Photo: Florida Keys Fly Fishing

Fishermen cast their lines for bonefish in the Florida Keys.

Photograph by Ronald C. Modra, Sports Imagery/Getty Images

By Doug Schnitzspahn

Ever since legends like Stu Apte and baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams started catching big game fish in Florida’s waters on fly rods, the biggest prize here has been the Florida Keys slam—bonefish, permit, tarpon. Each species presents its own challenges and rewards, which makes going for the slam such a rush for veteran saltwater fly anglers. To tick off all three species you will need to exercise a wide range of skills.

Haunting the flats, bonefish require precise casting and perfect presentation. A guide poles you through mangrove flats and you have one shot at the fish—sight fishing at its finest. Permit can be in deeper water and put up a tremendous pound-for-pound fight—some anglers consider the permit the most challenging of the slam species. Finally, the prehistoric tarpon is a test of finesse versus brawn. Keep it on the line and you will have reeled in a 100-pound (45-kilogram) fish on a fly rod. Well done. Now head to Sloppy Joe’s famed bar on Key West, where Hemingway used to hang out, and tell tall tales.

Need to Know: Spend a day on a flat skiff with Florida Keys Fly Fish (, starting at $550 per person.

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