I rendezvoused with Mill and Kilpatrick at
Sugar Loaf Marina in the lower Keys. The day before the winds
had topped 25 miles an hour forcing the anglers to spend a
good part of their day hunting for permit in the lee of the
gusting east winds. While they had a number of shots at the
elusive "dean" of the flats, their search for tarpon
had produced a couple of sightings. As we left the shelter
of the marina the full effects of the still gusting east wind
was apparent in the tops of the mangroves as Kilpatrick weaved
the 16- foot Dolphin flats skiff through Tarpon Creek to the
Oceanside of Cudjoe Key.
As Mill stripped line from his twelve 12-fly outfit Kilpatrick
mounted the poling platform to scan the basin for tarpon.
Although Mill didnt get but two shots during the first
hour, the fact that we saw any fish at all was encouraging.
Anyone who has the idea that a guide has an easy job, fishing
all day every day, would have that notion quickly dispelled
on a day like this. For the better part of nine hours Kilpatrick
poled the skiff into a 20 plus mile an hour wind.
We fished the Oceanside as well as the gulf side looking for
the right combination of fishable locations and favorable
tides. There are few places in the world that have such convoluted
tides as the lower Florida Keys. Where else can you fish a
high falling tide on one side of a key and then run to the
other side to catch the high rising tide. The ability to discern
the combination of tides and places to locate tarpon is a
combination of skill, hard work and determination. Finding
the fish is just a part of the equation, seeing them in murky
water, in high winds; in time for the angler to make a cast,
is a gift. While Kilpatrick gave credit to his Action Optics
sunglasses, there was no doubt that he was endowed with a
When you combine the talents of an experienced guide with
one of the worlds best fly anglers its a special
occasion, and one that I relished. Even fly legend Lefty Kreh
characterized Mill as, "one of the best tarpon anglers
ever." I was constantly asking questions of Mill and
Kilpatrick and they both freely gave of their vast experience.
We fished until late in the evening and despite the weather
and lack of tarpon Mill managed to get three bites and land
one tarpon. In the end it was a tough but very educational
trip. This was a day in which only the very best or the very
lucky would have managed to even see tarpon, much less catch
them! It was tough duty with a team that was up to the challenge
of finding the silver lining.