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Schminnow Days in June Honors Late Florida Fly Angler

Sanibel Island's Norm Zeigler is gone, but his legacy lives on through famous fly pattern and the "30 Days of Schminnow" online effort.

Schminnow Days in June Honors Late Florida Fly Angler
A fly rod and a Schminnow fly on the beach. (Photo by Lynn Burkhead)

Several years ago after the conclusion of the ICAST fishing trade show in Orlando, I stopped by Orlando Outfitters Fly Shop and looked for a few flies to tuck away into my fly box as I headed for a DIY weekend snook-fishing mission.

As I looked over the tremendous selection of flies there, a friendly voice from behind me said “May I help you?” When I turned, I saw the smiling face of Brian Eastman and responded, “I’m heading for Sanibel Island and hoping to catch a snook along the beach. Any fly box suggestions?”

Eastman plucked one off its post, and handed it to me with the admonition “Here’s Norm Zeigler’s Crystal Schminnow. It’s the only fly you’ll need.”

True to form, the next morning, I was happily confirming Eastman’s advice, hooking and landing a snook along the beach in my first half hour of fly fishing.

I thought about that experience the other day when I saw a social-media post noting the current “30 Days of the Schminnow” effort being spearheaded by a Florida fly fishing club.

Why the effort to honor Zeigler and his simple fly?

As you might recall, last month Florida Sportsman reported the sad news that renowned Sanibel Island, Fla., fly angler, author, fly-shop owner and fly designer Norm Zeigler had passed away after a lengthy battle with Parkinson's disease.

A correspondent for Stars and Stripes in Europe for many years, Zeigler was forced to return to the U.S. and seek a warmer climate after contracting lyme disease from a tick bite while on assignment. He and his family eventually settled on Sanibel Island and Zeigler thought his love of fly fishing—particularly for trout—might be water under the bridge.

Norm Zeigler's Crystal Schminnows
Many think Norm Zeigler's Crystal Schminnow is the only fly you'll need. (Photo by Lynn Burkhead)

It wasn't long, however, before Zeigler discovered that he had in fact moved to a saltwater fly-fishing paradise, especially for snook running the island's shell rich beaches each year from late spring into early fall. Eventually starting the Sanibel Fly Fishers Club in 2001 and opening up his Norm Zeigler's Fly Shop in 2009, Zeigler would also author the book "Snook on a Fly" in 2006.

But for all of that, he might be remembered most for the simple fly he designed, one that works just about anywhere. Called the Crystal Schminnow—a name combination of shrimp and minnow—the fly requires only a #2 or #4 saltwater hook, some white thread and three materials—white marabou feather plume, some pearl Estaz and black monofilament eyes. In fact, some referred to Zeigler as simply "The Schminnow Man," a tribute to how likable Norm was and how incredibly versatile his successful fly pattern was.

fly angler with snook
Does the Crystal Schminnow work? Yes, indeed. (Photo by Lynn Burkhead)

To honor Zeigler's legacy, and his simple and yet highly effective fly pattern that has caught more than 70 species worldwide at last count, the Sanibel Fly Fishers Club is holding the "30 Days of the Schminnow" online social media event June 1-30.

Using the Schminnow fly anywhere in the world, simply fish with the fly, catch a fish with it and record that catch with a clear photo of the Schminnow in the fish's mouth. Then post the photo to your own Instagram and/or Facebook account, or the Sanibel Fly Fishers Facebook page (if you're a member of that private group) along with the hashtag #Schminnowdays24.

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If you’re not into the social-media game, you can also e-mail the club at Sanibelff@gmail.com and send your photo along.

Either way, be sure to include your name, the species of fish caught, where it was caught and the date. Organizers also encourage comments and stories about Norm Zeigler, a fly angler who always had a smile on his face and a willingness to help out people as they walked the beaches of Sanibel Island.

“30 Days of the Schminnow” flyer
“30 Days of the Schminnow”

Already, catches of plenty of saltwater species, along with other species like smallmouth bass and trout have been contributed to the legacy effort. The Sanibel Fly Fishers Club plans to gather all of the photos together in July 2024 and publish and share them so that the world can know what a great fly angler and friend Norm was, and how effective his simple fly pattern can be.

The fly is amazingly simple, so much so that it brings to mind another renowned fly pattern that works on all kinds of species swimming in freshwater and saltwater spots all across the world. That fly, of course, is the legendary Clouser Minnow, originated by Hall of Famer Bob Clouser, who lived in Pennsylvania for many years and ran a fly shop in the smallmouth bass- and trout-rich waters found in the Keystone State. 

Clouser’s minnow is amazingly sparse in its own fly design too, has caught countless fish all over the world, and continues to be the signature pattern for Clouser, who now lives seasonally near Cocoa Beach, Fla.

If you’re interested in participating in the “30 Days of the Schminnow,” you need a supply of Schminnow flies to participate. You can elect to tie them yourself thanks to several YouTube how-to videos, including or the easy to follow tying instructions provided by Orlando Outfitters

Crystal Schminnow fly
Photo by Lynn Burkhead

A testament to just how effective this fly pattern is might be reflected in how many fly shops carry it at outside of Florida. To that end, you can also purchase the fly at fly shops like Brian Fleschig's Mad River Outfitters in Columbus, Ohio, Motor City Anglers in West Bloomfield Township, Mich., and Chicago Fly Fishing Outfitters to name a few.

If you live in Florida or plan to head there this month, numerous fly shops around the state carry the fly since it works on snook, redfish, tarpon and largemouth bass among other species in both fresh and saltwater venues. In fact, just the other day, someone posted that when the Crystal Schminnow is tied in a little bit smaller size, the fly also works great for the state's bluegills, redears and other panfish species.

A great place to buy the fly is Sanibel Fly Outfitters, the shop formerly owned by Zeigler, and one that has recently reopened after Hurricane Ian devastated Sanibel in the fall of 2022. As the shop and coastal community recovers from the Category 4 storm, I'd encourage you to stop by and buy a handful of Schminnow flies from Capt. Whitney Jones’ Sanibel Fly Outfitters that reopened only a few weeks ago. If you don’t live nearby, give them a call at (239) 966-5065 and they can help you secure a supply of Norm’s favorite fly.

After that, get out there somewhere this month and go fishing with the Crystal Schminnow fly to honor the late Norm Zeigler and to add to the list of species caught by his simple fly. 

Whether you're targeting snook at Sanibel's beaches, redfish in J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island's backside, or even targeting tarpon on the fly somehwere along the state's southwestern coastline and down in the Keys, casting a Crystal Schminnow fly is a great way to spend the first few days of summertime in the Sunshine State, don’t you think?




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