A few decades ago, Del Brown, Sandy Moret, and a few other angling pioneers set out on the waters off the Florida Keys to show the world how to use fly tackle to catch permit–the secretive, skittish, and powerful holy grail of the flats. In July 2003, Moret caught his 100th permit–an achievement that few hard-core saltwater fly anglers could ever hope for. A nine-time champion of the Keys’ most prestigious flyfishing tournaments, Moret operates the Florida Keys Fly Fishing School and Outfitters (305-664-5423; www.floridakeysoutfitters.com).
When to Go: “April is great. Just perfect is a cooler spring day, a couple days after a cold front has come through, when you have bright blue skies. A strong tide–either new moon or full moon–also helps. When the tides are fast, fish have to make a quick decision on whether to eat a fly or not. Finally, you want a wind that puts a ripple on the water and makes it harder for these sharp-eyed fish to spot you.”
Hotspots: “The Keys have an endless amount of good spots, and your specific location isn’t as important as following the tides, catching incoming and outgoing flows. You might travel 100 miles chasing those tides, but it’s worth it.”
Tackle: “You need a 9-foot rod in 9- or 10-weight, outfitted with a floating line, a slow-sinking line, and a minimum of 200 yards of backing–permit have been known to take out 150 yards of backing in their first run. A 9- to 12-foot tapered leader in 12- to 16-pound-test will suffice. The epoxy flies pioneered by Steve Huff and Harry Spear to imitate crabs revolutionized permit flyfishing. Try the Del Brown Permit Crab, Anderson McCrab, and Fuzzy Merkin on 1/0 to 3/0 hooks.”
Local Hangout: “Go to the Lorelei Cabana Bar at mile marker 82.2 in Islamorada. It’s the best place for a cold brew after fishing.”