My First Flats Fishing Trip
It’s that time of year again when anglers from all around the globe converge on this tiny string of rocks in the middle of the ocean we call the Florida Keys. They come with grand images of calm seas and clear skies, every cast is true and giant sliver tarpon are leaping from the water attached to the end of their line.
For the past year these guys and gals have been planning and dreaming for this fishing trip. Lots of time and money spent researching, tying flies, buying equipment and day dreaming at work. Tarpon season to a saltwater angler is the adult version of a kid at Christmas time. The days leading up to departure for the Keys seem like weeks and they’re too excited to sleep the night before the fishing trip.
When they wake early the morning of the trip and look out the hotel window, they hope to see stars twinkling in the night sky and the palm trees laying still. It’s gonna be a great day.
I still remember my first flats fishing trip fifteen years ago this month. My wife and I hired Captain Gregg McKee of Wildfly Charters to take us out for a day on the flats, with hopes of a flats Grand Slam. This was back when the great flats fishing shows were on TV. Walkers Cay Chronicles and Spanish Fly were my two favorites. I said then if I ever get a chance to get to the Keys, I am going flats fishing.
Well the opportunity arose and I took full advantage. We looked online to find a guide working out of Key West. After going through many sites, there was one that stood out to us that we really liked, Wildfly Charters. What stood out to us, was how Gregg presented the information. He promoted the fishing, natural beauty of the place and a little history. Most of the other sites we looked at promoted the guide and how he was the best. Just not our style.
After making all the arrangements, we played the waiting game. I went through all the emotions I mentioned earlier. I was a well seasoned bass angler and pretty darn good with a spinning rod. I didn’t fly fish much at all in those days and never fished in the salt. With all my fishing experience to that point, I was still super excited to get on the water.
When I spoke to Gregg the evening before our trip, he told me we would meet at 8am. Just like every typical fisherman he ever spoke to, I about fell off my chair. 8 o’clock!! What? During my normal day of bass fishing I would already have been a couple hours into fishing by then. I was going to have to wait until 8am just to get going. It was a long night!!
We were treated to a beautiful day; light wind, sunny sky and plenty of fish. We had a great day. I jumped a tarpon, hooked a permit and had a bonefish chase a small crab I was winding in to re-cast. That tarpon made the entire trip, I couldn’t believe the size of that fish coming out of the water. I was awe-struck, that ain’t no bass there boy!! My wife and I both caught a big lemon shark, bonnethead shark and she caught a big barracuda on a jumpin’ minnow (remember those?). To this day I remember everywhere we fished and how we fished it. There are a lot of days now I do the same set of flats down to the west. Gregg was awesome, we laughed all day.
We made a great choice in guides when we selected Gregg out of the many listed for the area on the web. Not only did we have a great day on the water, we made a really good friend. I told Gregg I had an opportunity to move to Key West that summer and he was gracious enough to invite me to contact him when I made the move.
To this day, Gregg and I are good friends. Through Gregg I made other very good friends, people I fish and guide with. You will see their faces and names on the photos I post on the various social media outlets. He got me started as a flats guide and helped me pick out a skiff to learn the area and eventually run some charters. He also showed me around the backcountry so I wasn’t running aground every other day, digging up the turtle grass.
Gregg no longer works out of Key West. He is still a flats fishing guide, taking his clients for redfish, snook, tarpon and sea trout out of Matlacha on the west coast of Florida. He manages a couple trips to Key West in the summer and fall every year to fish the old stompin’ grounds with me.
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