Fly-Fishing at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando

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My brother, Dan, goes fishing nearly every weekend. It never seems to get old. Guy Harvey t-shirts are a staple item in his wardrobe. Blue marlins adorn his flip-flops. His Blackberry is full of, you guessed it, digital proof that he’s a master fisherman.

It never made much sense to me, until today, when I experienced fly-fishing for the first time. Truth be told, I wasn’t all that sure I’d like it, but I am always game for trying something new. You’ll never guess where the day took place — the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes. Now, I’ve been there several times for dinners and conferences. However, I was oblivious to the fact that the posh resort is surrounded by 500 acres of natural beauty and plenty of adventurous ways to soak it all in.

I’m talking alligators, otters and 120 species of birds. In other words, the perfect setting for the perfect catch. Or, so I hoped. First things first though. I met Carlos, the 38-year-old ecology and fly-fishing extraordinaire, at the golf clubhouse. (Keep in mind: This is the launching point for the fishing classes, not the front desk of the Ritz, as I had assumed.)

Next, I slathered on gobs of sunscreen and hopped into the golf cart. My adventure had begun. We started with some on-land practice for about an hour so I could learn the proper casting technique. It took me a while to get the timing right, but once we took off in the Hyde Drift Boat, there it was, the aha! moment I’d been waiting for. It all came together. Carlos selected a BoogleBug lure — a popper hook dressed with a wad of tinsel — and within five minutes I felt a tug. I certainly didn’t expect this, and the fish (apparently a bluegill) discovered the floater was not a bug quicker than I could pull my rod up. No matter though, I was pretty thrilled with the near catch alone. Out on the water, even failure seems amusing. Next time, I’d be ready. Fifteen minutes later, another tug! Holy schnikes! Sadly, it was another fruitless retrieve. This one was a crappie. Bye bye little guy. (Note to self: If I’m gonna chitchat, better pay attention at the same time.)

We trolled around a bit. I casted the lure out. Brought it back in. Casted it out again. Sand cranes were in the distance and the tiniest bit of a breeze was wafting by. This is quintessentially Old Florida at it’s best. And it’s just one more nature-rich activity to add to my long list of hobbies.

“Man, I so want to catch something,” I muttered. “

It’s not called catching,” Carlos, the patient instructor, reminded me. “It’s called fishing.”

Apparently, I thought, this required more than a speck of patience. In the final moments of my lesson, another tug! But this one was much more powerful. I was totally caught off guard and yet again missed my chance for a look I caught a fish photo. However, I did catch a good glimpse. It was a largemouth bass that got away. Now, I know what your’e thinking: Sure, Sarah. Sure it was. Well, you’ll have to trust me on that one.

With all that said, I can clearly see how fishing fever can truly turn into a lifelong addiction. There’s something primordial about it. Fly-fishing is an ancient sport, with roots tracing back to the 2nd century, after all. Simply put; I’m hooked. (Too bad the fish weren’t!)

If you go: Bring a hat, and please wear sunscreen! There is not much shade to be had. Other excursions include an adventure course where you can scramble across aerial walkways, culinary classes and bird-watching classes (ask nicely and Carlos will bust out his iPhone birding app). It’s all open to the public and available most days of the week. Call ahead to make reservations.

Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes
4012 Central Florida Parkway
Orlando, Florida 32837
407-206-2400
www.ritzcarlton.com