Summer, it’s finally here!! This is my favorite time of the year and for many reasons. For one, the weather is perfect and the last three months have been harsh on those of us who make a living on the water. The tarpon migration is winding down and the seasonal guides have headed back to their summer time guiding jobs and the snowbirds have moved back north for a few months. This means far fewer boats on the water, not that it is ever really all that bad anyway.
If I had to choose one month out of the year to be fishing the flats, it would be the month of June. I love those flat calm early mornings when the glowing orange of the sun just starts to come up and the tarpon rise along with it. The stillness and serenity of this time of day can be very therapeutic - only to be disrupted by the quiet gloops of rolling tarpon, then thunderous crashes back into the water once attached to the end of a line. This is how everyday should begin, no caffeine required.
After an hour or two of playing around with the Silver King, it’s off to the shallow flats to hunt down bonefish and permit. Visually stunning, the backcountry is also a very serene environment, as we silently drift along looking for signs of fish.
The color contrasts between the deep and shallow water, grass and sandy bottom, and mangrove islands against a bright blue sky. It often does not seem real. It appears as a painting or a postcard from some far off remote place of the Earth. But it is very real and I often find myself lost in it, just looking around taking it all in. I sometimes still find it hard to believe I am here, doing what I do for a living in this beautiful place.
It’s time to focus again on the bottom in front of me. Watching for any little movement, out of place ripple, tiny puff of mud or bit of tail sticking out of the water. Permit and bonefish won’t make it easy for us to find them or even see them in the water, but every so often they will slip up and expose their position. Ever so cautious of their surroundings, we must remain calm and quiet and let the opportunity present itself. Once the boat and fish are in the right position it’s time to make a cast. Pray your bait or fly quietly lands where it needs and the fish is fooled by the offering.
Once the hook is set and the reel is singing can we now breathe, whoop, holler and be excited about what just happened. As we chase down the fish, avoiding all manner of obstacles along the way, trying our best to get this beautiful creature to the boat, can we enjoy the moment. Snap off a few photos and admire the awesome strength and cunning these fish can show during the fight. Then quickly revive and release it back to the ocean so that we may one day meet again and see who can fool who.
The Florida Keys flats and backcountry waters are truly spectacular. Rich with marine life and history, it’s the part of the Keys that everyone who is fortunate enough to visit here should see and immerse themselves in, whether you fish or not.
And if you are here to fish the flats, this is definitely the best time to be here. Just remember to take a few moments and enjoy the scenery, I certainly do.
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