bassDrake Magazine Back Issue Content 2012Drake Magazine Back Issue Content Winter 2012Lodges, Outfitters, and GuidesU.S. placesCity Limits: Orlando, Florida

City Limits: Orlando, Florida

Sneaking onto a golf course to catch a few unguarded bass is one of the most time-honored traditions in flyfishing, especially if you’re a golfer. Who among us hasn’t walked down some random Sun Belt fairway (or rough, more likely) only to peer upon a hungry four-pounder lurking in a water hazard along the way? What a waste, right?

“I shall return under cover of darkness and subdue said largemouth,” the tougher, more rebellious version of you says to yourself.

But what if you didn’t have to sneak? Ninety-acre Shingle Pond serves as a looming water hazard on the Greg Norman-designed Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes Golf Club, in Orlando. It also doubles as home to the resort’s flyfishing operation, run by former Bass Pro Shops employee and fanatical fly fisher, Michael Hawkins.

As an angler, Hawkins was well aware of every flyfisher’s inability to walk past water without looking in. But unlike so many otherwise worthy golf course employees, Hawkins helped convince Orlando Grande Lakes management to do something about it. The resort teamed up with G. Loomis for rental rods, and bought five Hyde Pro Series drift boats to float around on Shingle and other resort ponds.

“We probably own the only drift boats in Florida,” Hawkins said as we made our way down to the dock. “But they make it a much more comfortable, enjoyable experience for our guests.”

Not only were we able to find a few willing largemouths—even in mid-February—alongside Grande Lake’s impeccable fairways, but Hawkins also has access to nearby Shingle Creek, the northernmost headwaters of the Everglades. The creek offers a totally different Spanish-moss-covered environment that a bird-watching spouse might enjoy, even if you’re the only one who’s into fishing. After lunch in the clubhouse, we put kayaks on the creek and found bigger bass, a small pickerel, and a family of gators sunning themselves.

Here’s one of the great things about Orlando: like Vegas, almost everyone gets there eventually. Disney World. Sea World. Weddings. Business conventions. If you’re lucky enough to get sent down on a corporate dime, then take an extended coffee break one morning. Grande Lakes is less than 12 miles from Disney World, and less than three miles from Sea World, so take the 10-minute drive and go throw poppers for a couple hours. (The resort offers two- and three-hour trips, for those who can’t get away for an entire day.) Even if the nightly price at a Ritz-Carlton is a bit beyond your range (as it was for me), you can still grab a nearby hotel—there are hundreds—and come by for a day of fishing only.

While on the water, Hawkins told me that the flyfishing operation at Grande Lakes is one of the more profitable activities at the resort. Not in terms of overall dollars of course, but in terms of profit margin. It seems flyfishing pros charge a bit less than golf pros, and the upkeep costs are considerably less.

So why don’t more golf courses offer flyfishing as an option? Who knows. But as another largemouth inhaled one of Hawkins’ custom deerhair Clousers, I was glad I’d stumbled across at least one that did.

More On This Topic

+ posts

Tom Bie is the founder, editor, and publisher of The Drake. He started the magazine in 1998 as an annual newsprint publication based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then moved it to Steamboat, Colorado (1999), Boulder, Colorado (2001), and San Clemente, California (2004), as he took jobs as managing editor at Paddler, Senior Editor at Skiing, and Editor-in-Chief at Powder, respectively. Tom and The Drake are now both based in Denver, Colorado, where The Drake is finally all grows up(Swingers, 1996) to a quarterly magazine.


  1. Nice article! I’ll be staying in Grande Lakes this May and saw “Fly fishing on the golf course lakes in Hyde Drift Boats.” and was wondering what would be up with this.Thanks for the Shingle Creek tip because that sounds like my idea of fun. Now I’m really looking forward to it!

  2. Golfers are notorious fishermen. I guess they can scope out the lakes on golf courses they play for after hour activities. I suspect that most courses would not mind fishermen along water hazards as long as liability is not a problem, so I bet adults only could receive permission to “test the waters.” Courses may find a new source of revenue like shown above.

  3. I heard from a friend who goes on those trips that Mr. Hawkins is no longer there. Very sad since he seemed to really know what he was doing. They said the last trip didn’t go well. So sad since people are paying big money for those trips.

  4. Mike Hawkins did not come up with this idea. I founded this operation around 2007 and built it up from a golf cart to a fly shop, kayak eco tours and at one time we had an ORVIS school as well. I am only mentioning this because I just read another article about a guy in central florida who “invented” drift boat fly fishing in florida………well Mr. Hawkins was hired by me and I did not hire the “inventor” so he stole the idea and started a guide service. It is exhausting that people can not just give credit to those people who deserve it…..but then again fisherman lie. I gave everything to that project and built it up from the ground, it is like watching someone call your child theirs. Try doing a little research before you write an article…..

  5. I’m planning on coming to grade lakes.Plan to do the fishing excursionWould I bee able to fish without going on the excursionOther daysThanksMike

  6. After reading the write up…I also realized that the writer mistakenly gave credit for the inception of ‘Outfitters’ to me, which simply is not true. Matt C. hired me and is the only person that deserves the credit. I’m only sorry that I waited so long to clear this up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment