I began my fishing when I was 5 years old with my grandfather. There was just something about watching that red and white bobber. I was literally mesmerized by it.
Of course, I fished live bait at the time. At first, I just wanted to catch a fish and I didn't care what it was. I was as thrilled by a catfish as I was anything.
Still, bluegill won a place in my heart -- especially big bluegill.
Fast forward to 1971. I moved to Florida and really began learning how to fish. Spent most of my time fishing in salt water for spotted seatrout, redfish, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, cobia, pompano and other species.
But it boils down to learning how to fish. If you can catch bluegill, you can catch most anything. Fishing is fishing. And the key, in my humble opinion, is locating fish. If you can do that, you can probably figure out a way to catch them.
I moved to Sarasota, Fla., in 1975. I took a job as the Outdoors Editor of the afternoon Sarasota Journal. I joined the morning Herald-Tribune when the afternoon paper folded in 1982. I was also the Outdoors Editor of that paper.
I'm still with the Herald-Tribune and still Outdoors Editor. I've also written for many magazines, including Florida Sportsman, Gulf Coast Angler, Fly Fishing in Salt Waters, Saltwater Fly Fishing, Paddle World and others. I've been published in the New York Times and I'm a regular writer for Florida Fishing Weekly.
It's a great job that has allowed me to fish all over with some great folks. I love to fly fish and I've caught bonefish to 14 pounds in the Florida Keys. I've caught dolphin, little tunny, cobia, barramundi, redfish, snook, spotted seatrout, pompano and other species. I'm a decent angler and feel confident in most any situation.
Three years ago, I started a business: Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing (www.kayakfishingsarasota.com). I own four kayaks and take people saltwater or freshwater fishing from Tampa Bay to the Everglades.
We usually do well. Last February, Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington caught his first redfish with me. I have a lot of fun taking people fishing.
But when I go by myself, I usually head for a local lake. And I fly fish for bluegill. I catch bass, shellcracker, stumpknocker, speckled perch, tilapia and catfish. But I fish for bluegill. The others are incidental catches.
Used to be that I would head out to a lake and cast small poppers. When the bite ended, it was time to go home. No more. I've learned that subsurface flies extend your days and increase your catch.
In fact, subsurface flies usually produce more fish.
My favorite sinking flies include my Myakka Minnow and a gold beadhead nymph on a No. 10 hook. I'll also use Wooly Buggers, scuds and variations of each.
I love to use light fly rods. I'm sponsored by Temple Fork Outfitters and I love TFO's Finesse series of rods. I own several, including 1 weight, 2 weight, 3 weight, 4 weight and 6 weight.
The 1, 2 and 3 are fine for local waters, but I leave them at home when I head to The Everglades, my favorite place to fish. Catches of 100 fish per day are very common. We catch largemouth bass, bluegill, stumpknocker, shellcracker, speckled perch, tilapia, oscar, Mayan cichlid and peacock bass.
Oscars and Mayans are bluegills on steroids. They're super strong and determined. They're why I leave the really light stuff at home. When they take a fly, their first move is to get back into the structure. Your mission is to keep them out. You wouldn't stand a chance with light tackle. And I have to beef up to 8-pound tippet on these fish.
We're lucky in Florida. I don't believe we have bluegill as large as in other areas, but, on average, they're decent. My best bluegill is a 1 pound, 4 ounces. Pound bluegill are fairly common.
Our bluegill bed from April through August. When they bed, it's pretty easy.
I target bluegill most of the time, but catch plenty of other species while doing so.
When I'm not fishing for bluegill or working at the paper, I'm either guiding folks on the saltwater or local lakes or working on a book about fishing Southwest Florida. My idea is that anyone coming to the area can read the book and be several steps ahead of the game. I've traveled to other areas and been in the dark. I want to help people.
I tie flies. I tie fairly well. I can tie a variety of saltwater flies. But I love to tie bluegill patterns because I know that when I have the time, I'll put the kayak in and I'll search for bluegill.
You can never get away. Once they're in your blood, bluegill have you hooked.