I consider myself to be the consummate multi-tasker, always figuring out ways to parlay one effort into an additional accomplishment or pleasure. I knew the moment my employer booked me into Miami for an IT Trade show that I’d be fly fishing Florida waters by the week’s end.
I’ve only been to Florida a few times; primarily for business and a couple of times to board a city-sized boat, stuff myself on endless buffets and lose money in the casino on the way to warmer waters. Neither of these destinations provided me with information on a Florida fly fishing charter and who might be the best guide for the occasion. I turned to my close circle of friends – the 250+ Facebook anglers linked to me via Sabrina@SheLovesFlyFishing.com
Apparently there is one clear choice if you want a quality experience far beyond the bourgeoisie, bay-side voyage of a dirty vessel equipped with worn-out equipment and a gnarly guide who recently ran the boats at Disneyworld’s Pirates of the Caribbean. There is one name that comes up as the Guide to the Pros – Captain Pier Milito of
, a U.S.C.G. Master Captain.
The first impression Captain Pier made was a true indication of the day’s flow. A sparkling black, Toyota Tundra Crew Cab 4 x 4, "Venom" edition pulling an 18 foot, immaculate boat and tricked out trailer met me in the parking lot to escort me deep into the Everglades National Park. The last time I went out with a Guide I climbed into a busted up pick-up full of beer-cans, wet waders, Skoal cans, feet smell, and river gravel. I have to confess, a positive prejudice and respect was immediately established.
Everglades National Park, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States– much like I envision the African Serengeti. Though I couldn’t see them, I was fairly certain that Burmese Python, American Alligators, and Black Panthers were eye-balling me from the tall grasses. The pull-outs and entry points have cool names like Coot Bay Canal, Hells Bay, and Alligator Creek. Fly fishing Florida promised adventure.
"You are aboard one of the highest technology, highest performing and most expensive flats boats sold in the world, a Hellsbay."
Our morning fly fishing Florida Everglades was draped in a luxurious velvet fog that coated my skin in a slick layer of moisturizing drops. Peeking through the gray curtain was a dreamscape; peeks of the tangled Mangrove’s beyond accented with breaching Porpoise and gliding Osprey. I was quickly immersed in an adventure that made me feel like I was going places and seeing things that perhaps only a handful of other humans had explored.
“Plan A” for our Florida fly fishing charter was to hunt down a Tarpon – an unlikely target considering the recent cold-snap and water temperature, but a lofty goal. That plan took us to some of the most picturesque waters I’ve ever enjoyed but as we suspected – no Tarpon. We quickly regrouped and moved on to “Plan B”; fish for any and all species and get as much personalized fly fishing instruction from Pier as possible. Plan B was a winner.
The weather had deteriorated and I didn’t expect to catch any fish – I was perfectly happy with the scenery and boat ride we had already enjoyed. But the Captain came through - we managed to pull out seven different species before it was all said and done: Grouper, Snapper, Sea Trout, Redfish, Catfish, Black Drum, and one highly entertaining Blowfish. I can only imagine what Capt. Pier Milito can do when Mother Nature cooperates!
I used the end of our day to focus on the betterment of my casting which has been limited to short casts and low-weight rods. I had heard about Captain Pier Milito’s casting skill – at one time he was the fly casting instructor at Bass Pro Shops for over five years and presently instructs private fly casting lessons both on and off the water. He has instructed thousands of fly fishermen and women and I had him all to myself. My loops progressed from short and loose to long and tight and my knowledge of fly fishing Florida waters increased 1000 fold. Anyone lucky enough to get some one-on-one time with the Captain will be a better angler for the experience.
Fresh water girl knows Rocky-Mountain rivers and chest waders, drifts and fast-water floats, caddis flies and hopper-droppers.
Salt water guy knows Gulf-Coast channels and push-pole gloves, double-digit rod weights, casts that would cover the better part of a football field, reels the size of wheels, and over-sized poppers.
Fresh-water-girl and Salt-water-guy know that it doesn’t matter if the water you fish tastes like beers or tears. Feeling the tug of a Rainbow or the fight of a Bonefish on a fly rod stimulates very similar pleasure sensors. And lying on ones back afloat on those tasty waters, watching the wind push the clouds around to adjust that etch-a-sketch in the sky… is God’s gift to both.