Why Fly-Fish in Florida? Because It's There

To be alone with my fly-rod.

Florida fishing is its own country when it comes to the possibility of species available as you travel the coast, a county, or even a body of water. The opposite of landlocked, the left and right coastlines are home to shallow flats as well as blue-water game, and the gulfstream brings bountiful migrations. Freshwater opportunities are full of their own diversity -- from numerous lakes to residential ponds that support a mix of freshwater bass, brim and crappie as well as typically saltwater-inhabiting snook and even tarpon.

fly 1Yes, I caught this biggie on a fly-rod.

Enter fly fishing. By contrast, it was the original that has somewhat become (by perception) its own classic subculture; giving way from bamboo to fiberglass, then graphite and beyond. Fly fishing is the grown up version of hand-lining, which was the theme of the great Hemingway tale of "The Old Man and the Sea." Valiantly fought, the heart and soul story wraps an emotional and spiritual bond between the fisherman and the great marlin, telling of compassion and respect for both the angler and fish. The next great of course is the very mainstream movie "A River Runs Through It," where fly fishing becomes immortalized amid the crisp, pristine Montana riverside.

So, many people arrive in Florida and ask, "What could you possibly fly fish for HERE?" So, we Floridian anglers reply: Everything. And they ask; "Why?"

Here goes, in short. It's not for everyone. It is a happy little counter-culture. It takes practice and skill. No, it isn't as easy as throwing a chunk of ladyfish into the water.

The gear is different but it is beautiful and a bit sophisticated. The components, colors and costs range from affordable to not affordable to the average gal or guy. There are a few different everyday knots to use. There are some other differences, but your fly shop can tell you all about them in a far more interesting fashion than a black and white dissertation.

fly 2It's a beautiful thing - alone with a fly-rod and a sea of fish.

A Silent Offering

Tucked into a quiet flat without sight of another human, I am at peace with the surrounding mangroves, some exposed oyster beds and wading birds. Schools of mullet swirl around. I have gotten to this place by kayak and I am wading into knee-deep water. I watch and I wait. I enjoy what I see, the air feels good, and I relax. There it is -- a tail, then another, then another. I see the redfish school some 40 feet away. I pick up some line and place the fly just ahead of the school. Strip, wait, watch, strip, strike! The dance begins. I may land this fish or not, but I cherish this little scene. I'm not thinking about anything other than what I am doing. There is a very simple beauty in it. I will gently release this beautiful fish, pack up and return to "real life" where my phone alerts me every single time a piece of junk e-mail hits my inbox. I will carefully leave the flat as I found it.

I fish because I love mingling with nature. Fishing is a bonus. I may not always use the fly rod -- most days I am totally happy messing about with my spinning gear. But when it is with fly gear, the whole experience is tremendously more gratifying. Imagine this: I'm imposing a fly composed of odd bits of foam or synthetic fibers into a world foreign of such things. I am usually relying on my sense of sight to present this odd little fly to a creature that will either devour or sourly reject such a strange offering. I have to have a sort of understanding about the tides, bait, wind, and environment as whole to have any chance of successfully fishing and catching. Should my redfish agree to take a nip at this hooked, tasteless thing, we will hopefully meet one another after a cat-and-mouse sort of thrill. Upon our meeting, I will slip my barbless hook from the mouth and perhaps take a quick photo to remember this day by, and our lives will go on.

fly 3Why Fly in Florida? Here's why.

You may read this and disdainfully shudder at my tree-huggin' manifest. I love other things such as flying airplanes and I used to ride sportbikes, and I feel a similar joy tied to all of these hobbies. There is a sort of rising pleasure from riding the perfect line, greasing the landing and making a successful cast to a cruising snook. We all have our "thing." Fly fishing isn't hard but it can be challenging, just like a good golf swing. It does take commitment and practice to be respectable. But that isn't asking anything at all ... when it's something you love to do.

Julie DeStefano

The Online Fisherman

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