Tre Miller and I set out for the Keys last week, being the first time for both of us…on the way to Islamorada. We stayed at the ol Sunset Inn, quite a place with a few interesting characters in the vicinity. We were happy to find that we were a short jaunt away from the Lor-e-Lei, one of the most famed bars in the area. We met James Buice there for breakfast to sit out the rain and figure out a game plan. In classic James fashion, he was running late, so Tre and I munched on some breakfast. James showed up, and it was looking very clear that fishing was not going to happen on this day, at least it didn’t look like it. When breakfast was over, we decided to run around the town a bit, see some of his buddies and go by the Florida Keys Outfitters shop. It was a very cool little shop and distinctively let you know you were in the Keys. After the shop visit, it happened to be lunch time, so we went back to the Lor-e-lei. This is when it all began…the 2nd of 4 visits to this establishment in the same day. I think you can figure out the rest, 5:30 AM came very quickly for us, especially Tre, the morning didn’t treat him to well.
So, the next day we set out with James Buice on his boat….windy and cloudy…no good. We saw a few fish, casted to a couple, no takes. There seemed to be nothing on the flats, bones or tarpon. We had a blast though, I could think of many worse things to be doing! We came on in and set on the road for Big Pine Key, to fish with Capt. Joel Dickey. We stayed at the Dolphin Marina and cottages, it was perfect and quite the upgrade from the Sunset, not that it matters, we are pretty damn low maintenance. Went to the local Tiki Bar, which was quite different from how I envision the Keys. I imagined bars on the water, ladies in bikinis serving you cocktails and some dude chopping away at a Jimmy Buffett song…..nope. It was as James Buice says, a tropical version of Gatlinburg, TN. Basically, all the good things of the Keys go away when you step off the boat…o, we haven’t been to Key West yet, so who knows.
Next day we meet Joel at 6 AM at the boat dock. We get going, the sunrise was amazing, it just felt like everything was going to go our way, and it just happened to be my birthday. The boat settles into a spot where Joel had mentioned he saw permit tailing and tarpon rolling in the same spot, he had mentioned nobody really had believed him when he told others…bam, first thing we see. I was late on the camera, but damn it was cool. We casted to the Tarpon, they were being stingy, so we moved on. We traveled to an amazing spot, got there early to make sure we had the claim. Bonefish passing through, sharks, barracuda, everything…this was so damn cool and so different from anything I had ever done. So, the tarpon start rolling around us, giving themselves away. ”Twelve O’clock, big group coming”….I setup, got ready, finally saw the fish…casted into them….eat, tight…pull the rod a little too much tot he right, not a good set, some may say I trouted the fish…fly releases…I went to get tight to recast….BOOM, tight again, the following fish ate the fly…BIRTHDAY PRESENT!!! I guess I got lucky as hell. So he jumped, jumped, ran, jumped….ran, held, cramped my hand…finally got him. After that, the weight was off…I had finally caught a tarpon, and it felt f**c*ing incredible. Tre got up, and after casting to 200 fish, finally got an eat. The fish jumped, jumped, jumped, jumped, ran, jumped and then kindly gave Tre his fly back. Tre knew what it felt like now too, and he was even more addicted to it knowing the fish beat him. The day was over, and it was something I will never forget.
Back to the Tiki bar, why, did we think it would be better, no, it wasn’t. A few drinks, birthday shot, watching band karaoke was enough, we left. Another early morning, Tre gets an eat right off the bat….mother tarpon arose 10 feet out of the water, the gill music started…percussive beats of this fish’s gills were amazing and re amazing every time I watch the video…this is the worst thing I could have ever done, tarpon fished…I’m screwed now. This fish didn’t want to give in, tugged and pulled for about 25 minutes, finally landed. The rest of the day was slower than the first, seeing fish sporadically with a couple eats. I jumped another fish that also kindly let me have my fly back, thanks f*c*er! Joel then took us to a spot where the laid up fish hang. We spotted a group of about 3 fish, Tre casted….BOOM, eruption occurred. The fish jumped what seemed to be 50 feet in the air, ran 50 yards, jumped again about what seemed to be a mile away. Joel started the boat up, followed it, then chaos happened. The line wrapped around the rod, and within seconds, the rod snapped, the line went and Tre accepted defeat. I don’t know that this fish ever cared it was hooked, it never showed any sign of defeat and Tre never showed much ability to be in control, it was the craziest 2 minutes of fishing I have ever been a part of. We were left with this, this was our last taste of tarpon fishing for another year. For two guys that had never done it, we are fully immersed in this addiction. they are the Kings and Queens of fishing, no doubt! Thanks again Joel!