Islamorada is a fisherman’s paradise. Situated between Florida Bay and the Atlantic, the waters of the Florida Straits stretch and creep into the mangroves creating hidden pools and secluded flats perfect for casting for bonefish, snook, tarpon and redfish. About 5 to 25 miles offshore, the waters deepen and take on the azure hue of the Gulf Stream, and depending on the season, teem with sailfish and marlin, kingfish and dorado. There’s good reason it’s known as the sport fishing capital of the world.
The quiet streets of this strip of the Florida Keys are home to fishermen of all stripes, replete with bait and tackle shops, marinas and charter boats. It is also home to our good friend, and fly-fishing legend, Sandy Moret. “A lot of people ask me where I like to live,” Sandy told us. “I want to live right here, because it’s the best fly fishing I’ve ever found, right here in Islamorada.”
Within the fly fishing community, Sandy is held with a reverence typically reserved for the likes of Tiger Woods or Tom Brady—and for good reason. One of the founders of the Florida Keys Fly Fishing School (referred to in certain circles as the “Harvard of fly fishing”), Sandy has been throwing flies in the Keys for more than 40 years. He’s also fished and explored throughout the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Central America and the Seychelles. He’s fished specs on the map like Christmas Island and Palau, and was one of the first U.S. anglers to fish for Atlantic salmon on Russia’s Kola Peninsula before the fall of the Iron Curtain.
We’ve known Sandy since we first starting coming to Islamorada years ago, but it’s been a while since we’ve gone fishing with him. So, we took a trip down and headed out with Sandy, along with guides Capt. Craig Brewer and Capt. Camp Walker, for a little flats fishing, and to learn a thing or two. In the end we learned as much about life as we did throwing flies.
Fly fishing takes a little more skill than jigging a hook off the stern or tossing a spinning rod into a fast-running trout stream. The back and forth movement of the cast, the precise tying of the flies, reading the wind, the repetition of the motions—it can, at times, feel as much like guided meditation as some sort of sport. “Nobody picks up a fly rod and casts efficiently without some practice. It’s just like hitting golf balls. And people have a hard time accepting that sometimes,” Sandy told us. “In fly fishing you use your hands, your eyes, your coordination and your intuition.”
And while we didn’t land too many during our days on the water, we came away with a new appreciation for the sport and a lifetime’s worth of knowledge from the master himself.
“You can buy the best fly rods, you can have the best fly reels and the best fly lines. You can travel to the most unique destinations, hire the best guides, go to the best lodges. But when you get on the bow of the boat and the guide puts you onto the fish—you’ve got to go the last 30 feet. That’s up to you,” Sandy told us. “There is so much emphasis today on instant gratification. I caught seven, I caught eight…who cares? You got out there, you were on the water, you saw fish, you got to cast to them. You found out what’s it’s all about.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, Sandy. You keep the flies tied and an eye on the waters, we’ll see you next time.
The Last 30 Feet