For simplicity’s sake, we’ll call it a fly shop. But it also retails clothing and coolers and is a guide clearing house, fishing travel concierge, gathering spot, conservation messenger and art house. Oh, and visitors can practice fly casting in the shallow, man made pond just outside its doors adjacent to a fire pit lounging area.
On Monday, Feb. 1, Seven Mile Fly Shop, will open its doors to the public in Marathon. A more formal affair is planned for March 13.
Seven Mile Fly Shop is the creation of Travis Katski. A native of Maryland, Katski fell in love with the “Walker Cay Chronicles” as a young man, and then again in 2017 on a visit to Hawks Cay Resort. He loved the action and the environs so much, he and his family made another home on Duck Key.
Nothing, he said, beats fly fishing.
“It’s chaos when a saltwater sportfish eats a fly,” he said, “it’s like a bomb going off versus a firecracker when compared to freshwater fishing. You have to have accuracy — choose the right fly, put in the right spot while taking into account what way the fish is moving, how to strip the line, set the hook. There’s a lot to it.”
Katski and manager Joe Dahut have been designing the space for about a year now, and envisioning all that it can be. Yes, it will sell rods by makers like Sage, R.L. Winston, TFO, Redington and Thomas & Thomas. But it will also host fly tying classes and casting clinics, too.
“That happens in this space,” said Dahut. “We want to bring in fly experts who are willing to pass along their knowledge. The sharing and teaching that happens in the fly fishing community is one reason why I love it so much.”
“Our goal is to make this a community hub for fly fishing in the Florida Keys,” Katski said.
Seven Mile Fly Shop has an alcove dedicated to fly tying materials for the DIYer. It will also sell ready-made flies by top makers as well as a selection from local tie-ers. It also carries reels (Abel, Seigler, Bauer) and apparel (Free Fly, Howler Brothers, FisheWeaer) plus sundries like sunscreen lotion and accessories like Yeti coolers. Women anglers are not neglected in this venture — feminine apparel and right-sized tools to serve the female professional are also for sale.
Katski is determined to put Marathon and the Middle Keys on the fly fishing map, so to speak.
“Fly fishing in Marathon has always been here and it’s always been good and there are many well-known guides,” Kratski said. He said he envisions the shop functioning as a matchmaker between anglers looking for guides in the Keys, as well as arranging whole trips including accommodations, transportation and even dining.
“So we want people to come and enjoy fly fishing here, but we also want to share an important conservation message with our customers. There is an inshore flats and backshore fishery in the Middle Keys that needs our attention. We need to help the environment because we see it deteriorating at a rapid pace. This shop will give us a platform to spread awareness.”
The conservation message comes through loud and clear in the carefully designed space with fantastic details. Tarpon scales are embossed on the retail counters and flank the rod holders. Huge tarpon swim on an oversize plate of greenish-hued glass. A pierced metal reef scene grows out of the top of the fly island. Katski created a partnership with former local artist Caleb Goins.
“Travis is such an incredible friend and client and he’s allowed me a lot of artistic freedom throughout this project because we had a deeper purpose than just opening a fly shop,” said Goins. “We wanted to build this in a way that shows appreciation for nature and the species that we all love chasing around in our dreams and in real life. We have true passion and care for this lifestyle.”
The Seven Mile Fly Shop will also be a fine art gallery, with rotating artists displayed prominently throughout the store. Katski said the art aspect of the business plan is just as important as the fishing element.
“It’s going to be incredible,” he said. We think so, too.
The Seven Mile Fly Shop is located at 1638 Overseas Highway in Marathon, in front of The Hammocks Resort on the west end of town. Follow them on Instagram (@sevenmileflyshop) and on Facebook (Seven Mile Fly Shop). The phone number is 305-440-3406.