Check out the latest installment of Costa Behind the Guides presented by Costa Sunglasses. The flylords team was lucky enough to catch up with Will Benson. Born and raised in the Florida Keys, Will is one of the top saltwater guides in the world, he is also a dad, husband, filmmaker, and conservationist. We sat down with Will to talk about his local fishery, some of the gear he likes to use, and when you should book a trip to go fish in the Florida Keys.
Flylords: Tell us a little about Who Will Benson is?
Benson: “My name’s Will Benson, I’ve been a fly fishing guide for the majority of my adult life, I’m very lucky to be able to do what I’m the most passionate about and what I love each and every single day.”Flylords: Where do you guide out of and how long you’ve been doing that for?
Benson: “I grew up here in the Florida Keys and I call Sugarloaf Key home. I guide anywhere from Key West to Islamorada, and I was very fortunate to go to college in New Orleans, I’ve guided a bit up in Louisiana, but really, my stomping ground is the backcountry behind Sugarloaf Key.”Flylords: What is your favorite species to target in your backyard?
Benson: “I always hate that question, what’s your favorite species to target, because it’s just such a ridiculous question. Yeah, I love jumping tarpon, I love the difficulty of catching permit, there’s also just something magical to hoards of bonefish pouring in on an incoming tide and just catching piles of them. I don’t think I have any particular favorite fish to fish for, there are certain moments that are great. In the springtime, when the laid up tarpon are floating high in the morning time, it’s just magical. Late in the afternoon in the summer when it’s bonefish and permit fishing, it’s magical.”“I think, for me, the moments that I hold onto in fly fishing have less to do with a particular fish and more to do with that larger experience of where they were, what it looked like, what it felt like, what it smelled like.”Flylords: Tell us a little bit about the gear that you’re using for your trade.
Benson: “I like simple things, things that we can understand, things that we can put in the context of what we’re trying to do out there, and take the clutter out of it. I’m not a gear-head, I’m not somebody that needs every new little doodad or new hot thing, I kind of have my system and I just get really, really good at my system. To that extent, essentially it boils down to a 10 weight rod, a pair of Costa sunglasses, and some sort of skiff with a poling platform that you can push around. Obviously, I have my preference within all those, but keep it simple, the gear’s come a long way and just don’t overthink it when it comes to the gear.”Flylords: You talked about the importance of shades on the water, what are your favorite Costa Sunglasses?
Benson: I’ve got the fantails on right now, those are pretty cool frames, but the ones I usually wear, my go-to shades day in and day out are the Tasman Sea frames with the 580 glass green mirror.Flylords: Tell us about the current state of Florida and how that’s affecting you as a guide in the Keys.
Benson: “We’re in a very interesting place. I think last year, after Irma, we got dealt a really devastating blow, or what seemed to be a devastating blow at the time, but strangely, we were able to really come together as a community, get tighter, and start to think about some of these bigger issues that we all face. Whether its issues with the Everglades and red tide, the helms of the coral reef, or generally speaking, the regulations that surround fishing for fish on the spawn, or management plan that we’re going to be overseeing going on in the back-country in the next couple of years.”“Interestingly enough, after that storm, we’ve come together as a community and we’ve figured out how to speak with a little bit more of a singular voice together. That is so encouraging and so awesome to be a part of because I think while Florida faces a number of challenges on many different fronts, I think we’re making a huge amount of progress and advancing with regards to bringing our sport together, burying the hatchet on past differences, and trying to figure out how we can move towards accomplishing and bettering our fisheries together.”“There’s a lot of issues to be concerned about in Florida, but I’m most optimistic about guys coming together and trying to figure out how to problem solve.”Flylords: Is there any way people reading this can help right now?
Benson: “I think the time for talk is over, it’s kind of time for action. If you want to do something about it, then do something about it. Actually get out and do something.” “I think Bullsugar and Captains for Clean Water are both excellent choices to support as nonprofits. Right now I’d say they’re the two organizations who are making the most noise. They’re the guys with the most venom. And of course, sign up for a BTT membership, I have been a huge fan of their work since day 1.”Flylords: If somebody wants to fish in the Florida Keys, when’s the best time to come?
Benson: “The best time to fish in the Florida Keys is whenever it’s sunny, blowing less than 15 and the water temps are right about 77 to 80 degrees, so if you can make that happen, you’re good to go. No, but in all honesty, I think each season has its highs and lows. You’re gonna get bad weather, you’re gonna get good weather so there’s a roll of the dice that’s just involved in any fishing trip. That being said, well hell, I’ll just tell you I think my favorite time of year to fish down here is in the summer. Maybe it’s what I remember as a kid growing up, I love the relaxed laid back atmosphere of the summertime fishing in the Keys. So between June 15th and September 15th, that’s the time of year for fishing in the Keys.”Flylords: If somebody wants to come out and fish with you or another guide in the Florida Keys, what’s something that they can prepare for before they come out?
Benson: “I would generally say picking up the fly rod, a month in advance and trying to get into some kind of practice routine is a good idea and if you’re gonna go out there try to mimic some of the conditions you might see on a flats boat, the shots that you’re gonna get are going be 50 feet directly ahead of you into the wind. So if you want to get better as a fisherman and get comfortable and ready for the Florida Keys, don’t just take practice casts down wind or at the easiest angle. Put yourself in a real-time situation, you know, take a 50 foot shot into the wind, then pick it up, make a false cast, move it 20 feet to the right or the left and release the fly. Then try to strip the line with energy, move to your left at 9 o’clock and try to take a cast in a completely different direction.”
Hope you enjoyed the interview with Will. If you haven’t had a chance to watch the film we made featuring him, check it out below. And if you are interested in fishing with Will you can find him at https://worldangling.com/
Also be sure to check out all of Will’s great films here https://worldangling.com/videos-2/