Fly Fishing in saltwater has become so popular in the last twenty five years in the Florida Keys that the Bonefish census board determined each fish is “worth” about 3,000.00. This is mostly due to the overwhelming amount of tourists who visit the Florida Keys each year to go fishing.
Fly fishing in saltwater has always been a known sport among its enthusiasts but not until the last few decades has it sparked an interest in many more anglers. It provides the ultimate challenge to many, the cast must be perfected, take into account the wind, the moving fish, the moving boat, and you have your perfect saltwater fly fishing scenario.
Many fly rodders flock to the Florida Keys each year for the annual Tarpon migration. Depending on the temperatures, tarpon can start showing up in the lower Keys as early as February and tarpon fishing will last well into the summer months. For a fly fisherman the first few seconds of a tarpon hookup is the most exhilarating. The hook set on one of these prehistoric silver monsters has to be strong and often you will strike two to three times to get the hook in the tarpon’s cinder block mouth. Once he’s hooked you will know it and most likely he’ll take you on the ride of your life. Don’t be disappointed if after a few jumps he gets off, that’s tarpon fishing and it should be enjoyed for what it is… a great display of gamefishing.
Other fly fishing target species here in the Florida Keys include the bonefish and the elusive permit. Permit are considered the ultimate gamefish taken on fly tackle. Some purists will even venture to say it has been the pinnacle of their saltwater fly fishing. Permit are nervous all the time. In my opinion they are a deep water fish who just do time on the flats to get food. A bandit of bait. They feed on blue crabs about the size of a silver dollar and shrimp. Therefore fly fisherman tie up many forms of crab patterns including the classic Merkin crab fly. This pattern in its many shapes and forms works best for fly fishing for permit here in the Keys.
Some of the largest bonefish in the world live here in the Florida Keys. Large bonefish cruise the flats from Biscayne Bay down to the Marquesas Keys west of Key West. The most concintration of large bonefish is in Islamorada. Many think this is because Islamorada hosts so many release bonefish tournaments and these fish are relocated after they are released at the tournament weigh station to grow up in “downtown Islamorada” as many of the guides call it. Bonefish in the Keys range from 4lbs. to over 10lbs. and are not easy to catch on fly but it can be done.
Advice to the Florida Keys visiting flyrodder, practice your casting as often as you can. Many visitors come to the Keys to try fly fishing for the very first time. It is a great way to either fall in love with the sport or become completely frustrated. There are casting clinics held at various fly shops in the Keys and Sandy Moret holds a fly fishing school a few times a year.