When winter dreams begin feeling like a nightmare, many Mainers start thinking of warmer climates where salty fishing, sunbathing and beach bumming turn into a high art form.

For instance, on a recent, frigid morning near Wiscasset village, my thoughts turned to tropical vacations. I was driving south along Route 1 and typical of me this time of year, started pondering a trip to the Florida Keys.

From Wiscasset, a 2,200-mile drive south along this iconic highway reaches the Keys and Seven-Mile Bridge over Bahia Honda, my favorite Keys fly-fishing spot for tarpon and bonefish, depending on the season. What a temptation that day to keep driving out of winter.

If a writer had enough time to travel this iconic highway from Maine to the Keys to gather material and photos for a book about angling along this highway or for a series of fishing articles for national magazines, the trip would produce a sure sale to someone. After all, historic highway passes a stunning variety of freshwater and saltwater fishing opportunities.

This Route 1 fishing-safari idea first hit me a few years ago. That April, Mid-coast brooks within sight of Route 1 produced sea-run brook trout for me all month, and in May, the saltwater shallows beside this highway next to Seven-Mile Bridge over Bahia Honda continued giving me magnificent sport for tarpon.

One memory from this trip on the “Bay of Honda” sticks stubbornly in my mind, too. On the first morning, my guide anchored his flats boat on the west side of Route 1 in the shadow of Seven-Mile Bridge and near a calendar-photo beach 300 yards away. Even at that early hour, the thermometer had risen into the low 80s, and a few bathers splashed in the sun.

On the first cast, a 60-pound female tarpon as bright as a silver dollar hit my fly, and the fight went my way until a hammerhead shark grabbed the fish and ate it. This predator had hit so quickly that it gave me no time to free-spool the reel, giving the hapless fish a chance to escape. Naturally, I wondered if the swimmers knew sharks lurked so close to the beach.

Salty fishing in tropical waters in winter appeals greatly to Mainers tired of snow and cold, but the outdoor-writing world gives little attention to another solid attraction for heading south.

Bright sun and verdant foliage make a winter weary soul feel young again, a truth I noticed way back in 1988. That February, the wind-chill in Belgrade Lakes hovered at 20 degrees below zero for a week, and one day during the cold snap, the wind-chill dropped to 30 below.

Orvis had just sent me a 12-weight rod, reel and line, which I was casting in thigh-deep snow on my back lawn — a quick practice session before leaving for the east coast of Costa Rica the following day.

After landing the next afternoon, I sat in the back of an open Jeep in dry, 90-degree-plus air, bouncing down a highway. Within minutes, the change rejuvenated my winter-weary soul — a new man.

The following day, an even dozen tarpon smacked my fly hard enough for a hookup, quite a start to a memorable week. I was new to tarpon then, and one rule of thumb states that a newbie will lose the first 11 tarpon before landing the 12th one. On this day, the 12-tarpon rule worked that way.

I would have landed the fourth tarpon if a bull shark hadn’t eaten the 100-pound-plus trophy just seconds before the guide reached for the leader.

When northerners head south in winter for tarpon, bonefish or permit, whether it’s the Keys, Caribbean, Costa Rica or wherever, they often hire a guide for a couple days. For many budgets, that’s all folks can afford — a taste of the sport. This strategy makes sense for anglers of modest means.

Here’s another money-saving tip:

Before a trip to the Keys, get on Internet bulletin boards and ask about flats that folks can reach by taxi or by walking from their lodging. After a day or two of learning tarpon or bonefish basics from a guide, the newcomer has more of a chance for success when fishing alone.

For instance, 15 years ago, I spent four days in the Keys with Capt. Dave Kreshpane, a guide and friend out of Marathon, who once guided fulltime in Rangeley. My trip happened to be in May because tarpon interested me, and that was one of the better months to be there. I also cast to permit, allegedly the world’s greatest target for fly rodders.

After four days with Capt. Dave, I had three additional days to fish by myself. He showed me a remote flat with knee to waist-high deep water, and each day, I hired a Cuban taxi driver with a perpetual smile. He drove me down a rough tote road, dropped me off and picked me up eight hours later. In three days, I had cracks at tarpon and saw one other angler.

Nurse sharks shared the flat. They’re allegedly harmless but strike me as one of the more hideous of the shark species. They have big heads, and instead of gliding through the water like many of the storied sharks, they wiggle their bodies like giant eels. One nurse shark as long as I am tall got around my feet, but that story is for another day.

Maybe this February, I can get to the Keys for a little angling and bicycling. Such a trip helps make spring come faster and gets rid of the winter blues.

Without a doubt, at least serious anglers should think about a trip to the southern salt in our season of long shadows and cold.