I’m sure there are people who can do it. There are plenty of people who are either luckier or better at this stuff than I am who would be unfazed by a DIY day in the Keys. They’d go out and smack a half-dozen bones and still have time for a nap.
I’m not that guy… not in the Keys.
The logistics for the Keys trip were mostly spot on. There was just one day we had a boat fall through. Not wanting to strand my fellow trip-mates, I took on the non-boat day and that meant Matt also had a non-boat day.
We started off as a group having breakfast at the Green Turtle. Damn fine food there and right next to the Florida Keys Outfitters, so it was one stop shopping. As we left to head off in search of fish we felt excited, but not overly-optimistic. As we got out of the rental car and rigged up the sky was mostly blue and it improved our outlook.
This was a misplaces sense of optimism. By the time we walked the trail to get to the water the clouds had appeared, dark and heavy with ran. The next several hours were spent wading through squall after squall, casting at any nervous water we could find, which meant casting at sharks and mullet, which, sadly, were not super grabby.
We put in some time though. We put in a good deal of time and all we got in return was wet.
At one point while wading, temporarily out of the rain but still deep in the darkness of the squall, I heard a strange sound. I wondered if the wind was making the rod or the line hum. I held up the tip of the rod to my ear and could hear a buzz.
I called out to Matt and asked him if his rod was buzzing. He looked quizzically at me and then confirmed that yes, his rod was buzzing too.
Wisdom would dictate we left the area immediately. Foolishness kept us there, casting at more mullet. Bad move.
I’ve never been in the heart of an electrical storm before like that and looking back at it the idea of standing there with a 9 foot piece of graphite was just stupid.
We left the flat eventually and made our way to another flat. This had a bit more life on it and it wasn’t too long before I saw a dark shape move over the light bottom. It was a bonefish… an honest to god non-baby Keys bonefish. I cast. I stripped the fly. The fish lit up on the fly, followed it and then… then… the damn thing didn’t eat.
I’ve never seen a fish react that way to a fly before and NOT eat it. I was pissed. I was actually angry. I cursed. I called the fish several unflattering names, some of them in French.
It passed and we walked on.
Then, it happened again. I see the fish, my second spotted Keys bonefish. I make the cast. The fish lites up, follows the fly and then, frustratingly, doesn’t eat.
This was a hard lesson, but a critical one. It seems the bonefish I’ve been trained on, the bones of the Bahamas and Belize, are not a good proxy for Keys bones. You can’t present the fly to them in the same way, I’ve been told. You have to stop moving the fly to get the eat. I didn’t do that and I didn’t get the eat.
The whole day was tough. Wet and tough and largely fishless. I landed one little cuda and that was all that we had to show for about 9 hours of fishing.
The Keys didn’t surrender their fish easily to us. All we can hope is that the time we put in is a down payment for future inches and pounds.