When Capt. Lacey Kelly says she grew up in an outdoorsy family, she speaks the truth. During her youth, while most little girls her age were inside playing dress-up and having make believe tea parties, Kelly was either camo covered in the woods or standing on the deck of a skiff fine-tuning her cast net throwing skills.
With such a childhood, it should come as no surprise that Lacey gravitated towards a career as a guide. In 2005, she was licensed and began putting clients on tarpon, snook and redfish in the waters surrounding her hometown of Ft. Meyers, Florida. Guiding gave her a real sense of fish patterns as they relate to tides and moon phases. With a solid understanding of fish behavior, she upped the challenge and began focusing on fly fishing. Interestingly enough, her next big career move came about while sitting in a tree stand. Diane Bristol of Simms gave her a call and asked if she was available to participate in a photo shoot on the Belizean island of Ambergris Caye. Having never left the United States, Lacey was more than eager to accept the invite and unbeknownst to her, it would be a trip that changed her life as well as her residence.
Simms: How long have you been fishing?
Ever since I can remember. I literally grew up in the woods and have probably spent almost as much time under water as I have above. Being outside was very important to my parents. In fact, they encouraged me to not play sports because it could potentially interfere with fishing and hunting.
Simms: How did you end up in Belize?
I was sitting in a tree stand hunting whitetails in Illinois and Diane Bristol called and asked if I would be able to go to Belize. Obviously, I said yes. The goal was to catch permit, and the first time I saw that black tail, it was love at first sight. When the shoot came to an end, I decided to stay for one more day which ended up turning into two years.
Simms: So, did you get a permit during the shoot?
That’s actually why I decided to stay. Even though we had tons of great shots, we just couldn’t find one to commit, so I decided to stay for “one extra day”. I blew a couple shots but regained my composure and finally found a willing fish that ate the fly. It was definitely one of, if not the most memorable catches of my life. After that, I knew I was in trouble — I was totally addicted.
Simms: How did you keep busy while living in Belize?
I worked six days a week for Wil Flack in the Tres Pescados Fly Shop. I booked trips for clients all around Belize but primarily on Ambergris. Other than that, I did a lot of fly tying and fished every spare minute I could.
Simms: What was the best day of fishing you experienced while living in Belize?Well, that first permit was pretty hard to beat and believe it or not, it took nearly two years to catch permit number two. But, after I landed that second permit, I managed to catch two more the same day.
Simms: You say you are a permit addict — would you say that’s your favorite fish to chase?
It’s really a toss up between throwing flies at permit and tarpon. Permit drive me completely insane, I’ve only caught four on fly and have spent endless hours chasing them. Whereas tarpon and I get along most of the time. I love their explosive personalities. It never gets old. Permit on the other hand are so unpredictable that it keeps me coming back.
Simms: What’s the rest of your year look like in terms of fishing?
Before moving to Belize, I guided in Florida for seven years and as much as I love Belize, I really missed guiding. So, for now, I’m back and am working for Florida Outdoor Experience and will be back to guiding for tarpon, snook and redfish in Southwest Florida.
Simms: With all the time you spend in the sun, you obviously must have a few favorite pieces of gear. Can you tell us a little bit about the ones you are wearing the most?
I’m pretty rough on gear considering I’m a girl. If it lasts under my care, it can last under anybody’s care. From head-to-toe, I’m a Simms girl and I literally couldn’t live without my Women’s Solarflex Crewnecks, Women’s Solarflex Hoodies and SunGaiters. If I didn’t have these, I would get cooked every day. I’m also huge fan of the new Women’s Atoll Flips and the Women’s Big Sky Shirt. Picking my favorite piece would be tough but if I had to say, I would go with the Women’s Isle Pants. These are unbelievable, they are so comfortable and versatile I literally wear them every day.
Simms: Now that you’ve had your fill of time on the flats of Belize, what locales do you want to fish next?
Wow, that’s a really tough question, there’s just so many spots I want to hit. I guess if I had to say, it would be between chasing those monster Hawaii bones or giant trevally in the Seychelles. One of these days, I’ll get to both spots and I seriously can’t wait.