Well, I had the opportunity to go to Islamorada for a week, and had an absolute blast. We stayed right on the water (ocean side) about a block from the Florida Keys Outfitters (great shop, btw). My local Orvis shop lent, yes LENT, me a new Helios 2 8 weight, reel, and new saltwater line for me to use on my trip. VERY generous offer, if you ask me. This was my first saltwater trip, so all I knew was what I've seen on the videos, discussions, etc. online.
Anyway, the first couple of days we waded right out from the house to the flats. I thought we would try for some bones, but didn't see any. I really didn't know what exactly to look for, so we started to get frustrated. They were grass covered, and didn't really see anything except a couple sharks. One actually swam right up to my brother in law, stopped about 4' away, checked him out, and finally bolted off after a few choice words. We didn't catch anything, so we decided to stop by the shop to ask for advice and shoot the ****.
They told us to drift the drop offs with shrimp, crab, clousers, etc. (proved to be successful). After talking for a bit, he asked if we had a guide. We didn't, not for lack of trying, but all of them were booked up, or only had half days. He took our name and phone number and said, "I'll see what I can do."
We headed back to the water after the advice and started catching Barracuda. We caught 7 between the two of us (12"-20"), broke one off (shredded tippet), and we were happy. By the time we got back to land, we had a message that he found us a guide. OUTSTANDING!
He booked us with Randy Stallings for a full day of tarpon/flats fishing. Since we had never done this before, we had NO IDEA what we were getting ourselves into. My brother in law lives in MT, and fishes 3+ times a week, I in IN mainly fishing ponds. We are pretty good casters (he being a lot better than I), and can throw pretty good loops. Anyway, we forgot all that once we got on the Hells Bay skiff. It was like we had never held a flyrod before. Pretty embarrassing, to say the least. Randy put us on fish, we had chances, but could not make the shot. My BIL was better than I, actually had a couple tarpon chase, but I was just terrible. My only accomplishment for the day was not hooking anyone in the skiff
I now know what to work on for the next time. I'm thinking of standing on an exercise ball, fly in hand, and have my wife yell out "2:30, 50', Go!," one false cast and land the fly in a 2' circle. Oh yea, and right before a thunderstorm to replicate the wind.
I now have the utmost respect for those that fish the salt and make those casts and actually hook up.
Randy was a great guide, gave us the quick in and outs of tarpon fishing, put us on fish, and was understanding, although quite disappointed at times (understandable). He said it was a slow day, but we felt we had the chances (if we could make the damn shot). Anyway, when I go back, I will be more prepared and will book with Randy again (more in advance to make sure).
We also made the trip to Bahia Honda State Park, but we got there late, there were people EVERYWHERE and didn't see any fish. We waded for a couple of hours looking for bones and permit, but didn't see anything.
Saltwater flats fishing is a whole new beast, that I will try and tame my next time out.