Why Tarpon Fishing is a Joke

Paul Lappin and I left Key West Harbor at 4:40 that morning, setting a course 45 minutes west for the Marquesas. Flat water, warm air, and hot coffee made for an enjoyable ride out. Once we arrived at the flat, we took our positions at opposite ends of the boat.


“So did you hear about the clown that humiliated a little boy?” says Paul from the poling platform.

“No, didn’t hear about that one” I say.

“Oh really? It was all over the news. So this little boy goes to the circus. Bourbon and Bailey’s or whatever. He’s having a great time watching the show, all the trapeze stunts, the animals. At intermission, one of the clowns is working the crowd and he comes right up to the little boy… two tarpon rolling 10 o’clock cast now… long, smooth strip…. tick tick tick tick tick… okay so the clown comes right up to the little boy and he says ‘hey you look like a leopard. Are you a leopard?’. And the little boy says ‘no I’m not a leopard’. So the clown says ‘oh, then you must be a giraffe’. ‘No, I’m not a giraffe’ says the little boy.”

I laugh a bit, expecting the punchline.

Big wolf pack coming in at 3 o’clock, let me turn you. Are they daisy chaining? They’re daisy chaining. Cast now! Right in the middle of them! Tick tick tick tick tick, ok pick up! Cast again! Too far! Long slow strip… ok tick tick tick tick tick. Tiny strips. You just want that fly waving in the current – right in front of his face…” 


“Okay so the clown says ‘if you’re not a giraffe, you must be an elephant’, and the little boy says ‘no, I’m not an elephant’. ‘Oh’, says the clown, ‘well then you must be a JACKASS!’ and the whole crowd starts laughing at this little boy. So the boy has been deeply traumatized by this event. He sets out on a mission to be the most eloquent and sophisticated man in the world, so no one can ever humiliate him like that clown did again. He studies hard in school, reads every book he can get his hands on. He travels the world and goes to Oxford and Cambridge, studies english and literature and becomes the smartest, most literate man he could possibly be…

Three, no five poon at 9:30. See them? Point your rod. Left, left, no other left. See them? Good. Let me pole you over there. Oh man, look at that big guy. Oh man. I’m not even sure you want to hook him. Ok good now cast. Good! Tick tick tick tick tick, shorter strips shorter strips, tick tick tick tick you’re going too fast!

So the boy gets home from his travels twenty years later, a highly schooled and educated man now, and wouldn’t you know it? The same circus is back in town. So the boy buys a ticket, sits in the same seat and watches the show. Twenty years later and this clown is still working at the circus. He’s fatter and older now, but it’s the same clown. At intermission, he starts working the crowd again. And wouldn’t you know it? He walks up to the boy again and says ‘hey, you look like a lion. Are you a lion?’


Poon! Look at them all rolling out there. Hold on let’s pole over. Oh my god there are so many tarpon out here. Ok, now cast in front of that second guy. Wait! Let it sink a bit. Ok now start the baby strips. Remember, you’re jerking off a gerbil. Smaller! Ok good. Come on, eat you bastards! Wait, that one turned – oh! – he’s looking at it  – oh! – eat! eat! Fuck!… Give me that piece of shit fly.”

I swing the fly back to Paul, who ties on a new one.

“So, ‘are you a lion?’ the clown says. ‘No, I’m not a lion’ says the boy. ‘If you’re not a lion, you must be a giraffe’. ‘Nope, not a giraffe’ says the boy. ‘Then you must be a rhinoceros’ says the clown. ‘Nope, not a rhinoceros’. ‘Oh, well if you’re not a rhinoceros, then you must be a JACKASS!’ says the clown, and the whole crowd starts laughing.

So the boy says, ‘Fuck you clown’… Wanna go fish for permit?”

Book a trip with Paul Lappin. Availability this week.