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Free Fly Fishing Expo offered for community

December 28, 2016
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander


An expo geared around fly fishing will be held in Fort Myers full of demonstrations and lessons to show the community what the sport has to offer.

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Joe Mahler taught Brooke Linn how to fly fish during a fly fishing course offered last year at the Sanibel Sea School.


The first ever Fly Fishing Expo will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 5, in the Canterbury School gymnasium, 8141 College Parkway. The expo is a joint partnership between the Sanibel Fly Fishers, Sanibel Sea School and Canterbury School.

"What we would like to do is introduce more people into the sport of fly fishing," Dr. Bruce Neill, executive director and co-founder of the Sanibel Sea School said, who is also a member of the Sanibel Fly Fishers club.

Sanibel Fly Fishers President Doug Greene said they are also interested in attracting the younger crowd of both men and women who enjoy fishing.

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"Most of the members in the club are in their 60s, or 70s, and 20 years from now there are not going to be very many left. So, to perpetuate the club, we want to get younger people involved," he said.

The expo will feature two casting instructors doing demonstrations and fly casting lessons, three people tying flies and giving demonstrations, as well as tables for Captains for Clean Water, Sanibel Sea School, Sanibel Fly Fishers, Norm Zeigler's Fly Shop and Clear Your Gear.

"It is really designed to afford people an introduction to fly fishing, at no cost," Neill said. "It is really designed so that you come in and learn the mechanics of how to cast a fly rod and you learn the mechanics of how to tie flies."

The expo is also great for those who are experienced fly fishermen because they can converse with other fly fishermen about their techniques, how they tie a fly.

"It is really an opportunity for the greater community to come and learn about and enjoy fly fishing," Neill said.

The expo will also feature Joellen Wilson of the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, who will speak about juvenile tarpon habitat.

Pizza and soda will also be available for $1 donation each.

Door prizes will also be among the festivities - complete with a fly fishing rod, reel and line. The door prizes will also include such items as flies and clothing from the Sanibel Fly Fishers.

"We also have several members that are tying flies to give away for people who register at the front door. Admission is free, but we want to capture the information about the people because we are trying to understand why they came and where they are from," Greene said.

Neill said the Sanibel Fly Fishers and the Sanibel Sea School have a mission overlap.

"The Sanibel Fly Fishers is interested in promoting marine education, marine conservation. The Sanibel Sea School promotes marine conservation through experiential education. The Sanibel Fly Fishers promote marine conservation through fly fishing," he said. "The idea is that through different ways people access the ocean. All those people that have an interest in the ocean, we all ought to help become better stewards of the ocean."

Many of the staff, either former, or current are fly fisher folks, Neill said of those who work at the Sanibel Sea School. He said they personally enjoy fly fishing.

"Fly fishing is a really interesting sport. For fishing standards, the most intimate way you can connect a human and a fish," Neill said.

Greene learned how to fly fish when he was 12 years old in Northeast Ohio - all because his friend, now brother-in-law of more than 50 years, received a Shakespeare Wonderod fiberglass fly rod for a birthday present.

"We went out to the creek behind his house and taught ourselves how to use it," he said. "I've been fly fishing pretty much ever since."

Throughout the years, he said the sport has kept his interest because "there is a lot of beautiful country to see."

Greene and his wife fly fish together, which has brought them all over the country and Canada exposing them to different scenery, fish and fly fishing techniques. In 2000, Florida was added to the list when the couple began wintering in the area.

"I go out 300 mornings a year," Greene said about fly fishing predominately on Sanibel. "The fish and bait fish can be anywhere along the beach."

After a career of 30 years sitting in offices, airplanes, hotels and conference rooms, the simple joy of being outdoors is what Greene enjoys about fly fishing.

The strong, rich history of fly fishing originated in fresh water until recently when it was introduced in salt water.

"In a fly fishing line it has a weight throughout the whole line, so the weight of the line is what is moving the hook and that is why you are casting back and forth. You are letting out a little more of a line every time," Neill said. "For many of us, one of the most joyful parts about fly fishing is we are out there trying to perfect our casts."

Many instructors have told Neill that women tend to do better at initial fly casting than men because casting a fly rod is 99 percent movement and one percent power. He said the sport is all about finesse.

Another component of fly fishing that many enjoy is creating their own ties. Such material as feathers and hair are thread and tied onto a hook to create a lure, a fly.

"Many fly fishermen spend their evenings tying flies. They are thinking about, okay what if I tie this piece of fur here. How can I put my mind into a fish's head? What would I create out of this material that would be attractive to a fish," Neill said. "Almost all, but not all, fly fisher folks are catch and release. It's really about the art of fly fishing and not about putting the fish in the freezer."

Greene said he ties a lot of flies at his house in the evening, as well as when he works one day a week at Zeigler's Fly Shop.

"I tie several thousand a year for the shop," he said. "I only tie about a dozen different patterns."

Fly fishing, Neill said is a wonderful way to engage in the ocean.

"One of the secrets to fishing in general, but certainly in fly fishing, is finding the fish," he said. "Finding the fish means now you have to understand the ocean. Fish aren't randomly distributed in the ocean. Just because there is a parking lot next to the ocean, doesn't mean that ocean is a good place to fish. On the beaches of Sanibel a lot of us in the summer time are looking for one fish. Then you fish to that fish. You are throwing a fly out to that particular fish."

Greene said the Sanibel Fly Fishers club meets the first Thursday of every month, October through May, at 6 p.m., at the Sanibel Public Library conference room. Currently there are more than 200 members, 50 of which on average attend the meeting.

It began in 2001 and was founded by Norm Zeigler, Dick White and Dave Ford in Zeigler's living room. The nonprofit member organization, which focuses on education and conservation, is the local extension of the Federation of Fly Fishers, Inc.



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