Eleven and a half years on the water as a guide. Years more than that connected to the fishing world: Observations are interesting. I was asked some questions recently that got me talking. And it got me thinking. Six hours a day, 280 days per year for twelve years. It is really a totally all encompassing thing. I have sponsors. Everything I use. My impact on these companies, I haven’t had to pay for any fishing gear in many years. I get people to use what I use, these companies are pleased to have me using their stuff. I have always operated under the premise “these companies should make money because of me.” It works. It works for me. It definitely works for them.
I’m out of Arizona 24 years now. What will my English teacher think when she reads this one? Back to freestyle writing? Good. No good? I am at the point in my life, I don’t care what anyone thinks. I’m doing it. I’m doing whatever I want. I try to do things people like and have people happy but I can do things no one likes and I can still be happy. Sometimes that makes me more happy… If I suffer from something, it is not dishonesty. As John Callaghan said: “You have the right words but you used them in the wrong order.” Example. I told this woman “The older I get the better looking you are.” Ten people voted it down. I still think it was a nice thing to say (??????). I’m baffled. I guess you figure it out as you go. I still defend my statement. I’m outnumbered this time. All I have to say is that I don’t have that much to say.
The fishing world is an interesting subset of overall life. The things that should be a certain way but are not. The personalities. The smart. The idiotic. The internet. Anonymous people fighting. People blatantly mishandling fish. Poaching. My biggest issue: Taking over ownership of capmel.com. This was a decision by the Berman family. I demonstrated that I was preserving what Mel created. They wanted me to inherit the site.
The only downfall to it, the others on the outside who judged me for not really what I did but my attitude. My attitude was very straightforward: I didn’t care if we only had ten people left after it was all over. They were going to be the right kind of people. Capmel.com remains one of the largest fishing web sites in the world. I have rebuilt it, twice. The forums were the strength of the site eight years ago, before social media became such a big thing. Most online internet forums have faded in the past five years. Mel’s forum is still there, and does get activity sporadically, perhaps to make a comeback when people on social media realize that their friends don’t want to see their fishing photos.
The challenge of being a public figure, the anonymous people who want to start fights. Now with a background, 16 years umpiring, I never back down from a fight. I’ll tell people where they stand. A different approach, definitely would make life easier. But that’s not my way. So much of this qualifies for what I call “disappointing human behavior.” I’m a fair guy. That was my appeal as an umpire. I gave everyone a fair shot. Until you cross me. Worse yet, the people you actually do know that let you down. The campaigns. The politics. The disappointing human behavior. My credo for many years now “Leave me alone.” People want to debate it. I would like to turn my back on it. The showdowns don’t happen that often anymore.
There are some people against me. EVERY one of them is a lousy human being. Every last one of them. You make your bed, you have to sleep in it. What I have stood for: It’s good. What people have done to me: Dreadful. When I went out to become an umpire my mentor told me “the cream will always rise to the top.” It did in umpiring. It did as a fishing guide. The common theme: Most of the people who don’t like me don’t really even know me. So be it. You are upset with me? Did you ever consider that I was kidding? Never mind.
And to think, I haven’t stood up for one of my idols. Robert Edward Lee, Confederate General. Arguably one of the best people who ever stood on American soil. So, he fought for the wrong side. If all of your family was from Virginia who would you be suiting up for? Let’s tear down his statue. Why? Nevermind, that’s another article altogether. Go back to tearing stuff down. Don’t talk to me, only part of my college degree was in History.
The cream rising to the top has made more sense to me in all of life and not just umpiring. The very best will always be the very best. The losers will eventually show themselves as losers. I have been kind, I have been generous. What did that lead to? I have been mistreated. Plain and simple. How I live my life, these people cannot compare. I’m happy with myself. Everyone who matters seems relatively pleased with me.
A page turned in my life, I don’t need to be that guy anymore. Someone else can do it when it is necessary. So, you don’t like me? OK. Chances are most of you are in that category never met me. I’d have to consult others but I’d say this is your loss not mine. I’m fine if you don’t like me. The people who do like me are the only impressive ones anyway. I have some outstanding friends. The trend is towards just them and none of the other sort. A recent attempt one of these people trying to re-enter my world. Shot down. I told them “You go hang out with those people over there. You are no longer welcome here.” My friends: Nodded. It is what they want. It is what they expect me to do. I am not going to get burned twice by the same fire.
Fascinating as life is, there are things that aren’t very interesting and there are things that are amazing. There are some very impressive people in this world. There are some unsophisticated people in this world. My best friends belong in both categories. Some of the best people I have ever met. Some of the dumbest people I have ever seen. It’s both. I’m sorry if you are one of the latter, but they’re out there. I’m not going to sugarcoat it: There are some doozies. There are the living and there are those who are now gone. The past two years have been a bigger time of loss than I have ever experienced before. Some big losses. The living: Both my parents, which offsets the people who have died. My parents still alive, ultimately doing pretty well in their 80’s, that’s way better a story than anything else I could talk about. We get absorbed in our hobbies. Fishin’ isn’t that important. My father still planting his garden is important. My Mom still having fun going to church is great living. Honestly when it comes down to it: Nothing else really matters. I am thankful every day that goes by where everything is still going pretty well for them.
A week ago, I lost one of the best ones. He gave up. Four conversations with his father every one ends the same: He did what he felt he had to do. I only regret I didn’t get to show him how I do it, see if he wanted to leave where he was and come do it here with me. All water under a bridge now. This guy was the toughest guy I ever knew. Hard to believe that someone who fits that category would quit.
At a store last month, I was actually killing time in the parking lot before I went in. A guy walked up and stopped. He said “I was friends with Mel and Ginny Berman for 29 years.” He also friends with the guy that I have been helping out here in town (97 years old). He said “I look at that web site every time I think of it. Mel would have enjoyed seeing what you did. That had to be work.” It was. Mel was good to me. I think he would say I was good to him too back when he was still alive. What I have done, a lot of extra work for me but when you admire what someone did and you have a chance to save it for people to enjoy for decades more: You just do it. Site traffic is still large. Now it is more page views of fishing reports, which I post four or more new ones every day. Feature articles, mostly mine, but there are now nearly every topic that is absolutely possible posted to this site. It is a resource like no other.
If you are out there waiting for an apology, you will never get it. If you are waiting for me to say I was wrong about anything, you are going to grow very old waiting for that one. If you think you are going to mistreat me and get away with it you are also mistaken. There are people who have done it and think they have gotten away with it. What is amazing to watch and see: The people who have taken up task for me. The respect. The loyalty of some people, it is impressive. I owed someone an apology for eight years. I took care of that in 2016. Some people owe me one. But I’m not holding my breath. My generosity, if you don’t mind me saying so, it is impressive. Most people who should have been thankful for what I have done for them, they have gone another route. I won’t elaborate. Just look at how many people owe me money. My friends around who have seen all of this say the same thing: If you did that for me I would love you forever. So, there are so many people in the world who are selfish, you do what I’ve done and help people out you will have people just use you. Abuse you? That is up to you. I wouldn’t allow it. Things I’ve done people don’t understand: It has everything to do with what I will tolerate. You disrespect me: You. Are. Out. Once you are out with me. You are forever out. Just like Grandpa Taylor. From what I heard, he could hold together a grudge pretty good. It is a trait I got that I thank God I have. It must be hard to remain friends with someone who stuck it to you. I couldn’t do it. My mother just told me I need to keep doing things for people to be right in life. That is getting harder to do. Definitely moving forward some of these requests the answer is going to be “no.”
Fishing: The original point. Fishing is a personal thing. As a guide, I know what the objectives are for each client after I “interview” them long before I take them out. And there is a wide range of things people want out of it. Honestly, most people just want an enjoyable day no matter what happens out there. I think that is the beauty of what I do. That is EASY to accomplish really. The amount of natural beauty that isn’t even connected to the fishing is impressive. Success is pretty much there. Tougher in my earliest years, with what I know now it is unusual not to have some impressive things happen. I have had pretty good success going back to the beginning too but now it is so much easier with less luck necessary. If I have a day off, I’m not as likely to go fishing as I used to be, but I still do.
In all these years: Two people that I just couldn’t wait to get away from. One other client that I knew I would hate the guy well before he booked a trip. So three clients in 11 years that were just dreadful. That’s a pretty good batting average. I like to talk about the one guy. He is making a longer drive than usual, two hours. He calls that morning to say it isn’t going well with the drive. I ask where he is and he is already 2/3 of the way over here (which means he’s doing just fine). He said “I already took the whole day off so I may as well keep coming.” He gets there. The guy is just MISERABLE. It’s bad. He proceeds to have the best day of catching fish anyone has ever had. He remained miserable. He caught three world class fish. He caught another five that were bigger than anyone else had caught all year. A frown on his face the whole time. Couldn’t wait to get that guy back in his car and out of here. As I told my father after this one: I’m glad my life isn’t like his. If I had a day’s fishing like he had, I would have been hugging strangers. He has never called again. I figure he went home and probably killed the whole village…
The other end of the spectrum: The people that are happy with everything. This is more likely. A lot of people are in-between. But regularly things happen that the person that loves life, appreciates Earth, they just have to be feeling pretty good about it. We have dolphin every day. We have monster manatees almost every day. Osprey? That’s just one of a dozen cool birds to look at. I’m not personally a big bird guy but I mentioned the Osprey because they are my bird. If I could do one thing for a day: Anything, I would be an osprey. I offer “Eco Tours”. I take about one per year. I get calls every week for these. I talk people into going fishing. Or, I tell them how they can do it without me. I’m a fishing guide. I’m going to remove it as an offer actually. It’s not just the women who go ga-ga over manatees. They are impressive. Not so much for me, having seen them every day for so many years now. But for the average guy, never seen one before: Having a manatee under your kayak is a pretty interesting scenario. I had one put its head on my foot last week. 1500 pounds of weight on one leg, that was interesting.
70 pound drum? Easy. That’s how big they are. I know where they are. Catching one from your own kayak, kind of fun. My big thing,, with what I do, I teach you how to be more successful going out to do it on your own. That is really the only way I built this into a viable business. My sponsors. My clients. Just someone paying attention from a distance, they all seem to be impressed with what I have going.
“Just another year.” Fishing guides “keeping limits.” Fishing guides allowing very bad holds with the fish. Fishing guides, no respect for the resource. Fishing guides that need to disappear.
Pompano? For eight weeks every year, pompano are king. I wish it was longer. Talk about EASY. It isn’t a shame that they are better to eat than anything else we have out here. They fight like the dickens. My friends of color, they have all been there. Someone walks in and I say “Jigger. That guy is a jigger!” Do you know who thinks this is the funniest thing? I do. My friends of those origin get a kick and a half out of it. Why do I get a pass? One way or another with all of them we eventually get around to it. Sometimes it is them who brings it up. Sometimes it is me. I say “I was an umpire. That is worse than anything you have ever gone through.” Game. Set. Match. I had it pretty easy. I never had any major incidents. I really skated through my umpiring years. But being an umpire makes one “less than human.” I’ve never seen it before and I hope to never see it again. When someone else I worked with was in a jam: Guess who was right there? Everyone wanted to work with me. My last four years anyway: That was the book. You are at War on the field Neil Taylor is probably screaming at five people at once and winning. I miss that job. But I like my life better now. No one yells at me. Still rare when I have to yell at someone (though, it does happen).
Will anyone read this more than they do what I normally write? Who knows. I don’t care. This is the first in a series of “free writing”, inspired somewhat from where I was 25 years ago. I was supposed to be a writer. I screwed that up. Ended up back into it because of Fishing. Maybe I can go back to it, what I was supposed to be? Books? 1500 pages of things I have written ready to go into books… Same thing: Probably only reason that will happen is that people have said they want to read what I have to say. Horizon. Oh, I hate that editing job that is coming up.
What I didn’t cover: Being in love. That would be much longer. No one wants that.
I will go fishing five days a week or more for the rest of my life. I promise. If you don’t like me for it: OK. I can take it. If you like me: We will have some fun. That is a guarantee. We will see what happens in the next twelve years.
Neil Taylor is an outdoor writer, speaker, owner of capmel.com and Strike Three Kayak Fishing.
Strike Three Kayak Fishing
Full time kayak fishing guide, Neil was an advocate for conservation since before the time he started guiding. Outdoor writer, speaker and radio show host, Neil connected closely with Captain Mel Berman and did many positives with Mel to promote ethical angling. After Mel passed away, Neil managed www.capmel.com and eventually became that web site’s owner.