Written by: Debra Carr Brox
Sandy Moret has described fly-fishing as the hardest game on the planet. The unpredictable nature of fishing saltwater flats doesn’t discourage him—on the contrary, he loves the challenge and is determined to keep going until he cracks the code. Call it persistence, patience, or insanity, Sandy’s “never give up” mentality has been a gift to the sport, those who love it, and the environment.
For over 40 years, Sandy has been a vocal and tireless advocate for the complex ecosystem of Southern Florida. It started in 1972, when Sandy was living in Miami. His friend Flip Pallot, whom he saw frequently at social events, invited him to Flamingo Key. Sandy was hooked. It didn’t take long for his passion for saltwater fly fishing to inspire him to take action to preserve this spectacular environment. He formed the Everglades Protection Association with a group of like-minded fishermen and served as the group’s first President. Their efforts were successful, resulting in a ban on commercial harvest and gillnetting within Everglades National Park.
In 1985, Sandy, enjoying an early retirement, moved to Islamorada in the Florida Keys. Not one to spend his days “goofing off” (his words), he founded the Florida Keys Fly Fishing School, followed by Florida Keys Outfitters Fly Shop in 1992. Both, like their owner, have become Keys legends.
As concerned about the health of the Florida ecosystem as ever, he was one of the founders of The Bonefish and Tarpon Trust in 1997. The organization’s mission was “To conserve and restore bonefish, tarpon and permit fisheries and habitats through research, stewardship, education and advocacy.” In 2000, he added the Everglades Foundation to the impressive list of organizations he supports and speaks out for.
During years of teaching, guiding, and exploring the waters of the Gulf, Sandy has observed firsthand a steady decline of the water quality and the mismanagement of natural resources by the Florida state government. His beloved Everglades was still being slowly choked to death by powerful lobbies and decades of misdirected politics.
By 2015, he was out of patience with the lack of action on what he clearly saw as a “simple problem with a simple solution.” It was time for a new approach, with politics at the center of his strategy. He set his sights on the roadblock that had been stalling progress for years—the sugar lobby.
He knew that a powerful coalition was needed. Sandy rallied an army made up of organizations that represented an impressive range of interests—from non-profit environmental organizations to big and small businesses, both local and international—to form Now or Neverglades. In the brief span of three years, the #NowOrNeverglades Declaration has received the support of more than 700 organizations and 72,000 signatories.
The urgency and determination of this impressive coalition brought statewide awareness that prompted the passing of important, history-making legislation that mandates construction of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to store, clean, and carry fresh water to the south. The chokehold of the sugar lobby is finally starting to loosen.
Truel Myers, Orvis’ Head Fly Fishing Instructor, is a Florida native, has known Sandy for 25 years, and works with him three times a year on the Orvis Everglades Fly Fishing School. “I don’t really like to use the term ‘legend’ to describe people in the fly-fishing world but, in Sandy’s case I think I will (and not just because of his fishing expertise and exploits). For me, it goes much deeper than how great of an angler he is: what I’m most impressed with is his tireless work on conservation efforts – especially the NowOrNeverglades Campaign. The amount of work Sandy has done (and continues to do) on the NowOrNeverglades Campaign is truly amazing!”
Sandy Moret has generously offered his skills as a teacher, guide, businessman, angler, communicator and leader to the cause of preserving the resources that so many take for granted. This dedication is made more impressive when you hear him realistically state that he will not see the benefits of his hard work in his own lifetime. He’s doing it for his grandchildren and all future generations that have the right to freshwater to drink, fish to catch and the Everglades to enjoy.
Editor’s note: Sandy also received this year’s Conservationist of the Year award from Fly Fisherman magazine. Check out their feature on Sandy’s work here.