saltwater fly fishing

Cayman Islands Magic!

I have just returned from a week in the Cayman Islands - and what a week it was!

Little Cayman was our venue and the Southern Cross Club our destination resort.  The web site images gave the impression of a paradise type resort and they were not misleading.  I went with Martin Founds of Anglers World Holidays and a group of 6 anglers from the UK.  We were fishing and filming for a Sky TV programme.

Our target species were bonefish, permit and tarpon - the much sought-after "grand slam" of saltwater fly fishing.  Our bungalow looked out onto the flats inside the reef, which was literally a fly cast from the water.  Little Cayman boasts several miles of flats along it's Southern and Northern shores - narrow and easily wadable.  It soon became apparent that diversity of species is one of Little Cayman's attributes and most of the anglers were soon into fish.

I have fished for bones in several parts of the World, but targetting the Little Cayman bonefish was going to be tricky.  Most of my flies were far too large and heavy - there is a mass of rich turtle grass surrounding the island and the bones etc graze over it constantly.  Any heavy flies disappear down into the turtle grass, making weed guards a necessity.  Something else I had to contend with while out there!  Lightweight shrimp patterns cast slightly ahead of the bones was the trick - lighter leaders than usual and soft casting also pre-requisites to success.

We all caught a multitude of species on the fly, but lost some BIG fish in the process.  All numbers of Jacks took Clousers readilly, as did the odd Bonefish.  Pompano, Snapper, Rainbow Runners and even Box Fish ate the fly.  Of course, the annoying small Barracuda kept biting off our offerings, but none of us minded catching the bigger Cuda's.

Tarpon Lake is a truly unique feature on Little Cayman and was previously a red Mangrove Swamp before the devastating Hurricane Gilbert hit in 1989, tearing down all the trees and causing seawater to flood into the swamp - along with a load of Tarpon!  Now the Tarpon have bred and grow well in the brackish water, providing fantastic sport for the fly angling visitors to the Island.

In my morning session, I jumped 6 tarpon, landing just 2 - but as these were my first landed Tarpon, I was very pleased.  These fish are only "babies" but they gave me an idea of how a really big Tarpon would fight.

That was now my main aim - to get one of the huge tarpon which we regularly saw on the flats.  One morning, there was a significant disturbance on the surface as Tarpon were hitting bait fish.  I tackled up with a 9' #9 Hardy Proaxis rod and new Hardy Ultralite Saltwater Reel, kindly rigged and loaded with 80lb shock tippet by my good friend Howard Croston (who has landed several tarpon over 100lbs).  First cast I strip-struck several times into a big fish that was in the 100lb mould - it jumped and jumped, stripping off yards of line and backing in the process.  Then it jumped off!  I was destraught.

Still, Howard reckons that the catch rate is about 1 in 6 for tarpon, so I set about looking for another fish to target.  I did'nt have to wait long and soon I was into another.  Not as big as the first, but still bigger than any freshwater fish I had ever hooked!  It again jumped and jumped - ran in all directions and I battled hard against it's every move to try to throw it off balance as Howard had told me.  It worked and before long I had my fish - we estimated it at about 40lbs plus.

All this has been recorded on film, so when it is editted, I will put some snippets on the Web Site.

The Permit, alas, were still out past the reef in the deeper water and did not put in an appearance - still, I'll have to wait until next time to cast at one of those!

In the meantime, here are a few pics.

View from my bedroom
Nice little bonefish
Baby Tarpon from Tarpon Lake

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