Keith was retrospective. “I was burned out,” he said. “Seven years of sweat equity, continuously working the operation to secure rights to the best locations while guiding full time wore me down. As a small operation, we worked on razor margins. It was two steps forward, three back: I got tired of the bullshit — working what I thought were exclusive destination agreements only to be sold out by interests that changed the rules after all the hard work was done. Then, Somali pirates. The business model couldn’t account for that kind of crap, so I took a break.”
We ordered another drink. “At first, I told the boys I was going to take six months off. Just relax, travel, fish on my own and recover from back surgery. I was beginning to feel whole again when Kenneth Collins, a good friend and owner of Desroches, approached me about consulting. I’d fished St. Joseph and Poivre when I was a kid. My dad brought me here 20 years ago. I knew there was potential, so I said yes. For the first time in a long while, I’m excited again about the business of fly-fishing.”
Keith became more animated. “With Desroches, I now have what I could not attain at FlyCastaway: deep financial backing without personal liability. I have the resources to acquire what it takes to make this operation run. I purchased both fast boats since I arrived, Flyer and Y Knot, a 30-foot Wellcraft Scarab; both can run from here to the atolls in less time than it takes your Panhandle tarpon guides to launch and post up on their spots.” He smiled. “And, my clients have the bonus to blue-water fly-fish at both ends of the day.”
This I can testify to: Keith fished a client to his first bonefish on the opposite side of Poivre while Kyle and I were banging away at endless shoals of permit. And the same angler landed his first sailfish on fly later that afternoon, before we zoomed home for drinks.
Subconsciously recapping Keith’s unique business model, I got it. Yes, this resort, the fishing — both work. They complement in a way in which I was not familiar. To put things in a different perspective, I pondered the following: Until now, I’d never fished any place where I’d recommend my nonfishing spouse to come with me. Surely she could be less lonely sipping tropical punch on the beach or getting a massage here while I’m selfishly chasing flats fish merely an hour away. Right?
Then Keith flashed a wry smile, his teeth reflecting subdued light. “We closed the deal today,” he said. “Desroches Island Resort now manages Alphonse Island Resort, while we are in the purchasing transition that includes the fly-fishing company and exclusive fishing rights. I’ll be leaving for Alphonse next week to set up our acquired team for the season. I’ve got a vision to offer multiweek trips beginning next year: A week here at Desroches, then hop the commuter flight, and 35 minutes later you are on Alphonse for another week of completely different fishing.”
This was the big deal he had alluded to, and frankly, it was a huge deal.
“So, this clearly is grander than just Desroches,” I said. “Are there other properties you guys are looking at? Like Providence for instance? Cosmoledo?”
“Anything and everything is now possible, which is why I’m excited to be here,” he said. “The company, Desroches Island Resort, has the resources for us to expand. So while we are bringing Desroches on line and Alphonse into the family, in parallel we’ll continue to investigate other islands for exclusive operations.”
Keith and I had one more follow-up session on Poivre on a particularly windy day. While visibility was excellent, the tide was dead wrong, leaving us with high water until the last hour of the afternoon. Just when the permit started to push, it was time to go. We had numerous shots and an eat between us but no hook-ups. Leaving Poivre for the last time with its manhole-cover-size permit, I knew I’d be back.
Returning home to Desroches for the last time, it was my turn for introspection. “I suppose in a week’s time the weather will turn for good and you’ll moor the boats on the opposite side of Desroches.”
“Yes,” Keith said. “But don’t worry; come back next year during prime season to fish Alphonse. And bring your wife; she’ll love Desroches while we’re fishing another out-atoll.”
I’m pretty sure that comment was not a metaphor but a firm offer. Yeah, I’d love to see what Keith’s Indian Ocean fly-fishing business strategy would bring in the coming year. So I said, “Keith, I’m in!”