Islamorada, I’m here and everything about you is foreign to me. Timeless retro hotel and diner and marina signs. Languid, saronged women in their generous brown skin and strong, salty women in their salty brown skin. Bar-top sweat-rings telling stories between drinks. Backcountry islands hovering on the teal horizon. Clouds building and climbing and retreating in five thousand sunrise and sunset hues. Skiffs and single-masts and cruisers in powder blue, white and pale aqua-green. Impossibly tight-woven mangroves and endless channels. The soul-wrenching siren-song of tarpon and bonefish and permit on the constant, humid breeze. Your guides and anglers in sandaled feet and tan-lined eyes at the bar immersed and unwinding in the vernacular of day after day after day on the water. Everywhere, ghosts of writers, artists, movie stars, sports figures, fishermen, smugglers, drifters, lost and wholly-found souls – bohemian shadows in their public anonymity – still clapping each other’s backs while in gritty, close, passionate conversation over whisky or rum or beer or all three. Islamorada, I’ve only been in your tide a few days. But I’m here and I can see how easy it would be to absolve myself of mainland life and simply chart a course for nothing. To look south over nothing but eternity’s tide from the bow of this skiff waiting for northbounders and see everything I need.



Filed under On the water, The road


  1. Schweet. Has me wishin I was there~

  2. Jennifer Wetherwax

    That’s beautiful Matt!! I love the keys…They are mesmerizing!

  3. Yup. That’s the keys alright. It’s like Mardi Gras meets a haunted house. Behind every door is a party and a story of some famous dead person.

    But the fishing will smack the taste out of your mouth. And I didn’t even go off-shore.

    Can’t wait for more stories bro. Get after ’em.

    • fishingpoet

      “But the fishing will smack the taste out of your mouth.”
      Waiting for one of these big tarpon to do just that…
      Thanks for the shout, Pete!

  4. Spoken word beats, Conch. Hope you got your silver.

  5. Saw that on FB. Conrats, that shot with the head sticking out is really cool.

  6. Fantastic stuff Matt. Glad you got after them and experienced a bit of the salt. You are ruined for all else now.

  7. Awesome. I feel like I should print this & carry it around with me at work.

    PS – don’t trout set anymore (yes, I noticed that FB post…) 🙂

  8. Reading that makes it t feel like just yesterday, but I just realized I haven’t been there in 12 years, that sucks. Your interpretation is dead on. Good stuff there Matt.

  9. While I was in college I spent two glorious summers in Islamorada. Worked at Bud ‘n Mary’s and picked up extra money cleaning fishing boats and changing props. My only regret, and it’s hard to have one in such an experience, is that at the time I was way more into diving than fly fishing. Seems a tragedy looking back but the diving was world class too.

    The variety of personalities in the Keys is unmatched anywhere else I’ve been. Everyone has a story to tell, some happy, some interesting, some downright depressing. The place is a bit of a microcosm of life in general.

    It’s changed a lot over the years. Worldwide Sportsman is now a destination instead of a tackle shop in a low-slung conch building. The Lorelei is about 3x as big as it used to be. And I heard recently that Papa Joes has been bulldozed. The one thing that hasn’t changed much is the endless natural beauty. Let’s hope it never does.

    • fishingpoet

      Hey Mark. I couldn’t agree more. I’m sure what’s the same is only a fraction of what’s changed, but it’s still a fantastic place. This was my first trip to the Keys. It was a long time coming. It won’t be near as long till my next visit. Thanks for the shout…

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