Welcome back to another Guide Life feature, this month I am pleased to share an interview I had with Captain Jason Sullivan of Rising Tide Charters from Everglades City, Florida. Jason is a member of the Orvis Endorsed Guide program and specializes in fishing the areas of the Everglades National Park, Fort Lauderdale, and the Biscayne Bay area of Miami, Florida.
My name is Jason Sullivan and have been a fly fishing guide in South Florida for about 7 years now. I mostly fish out of Flamingo, Everglades National Park. The Glades offers some of the best inshore fishing in South Florida. I was a school teacher for a few years and decided I had to be in the Everglades more than just the weekends. It was a tough decision at the time, but glad I did and I truly love every minute I am on the water.
IPT: You were recently one of three finalists for the 2017 Orvis Endorsed Awards for Saltwater Fly Fishing Guide of the Year. While another guide ultimately won the award, it had to have been a tremendous honor to have been considered. Were you surprised to see yourself in contention for the award? What does it say about you as a guide and your business, to be one of the three finalists?
Jason: I have been in the Orvis endorsed program for three years and when I got the call from Pete Kuztner from Orvis, I was completely shocked and humbled. I was not expecting that at all. I try to guide with a ton of integrity and do things the right way. I know that’s what Orvis is all about and I am extremely proud to work with them.
What would you say to a new saltwater angler coming down for the first trip they booked? How can they best prepare themselves for success?
I think to a new saltwater angler you need to be patient and ready to learn. I always tell new anglers to practice a little bit before they get down here, but ultimately you the angler don’t know what to expect until you do it once. We’ll spend the first half of the morning going over techniques while we are fishing. I think being coachable is the best thing you can be when coming down here. There is usually a huge difference in techniques between freshwater flyfishing and saltwater flyfishing for most anglers.
What gear or accessories are essential to have a good day on the water in the Florida sun and heat?
The Florida sun can wear you down in the summer time if you’re not prepared. Although the winter is about as good of weather as you can ask for, probably why people moving down at huge rate! Just to give you an idea on typical day, I wear light fishing pants, Orvis long sleeve shirt and sun gloves and a buff. Keeping the sun off of you, makes easier to get through a few days of fishing down here. I also recommend polarized sunglasses.
What is it about tarpon that drives anglers of all kinds, just bat shit crazy?
Yes, tarpon will drive you absolutely crazy. I think the fact that is not easy, is why people love it. It’s a challenge everyday and takes a certain amount of skill. There are days where you see hundreds of them and can’t get a bite, then days where you see a third of that and get 5 bites. They are an extremely finicky fish and move a ton. I love it because it’s different every day and locating them is a challenge in itself sometimes. Then when it all comes together and you hook one these dinosaurs, it is epic. To feel the power of these fish is like nothing you will ever experience. I have had guys cry in joy after landing there first big tarpon on fly!
One fish on my list to catch for the first time this year is Redfish. What would be the best time of year to come fish for them, and what are some of your favorite flies for catching them?
Yes the redfish is a very fun fish. They are angler friendly. We get to sight fish for them and usually can find them all year in the Glades. I like you using shrimpy looking flies.
I recently spoke with a freshwater trout guide about this topic, and wanted to get your perspective as well. The fly fishing industry desperately needs new blood. After watching just a few of your videos on Facebook, it seems saltwater fly fishing might be the BEST way to attract new anglers simply because of how dynamic, varied, and exciting it is. What are your thoughts about getting new people into the sport, and whether you believe saltwater fishing is the way to do that?
Yes I agree, it needs some new blood. I absolutely agree that saltwater fly fishing can do that. There is something different about it. It takes you to some of the most beautiful places on the planet, you mostly sight fish, and just a variety of awesome species to chase!
What are the best and worst parts about guiding for a living, or the job in general?
The best part of guiding is I am in the Glades everyday, where you hardly see another human all day. I get to take people who have never been and that is really cool. I love fly fishing, so being able to check a species off of someone’s list is really rewarding. Chasing tarpon is an obsession for me.
The tough part about guiding, and especially being a saltwater guide, the majority of us are independent and are one man shows. You have do it all from, fishing everyday, getting your own business, and fixing stuff that always seems to break. With that being said, I love all that, so for me there is no tough part!!
I’m sure you’ve had many freshwater fly fishermen come out to the salt. What were they weakest at, what were they strongest at?
Yes I get a lot of freshwater fly angers. The weakest is probably not being able to double haul and cast for distance. The saltwater side, your usually dealing with wind, boat moving, and fish moving. Being able to quickly get your fly to the target, is not easy. Probably the best thing is most freshwater fly anglers are eager to learn and are very coachable. Also they know how to get their flies out of the trees better than anyone!!
There seems to be a big difference in the way people feel about competitive trout tournaments, and competitive saltwater tournaments. Are they healthy for the sport in either case?
I like fishing some tourneys to a degree. I like the competition, I think it pushes you to be better as a guide but can force you to do things you wouldn’t do on a normal guided trip. I only fish a few tourneys a year. Since I fish mainly out of Flamingo, and most of the tourneys are in the Keys, it doesn’t benefit me much to fish there. There are a couple tourneys that the proceeds go to Everglades National Park, I am all in on those.
What would you say to a potential client about why they should come down and book a trip with you?
I think fishing the Everglades should be on everyone’s fishing bucket list. The place is so remote and so fishy, it is an incredible experience. I am very passionate about both fly fishing and the Glades and it is arguably the best tarpon fishing destination in the world. You can fish 12 months for tarpon in the Glades, can you tell I am obsessed????
Thank you for taking the time for this interview Jason. I know I’m planning trips for 2018 and would love to hook up to fly fish the Everglades and tarpon and redfish are both on my list for 2018. It just looks too fun!
To book a trip with Capt. Jason Sullivan, you can contact him either by phone or email.
Lastly, here is an episode of Captain’s Tales featuring Jason Sullivan. Enjoy!
What do you think everyone? Comment below with your thoughts on this interview, saltwater fly fishing tips for newbies (like myself), and if you want to see a particular guide also featured in this series in 2018 put their name and what makes them interesting, different, fun, deserving, etc.