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January 20, 2011

2010: A Skiff Odyssey

How four guys in two boats fished the Florida Keys in four days

Day Three: Summerland Key to Islamorada

Keys permit8 a.m.: We stopped at Chevron Island Auto & Marine (305-744-9717) on Summerland Key for fuel and to refill our livewells. Across the parking lot, we sampled the biscuits and gravy at the Galley Grill (305-745-3446).

5 p.m.: We fished almost all day from Mayo Cay to Big Spanish Cay and Spanish Bank. Derek pitched quarter-size crabs on spin tackle; Chris tossed a Merkin on his 10-weight fly rod. They intended to hook permit, but passing tarpon made short work of their 30-pound shock leaders.

On the mental fish scale, seeing and hooking outweighed landings, but we ­apparently were paying dues for the show Mother Nature was about to present.

5:30 p.m.: We floated over white, marly sand off the ­labyrinthine Content Keys north of Big Pine, Summerland and Sugarloaf keys. The sun was two hours away from kissing the horizon, and the water's surface had morphed to a ­reflective sheen like liquid mercury.

Although our polarized lenses proved useless looking into the water, we saw the black sickle shape of permit dorsal fins and the fidgety wakes of bonefish. The creatures of the flats had roused as the lunar forces began steering water back to our side of the planet. A one-hour period gave Chris a permit on fly and two bonefish between Tyler and Derek.

6:30 p.m.: On the 40-mile run back to Islamorada, nature bestowed one of the grandest sunsets we'd ever seen. We arrived at Bud N' Mary's in the dark, but were just in time for delicious coconut-crusted grouper sandwiches at Lazy Days Restaurant (305-664-5256, www.lazydayssouth.com) next door.