There is a certain formula to landing your tarpon fishing days on one of the nights of the fabled Palolo Worm Hatch. Some guys try to plan it but the fact is even if you don’t hit the mother load on one of those evenings, the tarpon will still be willing to eat the worm even if it’s not while you sit at Bahia Honda Bridge on an outgoing tide, on a full or new moon at sunset.
Tarpon start acting strange sometimes a week before the worms emerge from the hard coral rock. They might even just about disappear on the flats. It’s usually a tell tale sign that the “hatch” is going to happen. It’s frustrating to say the least when you run around all day looking for a meatball of fish only to find tarpon here and there scattered along the ocean flats. Of course there are other places to find them but those big ocean fish are what attracts fly anglers to the Keys this time of year and keeps them coming back year after year.
The worm hatch will create a frenzy of tarpon in areas on the oceanside and around Key West Harbor. Sometimes if there are too many worms, your fly can be forgotten. The key is to get it right on their nose and use a long sweeping strip or striper strip so emulate the movement of the Palolo Worm.
Tarpon will swim differently too. They almost wiggle on the surface and you will see them not just roll but stay up longer pursuing a worm as it darts along the surface.
Worm Flies are very simple to tie and I suggest rigging up the fly on the leader before you get out there. Do a dozen if you have time. Whether you just want a few jumps out of the fish or want to land him (which I don’t really suggest during the hatch because you are missing all the fun) you will loose a few flies. The fly can have blue or chartreuse thread and a simple strip of red rabbit or even a clump of marabou. You may want to keep the tail longer and trim it once you get out there and see what size the worms are.
This past week through the Memorial Day weekend has been a challenge for fly fishing. The wind kicked up on Saturday and it’s been more of a permit fishing kind of day ever since. Wind and Palolo Worms don’t get along because of the chop on the water the worms would probably travel more subsurface. If you want to get away from all the boat traffic go on the hunt for permit on the Gulf edge. This time of year it is a welcomed relief from the intensity of tarpon fishing on the ocean and holding your position on the flat to wait for a shot.