Since Trinidad tarpon are essentially fished in deep water, fly fishers should be prepared to attack the entire water column from the surface to as deep as practicable. Consequently, everything from floating lines to intermediate lines to deepwater express lines should be part of your arsenal. As for rods, take those with the most backbone. Almost all tarpon jump upon hookup, and Trinidad tarpon are no exception, but the fish will quickly go deep, turning the fight into a “tuna-style” slugfest. I would not recommend throwing anything less than a 12-weight rod and would strongly consider a 13- or even a 14-weight rod an advantage. I carried three rods and used my 12-weights for sink tips and intermediate tactics, switching to a 13-15 rod for throwing deepwater express lines. Don’t forget your lighter rods; you’ll want to use those for “Florida-style” tarpon fishing in Tobago, where a 10-weight outfitted with a sink tip or intermediate line is perfect.
Regarding flies, we had our best luck throwing a “sprat” imitator. “Sprat” is the vernacular used for a type of pilchard baitfish that is ubiquitous in both Trinidad and Tobago and, apparently, a tarpon staple in the region. Fortunately, Jacobs provided me a photo of a sprat before our trip so I could tie a bunch. With the photo he also threw me several packages of 6/0 Eagle Claw circle hooks. “You ever tie flies with these?” he questioned. “That’s all the captains use down there; they never lose fish on ‘C-hooks.’ “
I had never used circle hooks for tying flies but was intrigued to give it a try. I was astonished with the results: We didn’t lose a fish that ate a circle hook fly! The hook-set is easy when using C-hooks; simply hold tight to the line as the fish comes tight. The hook will lodge either in the fatty part of the upper lip or the corner of the mouth at the jaw hinge every time, and it won’t come loose. After experimenting with them for a week, I also found two other distinct advantages: 1) since the hook sets outside the mouth, the fly does not get destroyed in the fight, meaning you can reuse the fly; and 2) the circle hook will not embed in your hide like a J-hook will when you hit yourself while casting in squirrelly winds.