For our April/May 2012 story on Ted Juracsik (The Man Who Changed Fly Fishing Forever), we sent Los Angeles-based photographer Joe Pugliese to south Florida to photograph Juracsik, his reels, and his favorite fishing spots.
Here is his story:
I was traveling for other shoots right up to the day before I flew to Florida and had to take a redeye flight from LAX-MIA, which I usually try to avoid. After landing, the warm Florida sun greeted me as I picked up the rental car and headed west toward the Everglades. It felt like vacation, and I only carried a couple cameras with me for the job. No lights, no flash, no tripods, not even a fold-up reflector. I was so excited to get there and see what this story was all about. I first stopped for snacks and bug spray as I made my way toward the west coast of Florida. I had never been to this part of the country, and I was blown away by the air and the light, and the beautiful landscape.
After a few wrong turns I made it onto Chokolsokee Island, which sits on a tiny strip of land with a few restaurants and small streets with houses next to the water. I was greeted warmly by Ted Juracsik, and he invited me to head over to the guest house next door to get comfortable. It was so still and peaceful on the island, and after settling in I got my gear in order and headed over to meet Ted again to start the day.
Ted and I got along immediately. He has a comforting and calm way about him, and seemed excited to show someone his corner of the world. Going into the shoot I was hesitant because I am not a fisherman and my time spent on boats has been limited to say the least. Ted made me feel right at home and happily answered all my questions about the world of ocean fly fishing.
The first day was spent cruising through the Everglades on Ted’s small outboard motor boat. The fish weren’t biting much, but it didn’t bother me because it meant that I would see more of the area as Ted looked for a good spot to fish. It turned out to be a great introduction to the park for me I was amazed by the diversity of wildlife there, with everything from alligators to pelicans constantly making appearances.
That afternoon Ted picked up some amazingly fresh stone crab, and we had a great meal. He told great stories and filled me in on his incredible life story and the history of the Everglades.
On day two we started at dawn, and the light coming up over the water yielded such gorgeous scenes, a real treat to get to photograph. We spent the rest of the morning and mid-day on the water again, and Ted was able to catch some of the elusive fish. Later he showed me around the shop at his home on the island, where he can design, fabricate, and tinker with his beautiful inventions. The reels seemed like works of art to me, and I was impressed by Ted’s devotion and love of the craft.
As I headed back to Miami for my flight home, I knew I had just experienced an extremely rare gift for a photographer: an assignment that not only gave me the chance to take beautiful images but also to meet and spend time with a truly unique and wonderful person, in an unforgettable and foreign place. For photographers, these are the shoots we dream of.