Tarpon Fly Fishing: Beginner Tips and Guide

The dream of every fly angler is to catch the biggest big game fish, and it does not get better than tarpons. These saltwater monsters are known for their incredible strength, large size, and acrobatic flexibility.

Tarpon will always put up a violent and tackle-wrecking fight, so you must get it right when fly fishing for them. This article contains tips and guides needed to have a successful tarpon fly fishing outing as a beginner.

tarpon fly fishing
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Where to Go Tarpon Fishing

Fly fishing for tarpon requires a lot of planning and practice. You first need to know where you are going tarpon fishing to make adequate preparations.

Just like every fish species, there are many locations for fishing tarpon around the world. However, it is important that you make findings of where you are going, as different locations have unique characteristics.

You do not want to end up at a fishing destination that requires technicalities out of your skillset.

 It is best to start your tarpon fishing career at a location with an abundance of tarpon and room for learning.

This is why fisheries like the Florida Keys and Southern Belize might not be suited for beginners, as they require a high level of saltwater angling skills.

Some of the best destinations for beginner tarpon anglers are Tarpon Town, Fly Fishing Tabasco, Tarpon Cay Lodge, Isla Del Sabalo, and Campeche Tarpon.

Best Time to Fish for Tarpon

The timing of your fishing session is greatly influenced by the season and characteristics of the location where you are fishing. That said, it is best to fish for tarpon in calm conditions, as this gives you a clear vision to locate them and cast properly.

The early hours of the morning during the day and the early hours of the evening at night are, therefore, the best time to fish for tarpon. At this time, the breeze is typically gentle with limited boat traffic.

Dealing With Tides

Tide is an element that greatly affects the movement and location of tarpon. On a normal day, tarpon can be found moving across the edges and seams of the water, following ledges and sand bars parallel to shorelines.

However, tides can see them move differently. This is why it is important to understand the impact of tides to know how to deal with their effects.

When the tides change, the tarpon gets moving. The lull between these tides, on the other hand, is the perfect time for them to regroup and rest.

During periods of high tides, you can find tarpon in areas like grass flats, shoreline troughs, creeks, and coastal rivers. During periods of a strong current, tarpon can be found in eddies, behind structures, snags, and fallen trees.

During periods of low currents, you will find them cruising in channels and at the mouth of rivers and creeks.

Choosing Tarpon Flies

Dealing with tarpon is serious work, and you must put everything in place to catch the biggest tarpon. Choosing suitable tarpon flies is crucial to making a good catch.

Tarpon feeds on a diverse range of food, with crabs being the most common. As such, a lot of tarpon flies share a striking resemblance with crabs. This is not to say that you do not have a variety of tarpon flies to choose from.

In this section, we will look at different tarpon fly patterns and the best choices for each classification.

Natural Tarpon Fly Patterns

Natural tarpon fly patterns are designed to look like the typical forage that tarpon feed on. Natural tarpon fly patterns typically come in tans or natural brown with a touch of bright colors such as yellow and blue.

This color mixture provides the perfect blend of naturalistic appearance and visibility. Some of the best natural tarpon fly patterns are Apte Too, Coker Smoker, and Tarpon Mouse.

Dark Tarpon Fly Patterns

Dark tarpon fly patterns come in handy for fishing in low-light situations. Dark fly patterns are most effective when combined with brighter colors such as orange and yellow.

The Black Death, Bloody Mary, and Tarpon Toad are great choices of dark tarpon flies.

Bright Tarpon Fly Patterns

Bright tarpon fly patterns are reliable when fishing in stained and murky waters. Colors like hot pink, orange, chartreuse, and yellow are suitable for bright tarpon fly patterns.

Aside from stained waters, bright flies also make it easy to fish in water bodies with patchy bottoms or grass that limit visibility.

Beginner Tips for Tarpon Fly Fishing

As a beginner tarpon angler, there will be a lot to deal with before you get the hang of tarpon fly fishing. These tips will help you to understand the requirements of tarpon fly fishing.

Limit Your Expectations

The first thing to do as a freshwater angler making the transition to fishing tarpon is to limit your expectations. Even if you have been involved in saltwater angling for a while, you still need practice to successfully switch to fishing tarpon.

Start by getting saltwater gear, as your freshwater gear will not hold up well once affected by corrosion. The next thing to do is to choose a destination that is beginner friendly. We have highlighted some of the best destinations for beginners above.

Work with a professional guide, as they will teach you the basics as well as tricks to help you become a tarpon expert in no time.

Do Your Research

Once you have gotten your gear and decided on a destination. The next thing to do is to conduct a research on your destination.

Get yourself familiar with the characteristics of the location, the laws, and the best techniques to use for catching tarpon. Also, find out if you can get to work with guides that will help you with fly fishing for tarpon.


Do not wait until you are facing a tarpon before you use your tarpon rod for the first time. Set up your fly fishing rod before traveling to the destination, as this will give you a feel of what to expect.

Spending just thirty minutes a day will go a long way in getting you prepared to deal with tarpon.

Quality Gear

Spending your money on quality gear will ensure that you enjoy a great fishing experience. Do not waste your money on inferior products in a bid to cut costs.

Visit your local fly shop to get your fly rods, reels, and lure.

Handling The Tarpon

Mishandling tarpon can result in mortality, so you must do your best to be gentle with them. After catching them, you should keep them in the water at all times.

Taking the tarpon out of the water will only cause damage to their internal organs.


This article has highlighted all the tips that you need for fly fishing tarpon as a beginner. It is important to add that you must wear protective gear at all times.

Your wading boots, polarized sunglasses, and hats will protect your feet, skin, and eyes. Always be sure to conduct a research on your destination before you visit. 

Daniel O’Neill
Fishing Expert
Daniel specializes in fly, predator, and saltwater angling. He has practiced angling from a young age, quickly developing his knowledge of fishing fundamentals. His angling journey began in Ireland, primarily targeting rainbow trout on a fly rod. His passion for angling grew extensively as he ventured into other forms of fishing. He primarily targets freshwater and saltwater destinations in Ireland and the UK. His favorite catch to date was a 7lb / 3.6KG thick-lipped mullet from the Northern Irish coast—a prized fish to target on a fly rod. He is now the owner of DON Angling, a business that intends to inform and educate anglers on the best techniques, methods, and etiquette available.
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