Congratulations Matt Hauck, Fly School Sweepstakes Winner

Matt Hauck started fly fishing in Florida more than 25 years ago. Today he chases redfish from Jacksonville to the Keys and heads to Flamingo to find snook as often as he can. But a recent trip to Florida Bay inspired him to do something about the declining conditions he saw more and more frequently.

Florida redfish on a fly

Hauck researched water management policy, started contacting lawmakers, and became a supporter. When the legendary Florida Keys Fly Fishing School sponsored a sweepstakes to raise money for Bullsugar, he jumped at the chance. It paid off: Hauck will soon be attending the school on an all-expenses-paid trip to Islamorada, staying at the Islander Resort, one of the newest Guy Harvey Outposts.

Hauck is modest about his skills, but he’s got a specific goal in mind for fly fishing school: “I would love to learn any and everything to present the fly further and more gracefully in front of the fish, in the wind, and quickly make a cast at a direction not anticipated that qualifies for a slurp approval by said tarpon.”

His story will probably sound familiar to thousands of people with a personal connection to a handful of spots and species in Florida’s incredible inshore fisheries. As a Bullsugar supporter, Hauck is doing what he can to make sure there are more great days on the water ahead for him and everyone else with a passion for Florida fishing.

“In 1991 my stepdad bought me a fly rod. I fished Key Largo a few times, mostly by myself in an old ‘78 Hewes. I had a tough time poling and casting, so I gave up on the ocean flats and went back to my snapper and snook creek fishing. But I picked it up again in Texas in the Laguna Madre with my college roommate almost a decade later.

A few years passed after I moved back to Florida, this time up north in Jacksonville. I found myself in a skiff with one of my neighbors. He handed me a fly rod and we fished the flood tides and skinny creeks having a blast. Occasionally fishing with him, I got a bit better using the fly rod.

I blew the motor on my Pathfinder in the Gulf Stream the next summer in Marathon, and after moping around for a day and renting a horrible boat (we named it the Sea Plow), I booked a guide for a half-day. In the first ten minutes we had a perfect shot at a pair of tarpon. I could have used a cane pole, but managed to get my first bite with a terrible cast or three. I pulled on the line so hard to set him I snapped the line. I didn’t land a tarpon in the next two trips, but got hooked up and hooked on hunting with a fly rod! I bought an old Hells Bay 17.8. My buddy was so excited for me he knocked on my door and handed me a Tibor reel. We fly fish when the conditions are decent or it’s a flood tide, and on my annual glades and Keys Trip.

I have a few special places I like to go, some in the glades and some at home near Jacksonville. It’s tough to beat a sunrise over the marsh where the ocean meets it and the bluffs and wind blown oaks surround tailing redfish, but a little creek in Flamingo infested with snook–and mosquitoes–gets me excited right now just thinking about my last good trip before the runoff. My favorite fish will probably always be a snook, but the tarpon gives me the biggest butterflies and excitement. The redfish is my familiar friend up here in North Florida, I enjoy them very much on the line and dinner table.

The reason I went online and started writing my congressman more aggressively was after my last trip to Islamorada. I took my stepdad and best friend up for a day trip. We poled through a couple miles of nothing where last year we had seen healthy turtle grass and some small tarpon, redfish, and snook. It was depressing. We thought about not returning the rest of the trip and looking for ocean tarpon and bonefish instead. We decided to try one more time and went the entire day without any success. That was around the time when the runoff was taking its course of destruction. I remember seeing this before as a kid one time around Madeira Bay. That’s about as far as I was comfortable going by myself at that age. I saw the grass everywhere die. It was around 1989. We are lucky in Jacksonville to have a healthy marsh system, but I get concerned about the dredging and chemicals in the St. Johns.”

Florida Sheepshead