watched and told them to focus on which one felt best. Then we rated those, 1-3. Then and only then did I allow them to look at the prices and discuss brands. The majority of the time, the rod selected was a mid-price range rod, with a range of acceptable casting strokes, and not one of the high priced, elite fly rods. Why? Simple, they did not have the knowledge, experience, or technical skill required to cast the elite fly rods; their timing wasn't there, their casting stroke did not accentuate the stop or acceleration enough, or their natural body mechanics just didn't match it. Most of the time they were surprised that I didn't try to push them into the expensive, elite rod. But, someone who is truly interested in teaching you and getting you into the sport will NEVER do that. They will get you the equipment that will help you be successful and nothing more or less. Yep, occasionally I even told customers that they would need to save a little more money, as the rod they needed wasn't within their budget; I also urged these same people to stop by as often as they could, while saving, and we would continue some casting practice. Okay, so we discussed the rod. What about the reel? A lot of people will tell you that the reel is nothing more than a line holder and that if you spend more than $50 or $75, you're a fool. That may be true in some fly fishing arenas, but there are a lot of fish that require good drag systems and a balanced reel. But the most important part: the reel should help balance the rod. When the reel is loaded with line and backing, you should put it on the rod, hold the rod by the grip and it should feel balanced in your hand. This is important because as you cast throughout a day, this will reduce fatigue and help keep you from developing poor casting habits due to fatigue in your wrist or forearm. You can do your own research on brands, drag styles, colors, and anything else you want to know about. Just remember the balance! Rod and reel covered, what about the fly line? Again, this is not an easy question to answer, as it depends on a lot of factors: casting distance, rod you are using, air temperature, water temperature, water depth, flies you are casting, and even what you are fishing from (boat, kayak, wading, etc). This is where a professional fly fishing shop comes into play. Fly lines can be ordered from these places and shipped to you without an issue. But, they will take this information and help you select the right line. Too many times I have seen this answer on forums: use one line weight higher than your rod and use and short, front taper. While that can be beneficial in some circumstances, it is completely false in most and can make it miserable to cast. If you cannot find a professional shop to help you, fly line manufacturer web sites can be helpful. I just urge you to visit a few of them, instead of just one. Well, now we have discussed equipment, what does a person do after that? It is time to learn to cast. If you are fortunate, you will have a professional shop, with a great casting instructor in your area. If not, you may have a great instructor that lives in the area or a guide that also instructs and lives near you. Search! Search the internet for someone near you that teaches. Yes, I am a certified casting instructor. I have been certified through the FFF as a casting instructor. What does that mean? It means I passed an examination that tested my ability to actually teach the casting stroke, recognize casting errors, and explain the mechanics of various casting types, along with knowledge of actual fly fishing on the water. Do you need a certified instructor? No, but it is a starting point to look for when trying to find an instructor. More important though is finding someone that can communicate casting in a way that you accept and understand. I am not a screamer when teaching or guiding. Some people want a screamer, so I point them to someone else. I tend to be more technical and lengthy in explanation; for some this works, for others it can be aggravating. I'm lucky though, teaching for more than than 20 years, and in every aspect from fly fishing to actual school (elementary through college), I tend to be able to adapt to everyone except those that need screaming; I gave that up when I left law enforcement. Overall, find an instructor and take a few lessons. Then, practice, practice, practice and practice. But, practice properly! Your instructor can help you with that and I give all of my students specific things I want them to practice; it involves actual movements, time limits and most important: what NOT to do. This final section is the one where the majority of those wanting to learn fail. Once you have the basic casting ability down, have an understanding of presenting flies, retrieving flies, and maybe even fighting a fish, GO PUT IT TO USE! When I took it up at the age of 15, I spent a lot of time getting frustrated after a few fish, because I couldn't get the cast right and I wasn't accurate, so I would stop with the fly rod and go back to my conventional gear. Each day I fished, I would spend a few aggravating minutes trying to fly fish, give up, and go back to my old habits. Finally, I went back to the fly shop and spoke with one of their employees I met. I told them I was having difficulty actually catching fish. He simply asked me if I really wanted to catch a fish on fly. Yes, of course I do was my reply. Then came the best advice I got: leave your other damn rods at home and force yourself to use the fly rod, you'll either catch a fish or fail and learn. I took the advice. For a long time I came home fishless; thank goodness I didn't have to catch fish to eat. Then, it finally happened. That first time I landed three redfish in a single morning, all on fly. I give that same advice to all of my clients now. If you truly want to learn how to catch fish on a fly rod, leave all of your other tackle at home. You will force yourself to learn from your mistakes, pay more attention to you casting and fishing technique, and learn more than you thought possible. There's an old adage in the armed forces: if you want to capture an island, burn the boats when you arrive. With no way to go back, you'll accomplish the goal. The same applies to fly fishing. If you have any questions, feel free to email or call me. I am happy to discuss anything about fly fishing you want to discuss. I'll be honest and if I don't know, I can almost guarantee that I know someone that does and I will get an answer. Fly fishing is a wonderful sport, but like anything new, it takes some patience, understanding and practice to get good at it.
I Want to Learn to Fly Fish content media
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Captain John Tarr
Dec 03, 2020
In General Discussions
I do a lot of speaking engagements with people of all age groups. One week I may be speaking with an elementary school, for career day, and the next I will be speaking with a group of fishing enthusiasts that have traveled hundreds of miles to listen. No matter which group I am speaking with, most of the people listening believe I have the best job in the world; I agree. However, what most of them do not understand is just how demanding the job is. No, I'm not going to sit here and say that being a fishing guide is more demanding than other professions like doctors, first responders, lawyers, or any of a thousand other demanding professions As a retired law enforcement officer, I can say with first hand knowledge that there are definitely more demanding professions out there. But, being a fishing guide is still a tough job; it is physically demanding, mentally challenging, and the pressure to be successful can be downright gut wrenching. Let's start with the personality requirements of being a fishing guide. With the exception of law enforcement officers or emergency room doctors/nurses, there are very few professions that will see as diverse a group of clients as a fishing guide. In any given year, I will see people from all walks of life. I've had plumbers, farmers, arborists, marine biologists, astronauts, rocket scientists, music stars, movie stars, professional athletes, and more on the bow of my skiff over the last couple of decades. Each of these individuals had a personality that I needed to mesh with and be able to engage with over a day or more on the water. Most people believe that all you discuss while guiding someone is fishing. Nothing could be further from the truth. As my good friend Flip Pallot likes to say, "The skiff becomes a confessional. The guide and the angler discuss things they wouldn't share with anyone else, including a priest in the confessional." Many believe this to be an exaggeration, but it isn't. This becomes very evident as the angler and the guide spend multiple days together, and if they are lucky, continue the relationship for years on end. I have clients that I have been guiding for more than two decades; these people become family and like family, secrets are shared and stories are told in the safety and confinement of a skiff. A fishing guide must be able to discuss a huge variety of topics, be able to explain directions in a multitude of ways, and be able to mesh with an abundance of personalities; without these abilities, the guide will be very limited on the individuals they get along with and communicate with. This can be the difference between success or failure as a guide as the years pass by. The majority of successful guides are capable of handling clients from every walk of life and enjoy being with different types of people every chance they get. Now let's take a look at some of the physical demands the job places upon you. It doesn't matter if you are guiding mountain streams, inshore flats, the deep sea ocean, or local lakes; there is a physical toll placed upon the guide's body in each and every one of these situations. Since I guide mainly inshore flats fishing, I will delve further into the physical demands of this world. The most obvious physical demand on an inshore guide's body is poling the skiff for hours on end. Poling a skiff places demands on your arms, shoulders, back, legs, core, and neck. These demands become intensified with wind, current, weight, balance of the angler, and even the type of bottom you are traversing. Many of us try to minimize the stress of these demands by working out in the gym and maintaining at least a semi-healthy lifestyle. Still, there isn't a workout program out there that places the same physical demands on your body as poling a skiff does. Day after day, hour after hour, pushing, pulling and steering the boat with your body can make for some sore down time. Sleep deprivation is also a physical demand on guides when they are busy. Many people do not realize that the guide's day starts the night before. During this time, rods are checked, lines are rigged, baits are prepared, and a fishing plan is developed (good guides will have multiple plans ready, in case one or more are not working). There have been plenty of nights, before an early morning trip, where sleep didn't come until midnight. The morning of a trip also starts early for the fishing guide. If I plan to launch at 6 AM, I'm up at 4, maybe earlier if I have to trailer the boat far. This early morning time is used for a final boat cleaning, cooler/refreshment preparation, tackle loading, fueling, and getting to the ramp. I have a simple rule: if I am on time, I am late. I want the boat in the water, running, ready to go, when my client arrives. Of course, sometimes problems arise and the extra time is utilized to make sure the day goes off as issue free as possible. After the day of fishing, the client gets to go off and enjoy the evening. The fishing guide goes home and cleans the boat and tackle. Small skiffs take about an hour to clean, with another 30 minutes for tackle cleaning (at a minimum). Larger boats can take two hours or more to clean. After cleaning, we start preparing for the next trip. There have been plenty of weeks when four hours of sleep per night was the maximum; it's just part of the job. Then there is the daily stress of running a boat on the water, day after day. I'll admit, my skiff handles rough water well and this has little effect on me. But, when I go offshore, that is a completely different story. Spend a few days in rough seas, pounding on waves, and you will know what it is like to be a professional boxer. You'll be sore and bruised in spots you didn't know existed. As I said, every guiding style has its own physical stressors and can take a toll on your body when you do it on a daily basis. The final aspect I will discuss is the mental challenge guiding places upon you. Most people believe that guiding is the most stress free job there could ever be; after all, you're fishing every day you work. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. Guides spend very little time actually fishing; that would be a professional angler, not a guide. Guides spend 95% of their time trying to make sure their anglers have a successful day. Just a little food for thought on what this takes: 90% of fish live in 10% of the water. Each day, these fish can travel miles upon miles to locate the exact conditions they prefer (depth, clarity, salinity, pressure, prey type, grass type, cover or no cover, and the list goes on). The fishing guide is trying to make sure that their angler is in the right location, so that a fish is present, at the right time, so the fish is feeding, and at the right position, so a successful presentation can be made. If any one of these parameters is off by even a few seconds or a few inches, it means the difference between success and failure. Don't believe that? How many times have you spotted a fish, only to have it refuse your best offering? It happens all the time. Now, add in the fact that someone is paying you (good money) and you are now expected to be able to make the fish eat. No, not every client is that demanding, but all of them expect you to have some trick or tactic that will work more times than not. While most understand that guides cannot control nature, there are those that expect you to be able to. Every guide wants their client to have a banner day, what I refer to as a Chamber of Commerce Day: great weather, perfect water and hungry, aggressive fish. Truth be told, those days are super rare! Instead, most days are about using a game plan and being able to change and adapt to ever changing conditions throughout the day. I cannot tell you the number of times that I've gone from game plan A, to B, to C, to D, and even as far as game plan G. Then there are those days when absolutely nothing can be figured out. Even worse is when your game plan would work, but the angler is not up to the task; this happens more often than I would like to admit. If your guide is worth anything, these challenging days are hard on them. While I try to never show it, there is nothing more stressful than having a bad day on the water with a client; a day where fish are not wanting to show, where fish do not want to eat, or things just keep going wrong. 98% of my clients are understanding and know how hard I work to make the day successful; they understand that nature is nature and the fish don't always cooperate. Still, it makes it tough for me to accept bad days. The challenges associated with being a fishing guide are plentiful; the three above are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more and I could probably write an entire book on it. When I discuss these issues with other guides, they will come up with a list of challenges I hadn't even thought of. Yet, despite these demands, the guides I am associated with and work with all say the same thing: we wouldn't trade it for the world. Why? First and foremost, the water is where we belong. We are not happy on land, we are not happy in office buildings, we love being out on the water, in the fresh air, enjoying the natural world. Water is freedom, joy, peace and tranquility. Secondly, most of our clients make the job enjoyable; they're fun to be around, have the same passion we do, and the really good ones just want that day of solitude in nature. Third, but not the last reason, are those few moments when everything comes together. You've reached the right spot, at the right time, at the right angle, where your angler and his target are in perfect harmony of time and space, and a hook up takes place. It is truly a magical moment that we often take for granted. We shouldn't; if we really stopped and thought about everything that must be perfect for it to happen, we wouldn't. Those moments when the angler and guide get to share a memory that no one else can ever share are what makes those demands worth it! In those moments, the physical demands, mental demands, and all of the world's problems, vanish and for a few moments everything in the world is right and perfect! Those moments are the reason I have the best job in the world!
Fishing Guide: Dream Job or Nightmare? content media
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Captain John Tarr
Sep 01, 2020
In General Discussions
I have been fishing for as long as I can remember. I have old, family photos showing me with a rod in my hand at the age of 3 and every year after that. I took up saltwater flats fishing when we moved to Florida when I was eight years old. Geez, 39 years later, I still love it. When I was 15, I took up saltwater fly fishing. It turned from a new challenge to a passion and later to a career. I have been blessed in my career and had the opportunity to learn from Lefty Kreh, Flip Pallot, Chico Fernandez and many people that are not as "famous" as those; in fact, I really cannot think of anyone that I haven't learned from (sometimes it is learning what not to do, but it is still learning). I have also taught hundreds of people how to fly fish and tie flies. I say this, to say that I am quite confident in my fishing abilities. I say that to say this: no matter how confident you are, there are times when the fish will reach right up and smack your ego in the nose, laugh at you, and humble you so bad that you may even consider giving the sport up. While I didn't think about giving up the sport, I did have one of those days last week. I'm sharing this story so that everyone knows they happen to all of us (I've seen it with the finest anglers in the world, including some of those mentioned above). I will say that I take it to a whole new level though; I find new, artistic ways to have these types of days. Last Thursday was one of those days that should have been stellar. I launched the boat on a day that there was little traffic, plenty of sun, and although a decent breeze was blowing, it was from a good direction. I really didn't have a plan, I just wanted to be on the water after not being for almost a week, due to weather and commitments. I wasn't worried if I got to catch anything, I just wanted the peace and tranquility that the water brings. The morning run was beautiful: the light breeze across the face, the warmth of the rising sun against the skin, and nature providing sights that only she can provide. As I ran the boat I headed to the tidal waters, to see if the tides were returning to normal after some passing storms. I found them to be perfect for sight fishing. My first spot was a bust. Something wasn't quite right and the fish were not showing themselves. Still, it felt good to be standing on the poling platform and hunting. So, I headed to my second spot. Here, everything was perfect. As I approached an oyster bar, I saw two tailing redfish. I wasn't within casting range, so i continued easing toward them. They disappeared, dropping off the oyster bar, only to reappear right in front of the boat and spook off. I'm not sure why this always seems to be the case; when a fish disappears, they seem attracted to the bow of the boat. at least I knew there were fish in the area. A few moments later, I had a single fish cruising the mangrove roots and heading my direction. I prepared to make my cast and staked the skiff out. He was 50 feet out, cruising left to right, back exposed, and right up against the mangrove roots. These are the shots I dream of. I made two false casts and sent the fly in his direction. 50 feet and three inches later, the fly landed on an overhanging mangrove branch, two inches above the water. I tried to gently ease the fly off the branch and it immediately plopped into the water, right on top of the fish's head. Needless to say, he did not appreciate this and the last I saw of him was a mud puff and a shadow fleeing at about Mach 2. Before I could bring the Powerpole up and begin poling again, I saw a second fish. This one crashed something along the shoreline, about 100 feet in front of the boat. Again, the perfect target in the way he was coming. I eased within range and made my cast. Two twitches of the fly and I had a hook-up! I landed that fish, took a quick photo, and felt redemption. My confidence was back and I had a feeling this was going to be a banner day. Well, I won't bore you with blow-by-blow details on the next ten fish, over the next hour. I will suffice to say that each one was a perfect target, providing plenty of opportunity. I didn't hook another fish. Instead, I found new ways to completely blow these shots. Mangrove stems and roots ate two flies; literally, they were swallowed into the labyrinth of these trees, never to be seen again. Then there were shots so far off target that I had a better chance of catching the moon than the fish. Others were so accurate that they surprised the fish and caused them to run for other countries. With each fish and mistake, I grew more upset with myself. My clients will tell you that I NEVER get upset when they miss a shot; we simply gather ourselves and prepare for the next shot. I cannot say the same thing about myself. In fact, my wife laughs, saying she has never heard anyone else call themselves a moron, an idiot, or worse. She laughs, reminds me I am human, and that I always tell her that anyone can have these days. Yes, going 1 for 12 on fish that are giving you perfect opportunities is frustrating so say the least. But, you can still learn from it. I reminded myself that fish eat with their mouths, not their butts (I already knew this, but confirmed it several times). I also reminded myself that you look where you want the cast to go, not at the fish. There were numerous reminders of what not to do that day; but in the end, you know what stuck in my head? That second fish! The way the cast landed perfectly, the way he lit up when he saw the fly twitch, the excitement as he rushed forward, opened his mouth, and swallowed the fly. That is the whole reason we keep coming back, no matter how much our ego suffers from the other fish. I write this as a reminder to all, that no matter how much experience, knowledge, and ability you have, everyone can have one of those days. It is also why I NEVER get upset when clients make mistakes. I hear about other guides that scream and cuss when an angler misses a shot. I've never been able to understand that. I know these guides and I know, because I have witnessed many of them in person, they blow shots too. So keep that ego in check, or nature has a way of putting it in check for you! If you are new to the sport, don't let those bad days get to you! They happen! Instead, look at the things that went right, even if you don't catch a single fish, you were out there, enjoying the outdoors and not in some office building, traffic jam, or stuck in line at a store. When you are having those days, here's a tip. Stop what you are doing. Put the rod down, grab a drink and just take a few moments to take in the natural world around you. Watch a crab swim by, maybe a a bird overhead looking for dinner, and take a deep breath. Then, get back up there and go again. Many times that brief moment can re-set everything for you and get you back on track. Sometimes, you just go 0 for the next 6. Either way, you're out enjoying the water and that's not a bad thing! Have a tip for those bad days, or want to share a similar story? Post it, I would love to hear it!
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Captain John Tarr
Jul 30, 2020
In General Discussions
The number one question at seminars is how to locate fish, "fishy" habitat, and learning to navigate an area. The answer comes down to time on the water. Hiring a guide, looking at charts, scanning Google Earth, and all of the fishing applications in the world are no substitution for time on the water. Even more important is proper time on the water. What is proper time? That is the time you put in to doing more than standing on the platform actively fishing. Some call these scouting days, but to me, you cannot properly scout until you have some knowledge of the area. Proper time means standing on the poling platform, easing your way through an area, taking notice of all you can: subtle cuts through the flats, changes in the bottom structure, underwater structures that could represent hazards or cover for fish, shoreline make-up, and the list goes on. I have been to new areas where the outboard was never started. Instead, we spent the entire day poling (of course you have to be in the right area for this type of day, but they are available). Yes, it makes for a long, slow day. But the information gathered allowed us to know where we could safely run, what type of fishing area we were dealing with, and gave us some idea of where to look for fish. The major problem in today's world is most don't want to do that work. It's a shame too. Everyone wants instant gratification. So, they hire a guide and then go back to the spots the guide took them, they follow other anglers (affectionately referred to as Potlicking) and make their spots, the go to online forums and requests spots, or they venture to a local shop and try to overhear conversations or get spots from the employees. Sure, a new angler may pick up a spot or two by doing this. At the same time, they will pick up a few enemies and they will not have gained any knowledge about the area or why they are fishing a spot. So, when that spot or those two spots stop producing, the new angler in the area has no idea what to do; they just start the process all over. There are no shortcuts in the outdoor world; fishing or hunting. Yes, you can hire a guide for trip to an area you are visiting and I highly recommend it. But not for your home waters or hunting location. This needs to be done by putting in the work and time (proper time). Besides, if you think fishing and hunting is all about catching and killing, you still don't understand; sure, it is a fun part of it, but it is the journey to that final part that keeps drawing true sports enthusiasts back.
Time on the Water content media
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Captain John Tarr
Jul 19, 2020
In General Discussions
Every fly angler has a fly they have complete confidence in. It is the fly you always revert to when things just don't seem to be going your way. I would love to see you favorite and know some details: what you target with it, why you like it, etc. While this is a relatively new fly, the Micro Gamechanger is fast becoming my go to fly. It has a ton of movement, to entice those picky fish, and when worked right, causes fish to reaction strike. Redfish, seatrout, snook and tarpon love it!
Favorite Fly content media
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Captain John Tarr
Jun 07, 2019
In General Discussions
It’s good to have you here! Feel free to share anything - stories, ideas, pictures or whatever is on your mind. Here you can start discussions, connect with members, reply to comments, and more. Have something to say? Leave a comment or share a post!
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Captain John Tarr

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