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Reel Time: You have to do your homework, son

For anglers who aren’t familiar with Andy and (son) Nicky Mill’s podcast, Mill House, you have a treat in store. I’ve watched the podcasts from the beginning but had recently not been following them. That was until a friend kept commenting on the excellent information he was getting that helped him be a better fisherman. That led me to the most recent episode with Capt. Randy Towe of Islamorada, a highly respected guide, multiple tournament winner, innovator and the owner of an Islamorada landmark, Islamorada Fishing Outfitters.

While Towe’s accomplishments and contributions to fly fishing were the theme of this podcast, Andy Mill steered the conversation to the legendary (and recently deceased) Key’s guide Capt. Billy Knowles, who was a mentor to Towe and the reason for the title, “You have to do your homework, son.” That phrase always followed any question Towe had for Knowles as he was learning the flats of the Upper Keys. Not a deflection, but an intentional lesson that paid dividends to Towe over the years.

I had been a sponge for the Mills’ interviews with the men and women who were the creators of the flies and techniques that introduced so many of today’s anglers to fly fishing for tarpon, bonefish and permit. In the episode with Towe, I was getting an appreciation of how the Mills are both preserving the legacy of these anglers while at the same time sharing the wisdom of their success with a new generation of anglers. Nothing could have been more poignant than getting that message and then relistening to the episode with Capt. Knowles.

I was fortunate to meet and fish with Andy Mill and Capt. Bob Branham at the Cheeca Lodge’s 1998 Presidential Bonefish Tournament in Islamorada. That was a fortunate introduction, via Mill, to some of the Key’s top guides, legends themselves. During the 90s through my involvement with the Florida Outdoor Writer’s Association, I was also fortunate to meet and fish with Keys guides like Nat Ragland, Dale Perez, Jose Wejebe and Stu Apte. I also had the good fortune to meet Joan Wolf, know Lefty Kreh and interview permit legend Del Brown.

What those experiences taught me was the importance of the information those men and women possess and the fact that the Mills were now preserving that legacy in these legend’s inflections and humor, and in their own words. “Do your homework, son.” Those were the words of wisdom that Towe received from Knowles, and he explains in the episode how those words made him a success. More importantly, he eulogized Knowles as the man who made him a better angler and a better man.

Thanks to the Mills, we can still see and hear Knowles tell his life story while experiencing what impact that had in Towe’s life. That’s a wonderful life lesson that resonates far beyond the flats.

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