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Renowned Sanibel fisherman succumbs to Parkinson’s disease

Norm Zeigler had no secret fishing spots. The inventor of probably the most used flies within the history of fly fishing, Zeigler was known for sharing his wealth of fishing knowledge in a sport often perceived as an exclusive pursuit for the rich and retired. The renowned angler and businessman from Sanibel Island passed away early Monday at his partially rebuilt home on the island attributable to complications related to Parkinson’s.

Born on July 10, 1948, on Cape Cod, Zeigler, aged 75, spent most of his life working as a travel and outdoors author and editor. Locally, he was hailed because the pioneer and major proponent of fly fishing for snook, particularly from beaches like those found on Sanibel Island.

“He was so kind and big-hearted, and that is why he was so successful,” said his wife of 39 years, Libby Grimm. “He believed in sharing knowledge quite than keeping secret spots, even before he opened the fly shop.”

Zeigler is survived by Libby, their son Travis Zeigler of Sanibel, daughter Katrina Sherman (Hunter), three grandchildren from Austin, Texas, a sister, three brothers, and various nieces and nephews.

Working as an outdoors and travel author and editor for Stars and Stripes, a military publication based in Germany, Zeigler traversed much of Europe, exploring and fishing in a few of the most picturesque landscapes the continent had to supply.

Diagnosed with Lyme disease, in 1994, his doctor really helpful a move to a region like Florida for its temperate climate and clean air. Upon relocating, Zeigler discovered a brand new passion for snook fishing from the beach, leading him to jot down a pioneering book that revolutionized the fly fishing industry by emphasizing self-guided angling experiences.

Norm Zeigler’s Fly Shop opened in 2009 on Periwinkle Drive, becoming a hub for fly fishing enthusiasts and provoking a brand new generation of guides in Lee County. In 2021, Zeigler sold the shop after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

“He was so sick that he would solid from the beach, after which he realized he could catch snook from there,” Libby said. “He wrote a book that modified the industry since it made fly fishing accessible without the necessity for expensive guides.”

Daniel Andrews, co-founder of Captains for Clean Water, worked at Zeigler’s fly shop in his teenage years. He described Zeigler as an advocate for fly fishing who worked tirelessly to interrupt down economic barriers to the game, making it more accessible to everyone.

“He was incredibly empowering to people: Anyone could pick up a fly rod with no need the fanciest equipment,” Andrews stated. “Norm worked to remove boundaries and connect individuals with nature.”

Long-time friend and fellow fly fisherman Bob Brooks mentioned that Zeigler’s shop played a vital role in initiating a novel fishery on Sanibel Island. Zeigler’s progressive approach in writing about his fishing techniques, similar to developing the Schminnow fly, attracted anglers to Sanibel, creating an enduring impact on the local angling community.

Zeigler was featured in a recent article on Flyfisherman.com, commemorating his legacy and contributions to the Southwest Florida fishing scene. His dedication and keenness for fly fishing helped popularize beach fly fishing within the region, influencing anglers like Captan atast Watekeeper and fishing guide Codty Pierce.

“He really paved the best way for normal people to experience tropical game fish sight fishing on Sanibel Island,” Pierce mentioned. “His efforts not only expanded his business but in addition inspired casting lessons and community involvement through the Sanibel Fly Club.”

Despite battling various health issues, including Lyme disease, prostate cancer, and Parkinson’s, Zeigler’s love for fly fishing remained unwavering. His legacy continues to encourage anglers worldwide to understand the peace and connection to nature that fishing provides.

Donations in Norm’s memory may be made to Captains for Clean Water or Parkinson’s research organizations. A memorial service honoring Zeigler’s life is planned for late fall on Sanibel Island, as per Libby’s announcement.

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