Sandy Moret has been at it for a long time in the US Bonefish Capital, Islamorada, Florida. He runs the Florida Keys Outfitters and some of the biggest names in saltwater fly fishing have come through his shop. If you want to jump-start your saltwater game, you can even sign up for his Florida Keys Fly Fishing School.
It seems like you are heavily associated with Islamorada. What is it that has kept you there for so many years?
I’ve lived here since ’85. It’s a great place to live. Lots of good fishing opportunities, lot of different species. The bonefish… we’ve got some pretty big bonefish here. One thing about this area that is charming to me is that every day you go out fishing, and you don’t see them as often as you used to, but you have a chance to catch an honest 12 pound bonefish.
I’ve seen that you are associated with a lot of tournaments. As a West Coast trout guy, tournaments are a new concept for me. It seems like the tournament scene is its own little world. What’s the profile of a tournament angler?
Tournaments are an opportunity to get together with like minded people and fish for bonefish and test and compare techniques. The equipment and techniques we use today developed through tournament fishing to a large degree. The rods, reels, better flies and better techniques have come from tournament fishing. I don’t fish any tournaments anymore, although I used to fish quite a few. We run several tournaments here at the shop. We took on the operation of the Inshore World Championship from the IGFA several years ago. They have forty or so qualifying events around the world. If an angler wins one of those events, we’ll send him an invitation to come and fish here in July. That’s a five species tournament; tarpon, redfish, snook, permit and bonefish.
There’s a fall bonefish tournament coming up in a couple weeks in about it’s thirtieth year. I’d venture to say it will have some of the top bonefish anglers around the planet.
There’s really no way to measure the effectiveness of your technique unless you compare it to others. You have a forum with a control group. It’s the same people that win these things because they’ve developed a technique that is superior.
It kind of implies that luck is taken out of the equation if the same people are winning over and over again.
Yes. It means that they know the formulas for the leaders, the sink rates of the flies, they know several presentations and stripping methods that work in different situations. I find it pretty fascinating.
Florida Guides have a reputation for being a bit intimidating and demanding. Do you think that is a deserved reputation or is that just part of the lore surrounding Florida fishing?
I think some of it is well deserved and some of it is not. When you have something you have to do in a short amount of time and a limited opportunity to do it… a lot of people misinterpret getting yelled at. The guide is just trying to get you to do something that has to happen in a hurry. I see all the time where people misinterpret that as they are being abused. The guides want you to catch fish. It’s one thing for a guide to point a fish out to you and let you see the fish and catch it. That’s about you catching the fish. It is another for the guide not to care about that and to say “give me a cast over there” and not even try to show you where the fish was. I don’t even care to cast to a fish if I can’t see it. When someone just tells you to cast somewhere, that’s not even bonefishing in my mind
Guides vary all over the world but I’d say they have a very good cadre of guides here.
What do you think the state of the fishery is down there in the keys. Do you feel optimistic or pessimistic about what the future holds.
I don’t feel optimistic about any fishery on the planet. The fishing pressure, the degradation. In the Pacific you’ve got places where they are consistently eating the bonefish and netting them up in some atoll in the South Pacific.
Yeah, that’s it. You’ve got that going on all over the world. I don’t know how to be optimistic about it. Bonefishing is great when they are there. Hopefully they’ll be some preservation and people are becoming more aware of the importance of the species, but it’s like pulling teeth. If you win 12 battles and lose 1, you’ve lost the war. There’s a lot of that going on.
If you have someone fairly green coming down to the Keys, what do they need to be successful?
They need casting skills. I find that to be the biggest limiting factor for people. People for some reason are hesitant to put in the time to develop the casting skills to catch these fish. They are demanding and they may be a bit more difficult that others, but some days they are dumb as stumps. You do have to bring the casting skills anywhere you go in the salt.
When you say “casting skills” are you talking 90’ in a bucket, 70’ in a 20 mph wind?
40’-60’ in the wind. I don’t even know if I can cast 80’. There are a lot of great casters in the world. More than there have ever been. Still, a lot of people don’t devote the energy to fine tune it. The cast is a really huge part of catching these fish.
Do you have a favorite rod or reel for bonefish?
Right now I use the Sage Xi3. I think it is a great rod. I’m using a Tibor Everglades for bonefish. I’d say, the reason I use the reel is it is bullet-proof. Being on the flats is not a time to worry about equipment failure. Here at the shop we see a lot equipment and we never, as in never, see issues with Tibor products.
The technology on rod development continues to change and peoples casts continues to change. If I pick up a rod and use it for 4-5 years I pick up a new rod and say “How could I ever have lived without this?”