By Cameron Hughes
I have fished with guides all over the world. I have used kayak fishing guides as often as possible. Kayak fishing has kind of become “my thing.” I have a pretty good idea what I am getting in each scenario. One stands out above all the other options. Neil Taylor with Strike Three Kayak Fishing.
From the overall experience to the exact instruction, this is the best value of any money I have spent taking fishing trips with guides. Neil is in fact “a teacher.” He is not only a teacher, he evaluates your existing skills and builds on your best skills, adding in things you don’t possess or know. That is the blueprint of a master instructor. What I didn’t realize I was going to take away from it: I am better at planning my fishing trips than I have ever been in my life, entirely because of his instruction.
He also won out because he is the only one who returned my call (which he did in under an hour). Two other people in the business, I left messages. I sent emails. I never heard a thing back.
The knowledge he has for a charter is precise. Example, he said “This next spot is only five yards wide.” We got there and I made a cast. He said “That won’t get it done. It’s to the right.” The next cast a fish. The next cast a fish. The next cast back in the wrong spot: Nothing. He said “Move it back.” I cast back in there and yet another fish, this one the biggest of the day. I asked him about it and he said “I know every inch of this water. Every hole, every depth change. If you lived here, if you learn the same things, you find the fish.” And that’s true no matter where you live.
Fishing from a kayak, which I have done for many years, Neil has an expertise like no other I have ever seen. His philosophy “fishing from a seated position” he can tell you ways of doing things that not only make it easier, it leads to better results because you spend more time fishing. In a roundabout way, he showed me that is the big picture. “Spend more time fishing, less time doing anything else and you will catch more than the next guy.” So simple, but entirely true.
I was flattened by how much I learned on one outing with Neil. So impressed, I decided to reward him by booking him for another trip. What I didn’t anticipate: The lessons continue. He builds on what he taught you the first time. It was a second great investment in my fishing skills. I was actually naive about how little I knew (after both trips). Most of it very intuitive, straightforward stuff, he has a way of making it meaningful to the end user. I am ten times the fisherman I was before I went fishing with Neil. It makes me wonder what I would know if I went out a third time?
It is entertainment on top of the value of the fishing instruction and catching. Neil has a lot to say about the fishery, the science, the politics and there is no doubt he takes all things connected to the fishing world very seriously. I made him talk in more detail about his challenges to the state on resource management. He is tenacious. He brought them to the table. He makes them listen. He brought the others in the industry together for support of their objectives. We need more people like this guy, everywhere. Neil convinced me: The powers that be have made the mistake of not asking for any input on resource management decisions. Neil’s heavy topic was snook. The other guide I use in Florida says “Neil Taylor had them beat. He still has them beat. It is almost 8 years later and our snook fishery is struggling. It wouldn’t be that way if they listened to what Neil and all of the rest of us had to say.” Neil cares. Neil wants things to work the best they can. There really is nothing else more involved than that.
I had the idea for writing this article, I asked Neil first and he (reluctantly) agreed to an interview. He played it down: “Fishing is pretty simple. Not everyone is good at it. I can take a look at someone and know what changes they need to make to get better at it. It is something most people could figure out if they put the time and effort into it themselves. Or they can cut the effort and time out and let me work with them on it.” He is humble for a guy who is at the top of his profession. But he knows the value of what he offers.
Getting to know the man has been interesting. He has been willing to talk to me away from the fishing, something his other clients I talked to say is a trend. He supports his clients better than others in the business. He wants you to succeed when you go back out on your own, no matter where you live. He spent at least an hour helping teach me how to learn a new knot.
On charters, Neil said “Your outings with me are usually going to be solid. I know where to go and when to be there. Your challenge if you make this your hobby: Can you get into the same conditions? The catching, I have already taught you how to do it. Can you find the fish?” Neil claims the average guy spends 70% of their time in the wrong locations. That is possibly also happening everywhere that people are fishing.
I thank Neil for allowing me to do this article. He doesn’t need the help getting business. He does however, earn the respect of those who cross his path. It was worth it to me to express just how much Neil’s services have meant to my own life. He not only made me better at the sport, he taught me to appreciate the beauty in the sport, something no one else has ever really done for me. Being on his newsletters, I get all the up-to-date information that Neil possesses.
Neil’s original profession: Pro baseball umpire. Before I even went out the first time with Neil, I met a guy: A former umpire who worked with Neil almost the identical years in pro ball. The guy said “The only thing I could imagine Neil being better at than being an umpire would be Neil as a fishing guide. Neil was all about our profession. He probably takes his fishing with the same seriousness.”
How it all started for Neil in fishing: He had no shyness talking about it. Fishing was “in the family.” His father, when he got time to spend with the family, took the four boys to fishing opportunities. “We all liked it. I probably made it a hobby more than any of the other guys. My father, fishing was an activity we did together until just recently when my father discontinued traveling.” He also said “Before fishing was my profession, it was a serious hobby. A challenge. As with everything else I have pursued in life, the goal was to be the best at it.”
When my son gets old enough, bet on it: I’ll be taking him out with Neil.
Neil is an outdoor writer, speaker, radio show host, tournament director and web site owner. All things fishing Tampa Bay, Neil is an advocate for responsible practices to preserve what we have for everyone to still enjoy in the future.