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Fly Fishing in the Florida Keys: The Complete Guide

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How often have you heard that Florida Keys anglers are living the dream? We’ll bet it’s more than once. The Keys are unlike any other destination in the country, and angling opportunities here are pretty unique. This is especially true when it comes to the fly fishing the Florida Keys have to offer.

In this guide, we’ll talk about the gorgeous turtle grass and mangrove islands throughout the Keys where you can fly fish for the local angling trifecta. We’ll cover the who, where, when, and how of the local fly fishing scene. So, without further ado…

Why the Florida Keys?

There are many reasons why fly fishing in the Florida Keys is so popular. First of all, life is slower in the Keys. Ask any fly fisherman here, and they’ll tell you that you get to savor the world’s most precious gift – time. You don’t have to rush and fill your bucket with as many fish as possible. Fly fishing here offers you a deeper experience. It trains your patience and can easily humble you at any given moment, no matter your skill level and experience.

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Thanks to its geographic isolation, the Florida Keys is a perfect mixture of history and tradition that welcomes beginners and seasoned veterans alike. You can start by sight fishing in the shallows and try your hand at different types of gear and flies. You’re also free to practice fishing for the likes of Snook and Redfish in the Everglades before you move to the Florida Grand Slam.

This craft is seriously valued here, no matter where you cast. Some say Key Largo is a perfect first stop for those who’ve never been to the Keys before. Others suggest starting with the Everglades National Park or looking for the Grand Slam in Cudjoe Key and Big Pine.

What can I catch fly fishing the Florida Keys?

As we mentioned above, fly fishing in the Florida Keys is essentially about pursuing the Big Three – Permit, Tarpon, and Bonefish – on the fly. Be it beginner anglers or seasoned veterans, everyone agrees that hunting these fish is highly addicting and can easily change you as an angler.

Keep in mind you can also fish for the likes of Redfish and Snook, along with Trout. These aren’t the most popular fly fishing targets, although they, too, are worthy opponents.

We should talk about each member of the Grand Slam in more detail. But before we start, there’s one important thing you need to remember. Permit, Tarpon, and Bonefish are strictly catch-and-release species. When (and if) you catch your target, you’ll need to put it back into the water safe and unharmed.


The single most important thing you need to know about fly fishing for Permit in the Florida Keys is that these beautiful fish are held in the highest regard. Permit are so hard to catch on the fly that even years of experience and the best equipment can’t guarantee a successful bite.  In fact, even the best guides in the Keys can have only slightly over a dozen of catches a year.

And that’s the entire point. Permit in the Keys aren’t prolific, usually traveling in ones or twos. It’s not easy to spot them, and if you do, they’ll most likely run your line out. Permit will teach you to accept rejection and keep trying. With success so elusive sometimes, the challenge of catching Permit turns into a valuable experience.

Fly fishing for Permit in the Keys is good year-round, while peak times depend on where exactly you’re fishing. Some guides supply their own Permit flies, leaders, and rods, so it’s never a bad idea to book a trip with an experienced local guide.

Before you hit the flats to pursue Permit, there are a couple of things to consider:

  • Practice your casting in advance.
  • Don’t give up, enjoy the process.
  • Drop the fly right on the Permit’s head when you see it.

The Keys aren’t just a place to fly fish for the “Silver King”, they’re the place. Fly fishing for Tarpon and the Florida Keys are so intertwined they’re practically the same thing. Quite a few legendary fly anglers spent years perfecting their craft across the oceanside flats from Islamorada to Key West, and the tradition goes on today.

You can chase the resident Silver King in the backcountry of the Keys, around big basins, mangrove shorelines, and channel edges. In February and March, Tarpon begin to lay up around the banks and basins before heading to the beaches in late April.

In late spring, the beaches from Marathon Key to the Marquesas Keys are Tarpon runways. The annual migration attracts both locals and visitors from all over the country, eager to challenge big schools of Tarpon to a hard – but fair – battle.

Although some periods might be busier than others, fly fishing for Tarpon is good throughout the year.

The post Fly Fishing in the Florida Keys: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

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