The Great Awaits.


The Everglades

An angler fly fishes off the front of a skiff in emerald green waters.

There’s a spiritual quality to the Everglades...

And those who explore it leave with a deep and undeniable sense of connection to nature, and a primal desire to protect it.

The Everglades is an ecological and biological treasure—a unique, intricate series of habitats found nowhere else in the world—as well as a Mecca for saltwater anglers eager to test their skills against wary and powerful game fish, such as redfish, snook, and tarpon.

For those who spend time exploring the labyrinth of mangroves and the seagrass flats of Florida Bay, the experience goes far beyond the stunning scenery, exotic wildlife, and great fishing.

Full immersion in the subtropical surroundings and the profound solitude they offer leave visitors transformed.  


Meet Capt. Benny Blanco

South Florida guide Capt. Benny Blanco felt this connection the very first time he ventured into Everglades National Park to fish with his stepfather and uncle in the mid 1980s.

For the athletic kid raised in urban Miami, the 38-mile drive from the park entrance to the boat ramp in Flamingo was magical, as they passed through stretches of sawgrass, rocky pine trees, and stands of bald cypress.

And things only got better once they were on the water, traveling down a long canal into an open bay, which was the gateway to hundreds more narrow passages, bays, and lagoons in what felt like an infinite world for him to explore.


“Something very deep inside just pulled me in,” he remembers, “and it continues to pull me to this day.”


It’s easy to see why so many people feel the way Benny does. In a single day of fishing in the Everglades, you may find yourself motoring through narrow, serpentine channels that open to majestic bays, pulling a boat hand-over-hand through a tight mangrove tunnel to fish a hidden lagoon that may not have seen an angler in years, or poling across a glassy seagrass bed that stretches as far as the eye can see.

Not only does this variety of habitats make for transcendent angling experiences, but it also allows you to meaningfully engage with the ever-changing landscape, flora, and fauna. The mangrove forests are home to spectacular bird species, such as raucous roseate spoonbills, soaring pelicans, and hunting ospreys, while in the water you may encounter alligators, crocodiles, otters, or manatees. 

Benny Blanco headshot.

Capt. Benny Blanco

Owner of Fishing Flamingo, host of “Guiding Flow TV,” and ambassador for Captains For Clean Water

A boat plies a river through the Everglades.
A sunrise over the ocean with a boatload of anglers aboard.
A map of the tip of Florida with a compass rose on the Everglades and a small picture of an angler showing off a fish.

Exploring A Waterway With The Power To Heal

Benny considers himself lucky to be able to share the Everglades with his clients and to witness the profound impact that time in nature can have on people’s lives. One of his more memorable experiences featured a Marine named Ray whom Benny met at a Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing event in Islamorada.

Having endured horrific things during his time overseas while serving his country, Ray had struggled back on home soil—coming close to suicide and barely leaving his apartment. One thing that gave him pleasure during tough times was watching sporting TV shows and YouTube videos, through which he developed an ardent dream of learning to fly fish, with the ultimate goal of landing a bonefish.


On their first day out, Ray was in awe of the incredible scenery and atmosphere of Florida Bay, but he just couldn’t get the fly to the fish.

Although he managed to land a snook, on the way home, Benny could tell that Ray was feeling down. The next day, despite a lot of practice in the morning, Ray still hadn’t hooked a bonefish by late afternoon.


“I could see him on the bow, with slumped shoulders, feeling his dream slip away,” Benny says.


As if on cue, a big bonefish mud appeared, and Benny talked Ray through the presentation. When Ray came tight to the fish, his whole demeanor lit up. “During that five-minute fight, I don’t think his feet were even touching the boat,” Benny says. “He was levitating.”


Bringing that bonefish to the boat was a pivotal moment in Ray’s return to life.

Once he felt the pull of the Everglades, he was hooked, and those two days on the water were the beginning of an obsession with fly fishing. Ray returns for two weeks every year—now with his new wife—to feed his hunger for exploration, solitude, and a connection to this magical place. The wide-open wilderness provides his soul with something he can’t get anywhere else.

“Something very deep inside just pulled me in...and it continues to pull me to this day.”

A flock of seabirds floats over the Everglades.

Following The Tarpon

What fills Benny’s cup is testing his guiding and angling skills against the very large tarpon that migrate through the lower Everglades in March and April.

Landing one requires so much of an angler at every stage of the process.

First, you’ve got to get a tarpon to eat your fly, but that’s just the beginning of the technical challenges: then you need a good hook set to ensure the fish can’t throw the fly, survive the gill-rattling jumps, deal with multiple powerful runs that take you deep into your backing, and then manage boat-side thrashing that threatens to blow up your fly rod. And big tarpon are just flat-out strong.

“There are few species in fly fishing where you can pull as hard you can, and they pull back,” Benny says.


This kind of tarpon hunting often takes the anglers deep into the Everglades, as schools of these big fish seek safety and food. “We often run thirty or forty miles into the backcountry,” Benny says, “where we can spend a whole day in a place where you don’t hear another boat.” 


Top 3 Flies

For The Everglades

  1. Glades Tarpon Mullet size 2/0 ­­­— A tried-and-true warrior in my fly box.
  2. Florida Bay Tarpon Toad size 1/0 ­— A deadly weapon for tarpon in clean water.
  3. Redfish & Snook Baitfish size 2 ­­­— This fly is made to draw attention.

Fighting To Protect The Glades

For Benny, guiding and advocacy are intricately connected. Through simply spending time in the Everglades, a person can develop their own primal desire to protect and restore this ecosystem, as well as discover (or be reminded of) the importance of time in nature. As a guide, Benny strives to ensure his clients absorb both of these critical lessons.

“I leverage my guiding life to build even more advocates,” he says. “I have 8 hours to educate and motivate. I am an advocacy-building machine.” 


Guides have endless capacity to share information and inspire their clients. “Even on those days when the water is clear and the fishing is great, unfortunately, I can always point to evidence of how a lack of fresh water has damaged the system.”

Benny takes this responsibility seriously and hopes fishing guides throughout the country do the same. “The biggest killer in restoration progress is complacency. We cannot take our foot off the pedal. Education has to be steady, forthcoming, and part of your daily routine.”

Understanding The Surrounding Ecosystem

Although Everglades National Park is the third-largest national park in the Lower 48—covering more than 2,300 square miles—it’s part of a much larger ecosystem that originally included most of Florida south of Lake Okeechobee.

Before the arrival of large numbers of Europeans in the 1800s, the Everglades was sustained by a shallow “sheet flow” of water up to 60 miles wide and 100 miles long during the wet season—giving rise to the name “River of Grass.”

But from the 1880s to the 1960s, much of the land was drained for agriculture, and the rest was controlled by an extensive network of dikes, canals, and pumping stations that reduced the flow of water into Florida Bay by two thirds. Limiting the supply of fresh water made the whole ecosystem much more susceptible to drought, which has a host of damaging effects, including increased salinity that kills seagrasses that are the linchpin of the marine habitat.

Staying Connected

It's a testament to the resilience of nature that, despite more than a century of neglect, the Everglades continues to enthrall millions of visitors every year and provide anglers with the chance to hook the fish of a lifetime.

But, as conservationist Maggie Hurchalla once put it, “The Everglades is like a punch-drunk prize fighter. You can hit him and hit him and hit him, but the last time you hit him, he doesn’t get up.”

We need to begin fixing the problems before the Everglades is out on its feet and one more drought year will be the final blow.


Not only does Benny appreciate the threats facing the Everglades, but he also understands the real danger of people becoming more disconnected from the natural world. 

“I am really saddened by people not being connected to nature and not understanding how important this place is.”

He has made it a mission to impact this part of our culture through his role as a guide, on his social media platforms, and as a parent to three daughters.

“The Everglades has saved my life,” he says. “When I need to center myself, I go to the Glades.” 

An image of the dock and restaurant for Lorelei's Restaurant & Cabana Bar.

Where To End The Day

After a long day tarpon hunting in Florida Bay, Benny, fellow guides, and their clients catch the sunset and recap their day on the water at the Lorelei Restaurant & Cabana Bar, right on the water in Islamorada.

The Lorelei is an institution—a place where Benny can count on running into his friends and angling heroes (as a kid, Benny met Hall of Fame baseball player and renowned angler Ted Williams here!) to swap stories, share laughs, and recharge.

Orvis-Endorsed Everglades Adventures

Angler’s Guide To Fly Fishing In Florida

Giant tarpon, snook lurking in mangroves, freshwater springs, and expansive wetlands. The possibilities are endless for fly anglers who appreciate diversity and opportunity.

Learn More
Fish stares at the camera, half in and half out of the water.