It’s always been one of those places talked about, but was never in the top 3 of my tropical destination bucket list. Belize, Seychelles, Christmas Island… Heck even Nicaragua, Ascension Bay, Bahamas and Cuba seemed, well, just more exotic. But when a very good friend suggested in September that Ape and I head to the Keys this spring, with his help arranging everything, it seemed like the right thing to do.
In the next 8 months, plans were finalized, guides booked, house rented, and copious amounts of gear acquired. I have to say I was a bit apprehensive, as stories echoed in my head of boats lined up side by side, educated fish that would turn their nose up at flies, demanding, impatient guides… Coupled with my lack of experience with sight fishing and warmwater fishing in general, I can’t say my expectations were high.
One thing I can say, is after hearing about 16 different colour combos of toads to bring, 12 different ways to tie leaders, and at least 7 ways to strip the fly and set on the fish, I threw all advice out the window and decided to just do what my guide recommended. Which turned out to be the thing to do.
To keep a long story short, here are just a few of the highlights:
always pack a change of clothes in your carry on, that way when your luggage doesn't show up the first day you don't end up wearing black sweatpants on a flats boat;
30 mile/hr winds suck;
though fish were scarce, we did see singles, pairs, and a couple of schools;
my first and only tarpon hooked and landed on day one;
my first and only (huge) permit ate and spit the fly on day three after a grueling chase;
the Canucks won and lost;
Matt got his ass kicked by two girls, more than once;
sharks, rays and turtles all came to visit;
fell in love with flats, mangroves, flats boats, sight fishing and the Keys in general;
got to spend a week with two of the best friends a girl can have;
met some fabulous new friends and incredible guides - Don Gable, Billy Thompson, and Travis Holeman;
What did I take away from Florida? Well, a new obsession for saltwater flats fishing, for starters. A fierce need to go back to the Keys. The realization that I need to work on casting into the wind with a 12wt rod and 2/0 tarpon fly. And most of all, some great memories.
Thanks Ape, Matt, Lemons, Don, Billy, and Travis.
Thanks for the loaner lucky hat and shirt Don! Sweatpants in Florida? Not fun!
Well, hello Mr. Tarpon!
Thank you, thank you, thank you....
One of the strongest, wildest, most beautiful fish ever.
Our fabulous guide, Billy Thompson
Watching tarpon swim by the boat is the most exhilerating thing.
Looking for permit.
Billy Thompson and Don Gable; Keys guides
Um yeah. That's mine. I wish.
Ape tried poling and did a fabulous job. Even got me some shots at baby sharks, which are the cutest things ever.
Travis Holeman, another incredible Keys guide, and so much fun to spend a day with.