“Hey Meris, odds are you book a one-way ticket to Florida and drive my car back to Colorado with me”
This short conversation between my friend, Meris McHaney, and I would end up sparking a 2-week adventure North; consisting of fly fishing, couch surfing, and a healthy splash of highway hypnosis. Over the 3000 miles spent northward, we were also able to take a trip inward to rediscover the child-like sense of adventure this sport offers to those who dare to explore its many meanings.
Three days after our call, I was headed to pick Meris up from the airport to join me as I took my car from my hometown of Florida to my new home of Colorado with a plan to stop in Meris’s town of Texas along the way. Where we would stay, and what we would do was still a mystery to the two of us, however, we were both eager to embrace the thrill of what seemed to be the limitless open road.
Although we ventured to different places and experienced new and unique fisheries every day, one theme remained constant – we were chasing storms. It seemed as though every day, one of us was wondering in one way or another, “Am I chasing storms, are storms chasing me, or am I the storm?” Regardless, pelting rain and lightning that ripped through the summer sky couldn’t stop us from having the time of our lives and keeping our fly lines tight.
Although I grew up in South Florida, I haven’t lived there in almost seven years. As they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder”, and while it’s an overused cliche, there was certainly a truth held in those words. As the wheels under me crawled over the cracked pavement of my hometown, I grew more and more excited to re-connect with old friends, make a few new ones, and enjoy some of the most diverse fisheries in the US.
On our first day in Florida, we fished the Flamingo, a small town located on a peninsula on the southern tip of Florida. There, we caught, what seemed to be, an endless amount of snook and redfish, eager to obliterate any form of fur and feathers dropped in front of their face. From there, we cruised down to KW to fish a few hours in the evening with our friend and guide Brandon Cyr.
At only 26 years old, Brandon is a 4th generation Key West conch on both his mom and dad’s side. When you’re on the water with him, it almost seems as if his very genetic makeup was constructed from the same salty pools that he fishes. His intuitive nature and primitive instincts work in perfect synchronicity with the water that his family has called home for well over 100 years.
With rods poised at the ready and guts filled with steel, we walked along the flats, carefully scanning the gloomy waters for any sign of life. As the threatening storm clouds began to dissipate and the sun began to dip into the horizon, we each managed to hook into a healthy bonefish that sent our reels screaming and our line into it’s backing. The iridescent blue in their tails glowed underneath the summer sun, and as I stood there looking off into the vastness of the open sea, my fingers burned raw from the salty fly line, I felt home in a place that had once seemed so foreign. The following day, Mahi Mahi and tuna were on the board for dinner.
On our final day in Florida, the sun finally decided to grace us with its presence. It was the first time I had a chance to look through the water rather than at the water. The day was filled with so much calm, that for the first time on the trip, we felt nervous approaching fish out of fear of spooking them with one wrong move. I didn’t have any shoes (common theme – oops). So I borrowed my friend Ryan Phinneys size 12 sneakers and looked like an absolute clown when I jumped in the water to wade after these fish. As I approached this school of FLOATING permit I looked back to see Meris casting at another set of Permit. We both had follows but no commitments.
It was one of the greatest adrenaline rushes I could ask for to end our time in the Florida Keys before we hit the road to Texas. Ahead of us, a new set of adventures awaited.
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