Fishing the keys

A Legend named Greg Poland

Time goes by quickly when you're having fun (or so 'they' say, whoever the heck 'they' are?). It has been six incredible months since David Rieumont and I started talking to Captain Greg Poland in the Florida Keys. He's the stuff that fishing dreams are made of, and has lived in the world of high-end, high-stakes tournament fishing that most of us have only read about in big national magazines, or seen on the Sunday TV shows. But underneath the delivery, the style, and the incredible level of professional guiding in the Sport Fishing Capital of the World, Greg has become a real friend. Since he's been part and parcel of the new Fishing in the Florida Keys section, we thought it was a good time to re-introduce Greg to the many people that have come aboard the deck of this fishing site in the past half-year.

Captain Greg Poland is no stranger to his Macintosh; they have an intimate relationship. This new 17" MacBook Pro is the machine Greg invested in to supply our readership with incredible content -- directly to you, live from the Fishing Capital of the World -- Islamorada-- in the Florida Keys. Along with a collection of many of his friends also in the business of professional angling, Greg will provide you a direct-connect to the blue, blue waters to our south.

I write a lot about fishing and the outdoors, and (increasingly more) about the politics of fishing. But there are two stories I love to write the most: the second favorite being the ones we call Fishy Spots. They provide our readers with actual GoogleMap locations where fish have been caught by the pros (or experienced amateurs) that contribute to the site. My favorite things I write about, though, is the people themselves. In the case of a Keys charter captain, by the name of Greg Poland, there's more than a wonderful story, but also the opportunity to connect ourselves (and fishers around the nation --and the world!) with the single most-recognized and important sport fishing locale in the world -- the Florida Keys.

A lot of people dream of being guides. The profession is every bit as exciting and rewarding as those dreams foresee. My partner's a guide -- a good one with a proven track record (and guys like Mike Cole working with him). And constantly being around and talking to the likes of Travis Palladeno, Tim Whitfield, TommyZ, Scott Moore and Steve Betz, and on and on and on gives us insight into the business -- the profession -- of successful chartering. As true as the dreams are, so too are the realities. The no-shows. The months of no income when you're building a trade -- and hopefully only slightly less disappointments and failures as successes. You don't learn when you succeed. Or catch that perfect Tarpon on that perfect fly. You learn when you miss the world's record. Or miss first place for timing and nothing more. Poland knows. Ever hear the saying "Been There, Done That. Got the T-Shirt"?

Poland has the T-shirts.

It took three tries to get the list of tournaments the guy's been involved in (in one way or another; always in the money somehow). They include the Dell Brown Permit Fly Tournament. This tournament, one of only two Permit fly tournaments in the world, is coupled with another that Greg enjoyed as runner up: The March Merken Permit Tournament. Together with long-time friend Doctor Bob Bane, he's been Grand Champion Angler in the Islamorada Sailfish Fly Tournament. Him and his anglers have taken The Woman's World Invitational Tarpon Fly Tournament, The Seamaster Super Fly Tournament, The Gold Cup Tarpon Tournament, and was runner-up in The Islamorada Bonefish World Championship. Along with all of those, on multiple occassions Greg's put anglers in championship position in The Don Hawley Tarpon Fly Tournament in the sixteen pound range. The series includes the Slam, the Bay Bone, and the Redbone. Greg said that there are a few tournaments that really count, and if you read his list, there aren't many he hasn't been involved in at the highest levels the sport offers.

Poland's life story is one that's tough to tell in a single article; high seas and high adventures came along with tournament wins like this one being delivered at the IGFA Championship Dinner. It's the Del Brown Fly Tournament (for biggest Permit). The permit we catch here on nearshore wrecks pale in comparison to these; often taken in inches of gin clear water. Try that with a flyrod. Greg's boat took 6 big permit in a 3-day period on flies in verrrry skinny water.

The guy on the left you might recognize; it's famed sportsman Mark Sosen. The man on the right once met a 10-year old Greg Poland and helped him learn to toss a fly. Greg had chosen his line because the spinning-gear casting lessons were already packed up. Steve Huff -- here being given the most prestigious of all the awards; Induction into the IGFA Hall of Fame -- was the guy who took a liking to the kid named Greg. To replace the Hula-hoops being used by the over-crowded collection of spinning-tackle-bound fishers, Huff built a circle from some line he had in the truck. Two decades later that same kid named Greg would be competing in tournaments like the Redbone Series, the Dell Brown Permit Fly Tournament, the Islamorada World Championship Bonefish Tournament, and many many more. Top among tourment champions the Keys has ever produced, Poland obviously learned something from this man who became one of his fishing mentors as he grew older, but not up.

Greg's been part of the story of TheOnlineFisherman.com for months now, and all of us -- me, Rieumont, Anderson, and others -- have come to know the guy underneath the tournament wins. But every bone in the guy is a fisherman. If Greg wasn't one of the Keys' most successful and well-known guides, he would still be the same kid he started out as. Sitting on the back of his family's houseboat in the residential canals of a once-upon-a-time Miami, with a fishing rod, thoughts of snook dinner, and the dreams a young boy never loses. If he's smart when he grows older.

There are words to an old Jimmy Buffet song that say "I'm growing older but not up" that applies to Poland in a lot of ways. One of the nation's leading professional charter captains hasn't pulled this kid out of him. The excitement includes sailfish caught using only hair, feathers, and incredible casting skills, but the seriousness and intention to catch that fish hasn't changed a bit in all those years. Intensity is something he shares with all the pros, and teaches to the 'interns' he attempts to help. This was on the back of the family houseboat docked in the Miami River, which runs right through downtown Miami proper.

Greg is going to lead the launch of a Florida Keys version of this magazine. With his experience, he brings that intensity of professionalism, a love for fishing, and friends like Captain's Mark Schmidt, and Alex Adler -- guys you will be learning a lot about in the coming weeks and months. You've begun to see reports coming in from Captain Schmidt, and part of Captain Greg's role in the adventure is working with Alex to 'computerize' him. Greg himself is quite computer literate, and produces a quality of fishing video that is outstanding in its own right. The quality of the content -- both written and media-based -- you can expect from the birth of a Florida Key's edition of our daily magazine will be truly professional.

From the

 Captain Greg Poland Video Collection

for The Online Fisherman

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YarT6elRXCc

This is only one of the dozens of professional-quality videos that Greg routinely produces in his home in Islamorada Florida. Do a Search for Greg Poland on YouTube to get an idea of what Greg's clients get to experience on one of his two boats. He keeps a new Chittum skiff for inshore and a second for the reef-side of life. Greg routinely puts clients on every species you dream of in any given seven-day period. You should consider fishing with him for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Right now it's an incredible sailfish bite -- but seasons and species do change in the Keys.

When I say that Poland's story can't be told in a single article, you can take, for example, Hemmingway. There's a reason Hemmingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea. He had fishing in his blood. I'm reading a book right now -- written by Ernest's son -- about the impact fishing had on his father's life. What the hell does Greg have to do with Hemmingway? Passion. It's what brought a young charter captain from the Keys -- a guy that sometimes stayed in a guest room with a record holder named Captain Mark Schimdt -- to Cuba.

To fish with the guy who chartered for Pappa. A guy named Fuentes. Pappa's guide. Greg had to meet him. Had to fish with him. Had to -- in many ways -- learn from him what it took to be the guide that service the likes of a drunken writer named Hemmingway.

See the painting in the back of Greg and Captain Fuentes? The Pappa that wrote a book called "Old Man and the Sea" among a few others. Whatever you might think of the guy, he wrote fishing stories as if he had it in his blood. Because he did.

Greg fishes a lot; although the past two years have been tough on everybody -- the best included -- fishing more than 200 days a year with the likes of the president, rock stars, and kids and their dads (and perhaps a t-backed porn star at times?) isn't out of reach for guides the likes of Poland. Especially delivering the kind of fishery our Keys provide.

This is one of the Bush guys from Texas. They all like fishing from what we hear. All politics aside, it has to be fun to fish with the actual President of the United States. Having FBI experience -- for another story -- might have helped clear Poland with Secret Service.