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The Most Effective Flies to Use for Tarpon Fishing

For most anglers, tarpon fishing is at or near the top of their bucket list. Hooking into and landing even one tarpon can highlight an entire lifetime of fishing. 

a man fly fishing for tarpon

Using lures to catch tarpon is a thrill, to be sure. However, it is even more exhilarating to hook into and land a tarpon on fly fishing equipment.

It is so thrilling that entire books have been written about how amazing a feat it is to land a tarpon using just a fly rod, reel, and fly.

a school of tarpon swimming underwater

Successful tarpon fishing starts with the best tarpon flies you can find. The rest of your equipment is important, but it is useless if you do not have flies that convince a tarpon to bite. 

Below are five of the best flies for tarpon you can find.

Best Tarpon Flies

  1. Tarpon Toad
  2. Tarpon Bunny
  3. Cockroach
  4. Chili Pepper Worm
  5. Tarpon Mouse

Tarpon Toad

The Tarpon Toad was an adaptation of another fly, the Tasty Toad, to entice extremely picky eating tarpon in the Florida Keys.

The goal was a fly with neutral buoyancy that would sit just below the water’s surface and maintain a straight line no matter whether the tasty toad moved rapidly or slowly.

Tarpon Toad flies are usually tied onto a larger hook. Often, 2/0 or 3/0 hooks are used, and sometimes, even larger hooks are employed.

The fly looks like a minnow, and when stripped rapidly, its straight-line retrieval resembles a streaking baitfish. The Tarpon Toad is known as one of the most reliable tarpon flies.

Tarpon Bunny

Versatility is the main theme of the Tarpon Bunny fly. The Bunny has undergone multiple makeovers since the 1960s to adapt to different tarpon feeding habits and their size and speed.

This fly is designed to go underwater and attract attention through flash, color, and movement. As with all tarpon flies, the hooks on the Bunny are larger.

The primary color of the Tarpon Bunny is brownish to tan. It also has some black in it, and red threat affixes the fur to the hook and runs throughout. An elongated tail gives the fly a lot of movement. The Tarpon Bunny is a staple for most tarpon anglers.


Cockroaches are unwanted guests in your homes, but they are a welcome meal for a tarpon.

These flies are traditionally brownish with an extended, brown and white striped tail. A very simple fly to make, many anglers will tie their own and add their flair based on where they usually fish for tarpon.

Name aside, the goal of the Tarpon Cockroach fly is to emulate crabs, minnows, and insects.

Larger hooks are used, which means each fly will have quite a bit of material. Cockroach flies work best in clear water, where tarpon can easily see and target them.

Chili Pepper Worm

Chili Pepper Worm flies are named for their colorful appearance, including bright red, yellow, or orange feathers, fur, or other exotic materials.

The fly’s body resembles a chili pepper and often has a green head followed by a red or yellow body. It is attractive to tarpon, who think it is a very colorful fish or insect.

As with all tarpon flies, the hooks tend to range between 1/0 through 4/0 size. The streamer extends about an inch and a half beyond the bend of the hook.

Chili Pepper Worms are stripped through the water and then allowed to sink independently. The stripping motion coupled with the colorful body make this fly effective in enticing a tarpon.

Tarpon Mouse

The names of most tarpon flies are self-descriptive, and the Tarpon Mouse is no exception as it closely resembles a mouse or rat.

The head and tail are made of deer hair. The deer hair makes the fly buoyant, or if the hook is weighted, it sinks very slowly. Hook sizes range from 1/0 through 4/0.

There are two ways to fish the Tarpon Mouse. The first way is to let it float on the water and occasionally twitch it to give off the perception it is an injured animal that cannot easily move. The other option is to retrieve the fly by short stripping.

Final Thoughts

Catching a tarpon in any scenario is a thrill. Catching one on fly fishing equipment is exhilarating.

To do so, though, you must make sure you use the best tarpon flies you can find. If you stick to this list, you are well on your way. If you’re new to fly fishing, here’s a list of trusted brands to look at when picking out new gear!

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