Portrait of a fly. Black Death

How many fish is a good tally to take on a single fly? I suppose it depends on the species. Taking 15 smallmouth bass on a single Meatwhistle is less impressive than pinning 5 kob on a single Spongebob, for instance. Some flies are special, almost as special as the fish you caught on them and those flies are treasured and remembered. I have a few in my collection and one that stands out must be the battered old Black Death tarpon bunny that brings back so many memories.

At the time that I tied the fly, I was still a tarpon virgin. But not for long because soon after I joined Graeme Field and a group of anglers for 14 days of fly fishing in Jardines de la Reina in Cuba. The specific fly in question had a particularly hard run in with the baby tarpon that the JDR are known for. Lucky for me, I had a phenomenal guide for the two weeks and we got along like a house on fire. Bemba, my guide, was one of three brothers, all of them guiding at the same time on the same boat, the Halcon. Bemba is better known for featuring as the tarpon guide in the fly-fishing movie “Connect”.

Bemba delivers the goods
Bemba delivers the goods
For the love of tarpon
For the love of tarpon

On a particular morning, after jumping a few, and landing a couple of tarpon on this particular fly, I asked Bemba if I should change flies. He looked at it and replied no, nothing wrong with it. The fact that I had a box full of fresh ones made no difference to him. Soon after that, I was alone on the skiff that afternoon, we we’re stalking a particularly big bonefish through some mangrove flats, when the bone accidently led us into a small lagoon that was literally bursting at the one end with rolling small tarpon.

Savolita in the mangroves
Savolita in the mangroves

Here Bemba displayed his guiding skills and kept us almost out of casting distance of the school, ensuring that the school stick around for long enough for Bemba to call his brothers over the radio and getting their clients into some ‘savollita’ (small tarpon) ass well. Halfway through the session, sweating like a pig, I looked at the fly and said to Bemba that we should surely change the fly now? There’s almost nothing left of it! Keep fishing was Bemba’s reply, and without wasting another second, I soldiered on. The tarpon kept eating it and by the time the other skiffs arrived I had jumped 14 odd fish and landed 7 tarpon. Not bad going for a short session and a single fly.

Fallen soldier. With worn tippet intact
The fallen soldier. 4/0 Gamagatsu SL12 with worn 80lb tippet intact

One thought on “Portrait of a fly. Black Death”

  1. Leonard Flemming says:

    Tying a bunch of these at the moment – this is a classic pattern for predatory fish and tigerfish LOVE them;) My eyes were opened by tarpon junkies that visited Tanzania and insisted on trying their ‘favourite flies’, including the tarpon ‘Toad’ fly, or this Black Death; such a cool fly!

    Unfortunately I carry on using my best flies until I eventually lose them…So no ‘portrait flies’ in my ‘hall of fame’.

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