By Josie Gulliksen Florida Keys News Bureau
Sandy Moret has been fly fishing almost all his life. The passion and drive he brings to teaching and advancing the sport is unequaled.
Those qualities are what brought him to the Florida Keys to open Florida Keys Outfitters in Islamorada, after a childhood spent fishing in and around Atlanta, Ga.
“Fishing was always made available to my brothers and I from a young age, mostly on Sunday around rivers and lakes,” said Moret. “As we grew older we would fish all over the area with the same friends. It was just the thing to do on Saturday when school was out.”
Moret lived in Atlanta until 1972, creating a successful business that he later sold to move to the Florida Keys and, as he describes it, “goof off.” His brother had moved to the area with his family as well.
Upon arriving in the Keys, Moret met Captain Steve Huff and Flip Pallot, who introduced him to fishing in the Everglades and showed him the wonders of the Everglades and South Florida. He began entering fly fishing tournaments and came to realize that this method of fishing was not widely known in the region.
Moret soon realized, however, that fishing every day was not a permanent plan. Needing an outlet to stay active and engaged, he started a fly-fishing school in 1989.
“I noticed in the 1980s and 1990s fly fishing grew in popularity and new techniques were introduced, making it the perfect time to open the school,” he said.
Moret found that fly fishermen were guarded about their fishing techniques, so he set out to inform those interested in learning, while at the same time providing them with the proper tools to succeed — and his Florida Keys Outfitters, located in Islamorada’s landmark Green Turtle Inn building, was born.
His first crew of fly-fishing instructors included Stu Apte, Flip Pallot, Chico Fernandez, Rick Ruoff, Steve Huff and Steve Rajeff — many of whom are still at the school today.
Moret runs the school every other month from November to June from the Islander Resort, and about one-third of the students are women. The weekend seminars, equipped for 15-20 people with three to four instructors, feature a meet-and-greet the first night and then school all day Saturday and Sunday.
“A third of the people that have been to the school have become passionate fly fishers, so they use our store to provide the equipment they need,” Moret said.
The school continues to thrive, as Moret and his staff work on new programming to fill the demand for more private lessons. With enough instructors and a solid course outline, he is confident they can cover the growing need.
As an angler, Moret has some incredible stories to tell — a quality that’s almost a prerequisite to fishing. His most memorable tale recounts the occasion when he accidentally achieved his first coveted “grand slam” in fly fishing by catching a bonefish, permit and tarpon on the same day.
“I caught my tarpon and my bonefish first,” he said. “After this, my engine wouldn’t start so I began poling around and caught the permit.
“When I finally dock the boat, I realize the kill switch on my engine got knocked loose,” he explained. “Had I re-attached it, started the engine up and not poled the boat to the marina I would have never caught the permit.”
Sandy Moret has caught grand slams many times since that day, and he’ll likely continue to do so in the Keys — the place he says “is as good as it gets for a fly fisherman on the flats.”
Sandy realized that fly fishing was not widely known in the region, and needing an outlet to stay active and engaged, he started a fly-fishing school in 1989.
Moret running with a friend.
A bonefish (pictured) is one third of a grand slam - catching a bonefish, tarpon and permit on the same day.
Sandy shows off a nice sized permit.
Moret calls the Florida Keys the place that “is as good as it gets for a fly fisherman on the flats.”