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Fly fishing expert casts line into retailing

By Staff | Apr 6, 2009

It’s Tuesday afternoon and Norm Zeigler is already counting the days until Saturday. That’s because the longtime Sanibel resident, a noted outdoors journalist and fly fishing expert, will be hosting the grand opening of his business – Norm Zeigler’s Fly, Bait & Tackle Shop – that day.

“I came up with the idea (for the shop) about five or six months ago,” he said. “Then I started doing calculations to see if the idea was viable.”

Zeigler, who along with fellow anglers Dick White and Dave Ford came up with the idea to form the Sanibel Fly Fishers Club, had felt the need for a local fly fishing business which didn’t require islanders or visitors to leave the island for their specialty equipment needs.

“Fly fisherman out here don’t want to drive all the way out to Fort Myers to find what they’re looking for,” he added. “And this isn’t going to be just a place to spend your money. It’ll be a place where you can meet with your fishing friends or meet new ones. You can sit down on our couch or one of our chairs and watch fishing videos, sip on a cup of coffee and enjoy the camaraderie.”

An avid outdoorsman, Zeigler began his career as a journalist writing for such publications as The New York Times, Gray’s Sporting Journal, European Stars and Stripes, Saltwater Fly Fishing, Florida Sportsman and Der Fliegenfischer. While he was living in Germany, he was bitten by a tick and contracted Lyme disease.

“My doctor told me that I had to move somewhere where the air was clean and there were no winters,” Zeigler said. “So I moved to Sanibel.”

The self-taught fly fisherman explained that the radical move across the globe was very fortuitous because he soon discovered some of the best saltwater fly fishing he had ever experienced.

“Sometimes, good things can come out of a bad thing,” he added.

Zeigler recalled that once he started fly fishing the island’s local waters, he was amazed at the size and variety of fish species and that, when “blindcasting,” the results are oftentimes surprising.

“You never really know what you’re going to catch,” said the angler, who enjoys the sport between three and five times each week. “My favorite is snook, and off of Sanibel you’ll find some of the best snook fishing anywhere.”

Norm Zeigler’s Fly, Bait & Tackle Shop will feature everything an amateur or expert fly fisherman would need, including rods and reels, line, flies and fly-tying gear. They will also offer spinning bait and tackle. The inventor of the popular snook fly – “Norm’s Crystal Schminnow,” which is a cross between a shrimp and a minnow – Zeigler plans on conducting fly-tying classes at the shop and, if somebody purchases an entire fly fishing outfit, he will give them a personal casting lesson on site.

Visitors and residents are invited to attend the grand opening of the business this Saturday, April 4 from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. The shop has top quality fly fishing products, including rods, reels, clothing, books, DVDs and accessories from manufacturers like Sage, Redington, Rio, Flying Fisherman, Umpqua and Wapsi. Activities will include fly-tying, gear-rigging and casting instruction for those requesting it. Autographed copies of both of Norm’s books – “Rivers Of Shadow, Rivers Of Sun: A Fly Fisher’s European Journal” and “Snook On A Fly” – will also be available for purchase.

All Sanibel Fly Fishers Club and Sanibel Fishing Club members are eligible for a 10 percent discount on purchases. Customers whose purchases total more than $100 (before tax) will receive a voucher for a free gourmet coffee from The Sanibel Bean.

“Fly fishing is about a lot more than fishing… it’s about the people you spend time with,” Zeigler said. “We want this to be a place where people feel comfortable in, a place to meet other fly fishers and make a few new friends, too.”

Norm Zeigler’s Fly, Bait & Tackle Shop is located at 2242 Periwinkle Way, Unit 1. For more information, call 472-6868.