One of the best things about outdoor adventures is that you can choose to do them on your own or with hand-picked companions. A lot of mine are solo and on the fly — an hour of roadside fishing on the way to or from wherever, a snake-hunting lap around the neighborhood before going to bed, chasing bugs with a camera during a break in my day. I get a lot of enjoyment out of these mini expeditions.
But a planned trip with friends is also a lot of fun, and I am fortunate to have a few top-notch buddies for that. Let me tell you a little about one of them.
Most of you know Robert Lugiewicz as the guy to talk to at Fishin’ Frank’s. Any of the staff in that shop will do a good job of helping you out and explaining things to you, but Robert is the pick of the litter. He’s got an encyclopedic knowledge of fishing and will happily discuss anything from the biggest big game down to the tiniest hobberdobbers (that’s Robert-speak for the little miscellaneous fish that most of us come across from time to time but can’t name).
Robert is also a regular WaterLine contributor (almost every week since September 2011) and a co-host of Radio WaterLine. He does those things partly because he likes to share his fishing ability, and partly because he knows that if he didn’t it would be near-impossible for me to replace him. That’s the kind of friend he is.
When I first met Robert back in the late ‘90s, he was not the mover and shaker of the fishing world that he is today. He was working at a mom-and-pop pet shop in Port Charlotte. Actually, our first interaction was an argument that he and my then-girlfiend (nope, that’s not a typo) got into over proper care of leopard geckos. He was right, she was wrong, neither backed down. I was annoyed at the time, but now I find the memory rather amusing.
Years later we reconnected through the tackle shop. Originally it was a working arrangement, but then we discovered that we shared a lot of interests besides fishing: Reptiles, plants, metal music, subtly insulting morons in ways they would never notice. All of that turned out to be fertile ground for a friendship.
Robert is exactly the kind of person you want in a friend. He’s thoughtful and actually cares about the people around him, unlike most people who will be sweet as pie to your face and have a knife in hand the second you turn around. He’s also the kind of guy who I know will have my back anytime, anyplace. Loyal to a fault, as they say.
I know any time I go on the water or in the field with Robert, it’s going to be a great day. That’s despite the fact that we seem to have some kind of black cloud that hangs over our joint ventures. Robert can go out and catch tarpon all day long — as long as I’m not there. I can go road cruising for reptiles and find all sorts of stuff — unless Robert comes along.
He’s also made me a lot smarter because he’s always happy to share knowledge. I’m not the only one, because he’s a natural and patient teacher. Some people like to hoard what they know, only breaking it out when they can make themselves look better (or make someone else look stupid). Robert doesn’t work that way, although he stores a lot in his head. Trying to keep up with him has me constantly researching this or that.
One of the things I envy him for is his natural people skills. I have tried hard to emulate his ability to relate to people, but it’s challenging since I’m not social by nature. Robert is just the kind of person most people just automatically like — the smart and helpful guy who remains humble and very down-to-earth. And the people who don’t like him are usually the type who look like they kick puppies.
Those of you who interact with him regularly probably know a lot of this stuff already, but what you might not know is this: His birthday is coming up this Saturday, May 16. So if you’ve relied on his help before or if he’s taught you some tricks that have helped you catch more fish, send him some birthday wishes. And if you’ve never talked with him, stop by the shop and get to know him. He’s a pretty swell guy. Happy birthday, Bob!
Contact Capt. Josh Olive at 941-276-9657 or Publisher@WaterLineWeekly.com.