Meet Brandon Cyr, a saltwater fly fishing guide based in the Florida Keys. Born and raised on the saltwater, he is a fourth-generation Florida Key’s native or “conch”. We are excited to add Brandon to our ongoing blog series “Behind the Guides” presented by Costa Sunglasses.
Flylords: Do you remember the first time you picked up a fly rod? What about the first fish you caught on the fly?
Brandon: I can’t remember exactly when I picked up a fly rod, somewhere near the age of 6 or 7. I started with trying to catch baby lemon sharks on the fly, wading with my father at the sandbars. This led me to catching my first bonefish on the fly at 7. I would say that was the moment that ignited my passion for fly fishing, I can remember every detail of that day 20 years later.
Flylords: How old were you when you realized you wanted to be a full-time guide?
Brandon: As crazy as this sounds, I’ve known my entire life. My father was my idol when I was growing up, he would bring me on every charter he could throughout my youth. He gave me childhood experiences I’ll never forget, from grabbing tarpon to leadering billfish. The one memory that stands out above all was when I was 4 years old. I can remember sitting in his lap driving his offshore boat and he was teaching me how to read the compass. Later that day we ended up releasing a white marlin, and I’ll never forget the excitement of his customers and the looks of pure joy on their faces. He looked at me and said, “This is why we do what we do”. From then on I knew that’s what I wanted, to be able to do something I love and share it with people in a way that brought them joy.
Flylords: How long have you been living in the Keys for?
Brandon: I was born and raised here in Key West and am a 4th generation conch (born in Key West).
Flylords: Largest tarpon a client has landed on the fly?
Brandon: The largest tarpon I’ve ever guided anyone to on fly I estimated around 180lbs. It could have been smaller or bigger but hard to know considering we didn’t take length and girth measurements. I think a lot of people overestimate tarpon weights significantly. Was pretty wild considering we landed the fish relatively quick about 15-20 minute fight. She jumped quite a few times which is unusual for a fish that size, assuming the jumping burned up so much energy we were able to release her quickly.
Flylords: Favorite and least favorite part of living there?
Brandon: My favorite part of living in the Keys is to be so connected to the ocean. I feel like every decision I make every day is in some way related to the ocean and is always calling me back to it.
The only negative I could say about living in the Keys is the cost of living. It’s pretty outrageous and most people down here barely make it by. But with that being said I may never get rich doing what we do, but I wake up excited every day to go to work. How many people get to say that?
Brandon: If I had to give one piece of advice to someone before coming to fish the Keys, it would be to practice your casting. I would say the absolute number one reason a customer may not have success is because of casting ability. A double haul cast is essential. A guide can only do so much, they can put you in front of tons of fish all day long but if the fly doesn’t get there, you won’t have success. The Keys is like the Olympics for fly fishing. We have some of the harshest conditions paired with some of the most educated fish on the planet, but that makes the reward mean that much more!
Flylords: Favorite pair of Costas for a day on the water?
Brandon: My go-to pair of Costa’s would be the Sunrise Silver 580 Glass Lens on the Fantail Frames. The Sunrise Silver Lens is perfect for sight casting in low light or even at the peak of the day, allowing the colors of the flats to really “pop” so that even the most camouflaged bonefish will stand out. I like the lightweight of the fantails but mainly the shape of the frame really fits close to face, not allowing any light in the side of the glasses and comprising your vision.
Flylords: Most rewarding thing to happen on a guided trip?
Brandon: By far the most rewarding thing on a trip is watching someone catch their target species. With fly fishing, there is so much work and preparation that goes into every fish caught. It’s truly amazing to watch someone’s face light up and live in that moment with them.
But specifically, the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done as a guide was put my father on his first permit on fly. The man has spent his entire life guiding people to their dream fish and always spent all of his free time taking my brother and me out, that it was amazing to finally be able to return the favor and share that moment with him.
Flylords: The most embarrassing thing to happen on a guided trip?
Brandon: I would say the most embarrassing moment I’ve ever had as a guide was driving all the way to the Marquesas 22 miles West of Key West to get there surrounded by soft rolling tarpon…only to realize I had left my fly box in the truck..OUCH. But, thankfully I was able to run into my brother who is also a guide and he saved the day by giving us some flies.
Flylords: Any advice for aspiring Florida Keys guides?
Brandon: Well, there’s a long list..mainly it is to respect the fishery above all. Learn the water for a few years, and especially the etiquette before even considering taking out a charter. One thing that doesn’t fly in the Keys is the guides who don’t respect the etiquette of the area they’re in.
Flylords: Bucket List Trip?
Brandon: My bucket list trip would probably be the Seychelles! I love to wade flats which is what the Seychelles is all about and it has such a large diversity of species to target.
Flylords: Biggest role model down in the keys?
Brandon: I couldn’t say that have one role model above all else. I think the Keys has the most hard-working and diversely talented guides in the world. I’m honestly honored to be among so many fellow guides. Their passion and work ethic stand out above most people I’ve ever met in my life. I’m super thankful not to have one mentor but many and that’s what the Keys are all about.
Thank you to Brandon Cyr for the interview, if you want to see more of Brandon be sure to check him out at @brandoncyrkw. Also, thank you to Costa Sunglasses for making this series possible.