Key West Fly Fishing Charters

with Capt. Nick Labadie

Florida Keys Fly Fishing

Fly fishing in the Florida Keys is a tradition that people have been enjoying for generations. It has become in my mind, a romantic harmony between the angler, the guide, and the breathtaking scenery that we find ourselves in. Novice or expert- it’s all about the experience. Standing on the bow and waiting to throw a fly in a couple feet of gin clear water is an amazing feeling. When it all comes together, in that moment, you will be the king or queen of the world.dYou do not need to be an expert fly caster to go fly fishing here in the Keys. There are other species of fish besides the “big three” that are easier to target if you feel you just want to get out there any experience what the rage is all about..
Shawn and Sophie hold a beautiful they caught on fly in the backcountry off of key west
Shawn and Sophie with a nice tarpon

Fly Fishing on the Key West Flats

Successfully catching these sport fish is sometimes a lot easier said than done. They are vary weary and demand a stealthy approach with a proper presentation and hook set. If you are a beginner to saltwater fly fishing, I would highly recommend practicing before you come down. A good understanding of a double haul and being able to shoot at least 40ft of line in a couple false casts will make a world of difference.
Traditionally, fly fishing anglers in the Florida Keys prefer to target our inshore sport fish. Tarpon, permit, and bonefish are the three favorite targets for most hardcore fly anglers down here. All of these require patience, dedication to the hunt, and a accurate cast.
I do offer free casting lessons if you would like to get the rust off when you get into town. Just shoot me a message and we can meet up in a nearby park and go over a couple of things so that you are better prepared for your trip.
Nick Labadie is kneeling on a backcountry flat in a less than a foot of gin clear lower keys water holding a beautiful bonefish caught with a fly rod.
A nice Lower Keys bonefish

Fly Fishing For Tarpon in the Keys

Targeting this fish with fly gear is an incredible experience and be sure to bring your A-game because they always bring theirs. Presenting an accurate cast and hitting them with a hard strip set once it eats the fly are both essential ingredients. But when you come tight on one of these fish for the first time it will be something you will never forget.
The Best Time of Year to Fly Fish for Tarpon
Big Tarpon – Late April-July. If you consider yourself a fly fisherman this is certainly a bucket list event. These monsters get up on the flats and offer uncompared fly fishing opportunities. Tarpon prefer the water temperature to reach around 77 degrees before they get up in the shallows (2-4 feet of water) and we usually find this magic number in mid to late April and we will continue to get steady shots at these fish until the end of July.
Juvenile tarpon – July-October will offer us great fly fishing opportunities for the smaller fun size tarpon. Fall is my favorite time of year for fly fishing here in the Florida Keys because the winds are down and the waters warm which makes the flats fishing out of control. The first cold front usually moves in around October or November depending on the year and sends them into the deeper water where we have to target them with live bait or artificials.
Capt. Kyle Kelso holds up a nice juvenile tarpon caught on fly
Kyle with a "fun sized" tarpon

Fly Fishing For Permit in Key West

There is a reason why people make such a big deal about catching permit on fly. The challenge, difficulty and reward of tricking one of these fish into eating a fly is very demanding from both the guide and the angler. They are very smart fish and can sense the slightest disturbance in and above the water. There is little room for error when targeting these fish in the clear shallow waters off of the Florida Keys. 
Landing a permit caught on the flats is considered to be the zenith of a fly angler’s career. This incredible fish and the difficulty of catching it always provides us obsessive anglers with something to try and accomplish down here in Key West.
The Best Time of Year to Fly Fish for Permit
Late summer/fall is a great time to fly fish for permit. The winds are down and we can see these fish tailing or pushing wakes from a mile away. They just got back into town from spawning off on the reef and are hungry! If I had to pick the best couple months to target these fish I would pick anytime from July – September.
Another favorite time of year to target permit on fly is prespawn in late February/ March. The typical windy days allow us to sneak up a little closer to these fish combined with an abundance of permit feeding on the flats before they head offshore to spawn can make it a productive time of year.
Fishing Guide Brandon Cyr wades out to a tailing permit
Brandon wading out to a tailing Permit

Fly Fishing For Bonefish: a Keys Favorite

Catching bonefish on fly is a lot of fun. We find ourselves in some beautiful areas while we hunt these “grey ghosts” on the flats. The Lower Keys are known for having good sized and good numbers of bonefish in the backcountry.
It helps if you have a decent understanding of the “double haul” and an accurate cast. Most of the time bonefish do not let you get very close to them and can be skittish.
The Best Time of Year to Fly Fish for Bonefish
The best time of year to fly fish for bonefish is definitely in the fall. The water temperatures are up and these fish are officially crawling all over the place. We try to target them over areas with sandy bottom where we can see these “grey ghosts” better.
The spring and summertime can also offer some great bonefishing as well, but if I had to pick a time to come down and specially target them I would say August-October are all great months.
Bonefish on fly!

Other Species in the Keys That We Catch On Fly

Specifically targeting the “big three” on fly is not for everyone. It takes a certain mindset to sit on the edge of a flat and not take a cast for 30 minutes at a time. For those not so accomplished fly anglers don’t feel that you have to target certain species to have a great day out there on the water. I will provide some quick casting lessons and instruction as the day goes on.
Barracuda have become a very popular gamefish here in the shallow waters off of Key West. Sight fishing these explosive fish can be a great time. Different species of jacks patrol the backcountry and mangrove snappers hold on easily accessible structures and can offer some rod bending fun for everyone. We also have a lot of fun throwing flies at sharks in the shallows. They are relatively aggressive and are a lot of fun! Just talk to your guide and figure out whats best for you.
Give us a call and set up your fly fishing adventure today!
There is more to target than the "big three" here in Key West
Andrew with a Yellowjack