Interview With Captain Willy Le
Interview with Capt. Willy Le
Bio: Vietnamese heritage, born on the island of Guam. Moved to Orlando, Florida at the age of 1 and have been fishing the East Central waters ever since with the family. Now I am a full time fly fishing guide raising my own family on the same waters I grew up fishing.
When did you first start fishing?
I started fishing the day I was old enough to hold a fishing rod and cast it by myself, so I’d say since I was around 3 years old.
What about fishing hooked you?
My family was very poor when we first moved to the United States while I was growing up along with my 4 brothers and 1 sister, so we were pretty much fishing for food on the table. That’s what my family knew how to do in Vietnam so it was more of a lifestyle for us.
What hooked me about fishing back in the day was that I could cast net some small bait fish like a pinfish or finger mullet, put it on a hook, toss it back out and trade it for a 15-20” Flounder which we cooked on an open fire right there on the bank where it was caught. I was huge into flounder fishing back then.
In another life you were a graphic designer. What series of events led to you becoming a fishing guide?
Well, I was always fascinated by anything that had to do with the Ocean and marine life. When I was in elementary school I would read Jacques Cousteau’s picture books over and over. I knew when I grew up, I wanted to do something that had to do with fishing or the ocean.
In 1996 I caught my first tailing redfish in the Mosquito Lagoon and I’ve been hooked on sight fishing ever since. I had a 10ft jon boat at the time that I would push around with a pool cleaner pole instead of a push pole, and I would take my brothers and friends around so that they could have that same awesome experience of seeing a fish tailing, making a cast to it, watching it eat, and battling the fish on light tackle that I had. I got a kick out of putting other people on fish and watching them get excited when they would hook up.
In 2004 I was working behind a computer at an Architectural/Structural Engineering firm doing AutoCad design work for residential homes. Then in 2008, right when I had just bought my Maverick HPX-T, my boss calls me into his office and tells me that he has to lay me off due to the economic crisis that hit that year. I was really bummed and it was very tough to find another job in that field, so I was trying to find any side jobs I could in the graphic design or construction field while collecting unemployment just to make my boat payments and pay my bills. One of the side gigs that I landed involved me using my boat as a camera boat to film a video with Flip Pallot and Chico Fernandez. My good friend JJ is the producer/cameraman/editor for a lot of Flips video stuff so he asked me to help out. Walker’s Cay Chronicles was one of my favorite shows growing up so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet the man himself. That was the first time I met Flip. About a year went by, and Flip and I kept in contact through email or text. One day we were talking and I just asked him what he thought about me starting my own business and guiding in the Mosquito Lagoon. His exact words to me were “Do it! I think you will be great at it!” The next day I signed up to get my captains license, took out all of my 401k from the AutoCad job and started the process of creating Native Fly Charters.
You’ve been fishing and guiding out of different MBC boats for years. Out of all of the MBC boats that you’ve fished out of, which one is your favorite?
I’ve had the HPX-T, HPX-S, and now HPX-V. I’d say for what I do, the HPX-V is my favorite. The HPX-T and HPX-S are great boats if I was just to fish in the Mosquito Lagoon or Everglades National Park, but I fish it all. From running the beaches, crossing bigger open bays, going through rough inlets, and fishing in the skinny waters.
The HPX-V is the best all around technical poling skiff that I’ve ever fished out of. It keeps myself and my anglers dry/comfortable in sloppy conditions, and still gets skinny enough to catch redfish crawling with their backs out of the water. It doesn’t get as skinny as the HPX-T and HPX-S models though. The best part about all HPX models though is how dead quiet they are on the push pole.
Why did you choose to join the MBC Family?
I did a lot of research and took advice from experienced anglers during the time I was looking to buy a technical poling skiff. I wanted something simple, light, and quiet on the pole. For years I’ve always dreamed about owning a Maverick from seeing them all over the place in the Keys when my family and I would take trips to down there every year. In 2008 I found a used HPX-T for the right price and did everything I could to get the keys to that bad boy. My prayers were answered.
If the conditions are right, where would you fish and what would you fish for? What tackle would you use?
If the conditions were right, I would probably run the beaches off of Cocoa Beach in my HPX-V armed with a 9 and a 12wt fly rod chasing Tripletail, Cobia and Tarpon.
Who has been your favorite person to fish with and why?
My mom is my favorite person to fish with. She taught me a lot about fishing, cooking, and life. To this day, she gets so excited when she hooks up into any fish that pulls on the line, even a small pinfish haha! I think it’s cool to see her laugh and smile after everything she has gone through in her life from escaping the Vietnam War with my dad and siblings, starting a new life in the U.S. not knowing much English and not having any money, and also battling breast cancer and defeating it.
What is your favorite fishing memory with your mom?
My favorite fishing memory with my mom is from when we went to a little cove in the Banana River Lagoon probably back in the early 90’s. She set some chicken neck lines out and was catching a mess of blue crabs while I walked the banks with a light spinning rod and a Rapala lure catching Snook and Sea Trout. Once I got a few fish, I would take my cast net and throw it for hours catching Shrimp in the grass. That night we ended up going home and having a feast with the family.
What 3 items can you not leave the dock without?
What advice would you give to the other anglers out there if you could?
Just have fun on the water, enjoy being outside and being able to be out there. Don’t stress or get mad because you made a bad cast or the fish won’t eat. Get over it, and try again….there are less fortunate people out there that aren’t able to be on the water at all.
What do you think makes you a good guide?
Hmmm…I guess what I hear the most coming from my clients is that I am very patient on the water. When someone messes up a cast or doesn’t see a fish, I don’t get mad or yell. I may get frustrated here and there, but I smile shortly afterwards and move on.
What’s your most embarrassing fishing story/memory?
Most embarrassing moment would probably be the first time I fell off the poling platform while on a charter. It was super windy with a light rain, and I had a rain jacket on with the hoody down while poling towards some big laid up snook. Once I got my angler into casting range, I stopped the boat putting the pointy end of the push pole angled towards the bow and the foot end was by my chest. While the angler was making his cast, a gust of wind started moving the boat forward while the push pole was still stuck in the ground, well the foot of the push pole slid up towards my chin, behind my neck and caught the inside of my hoody. I tried my hardest to get it undone but the force was just too much and there was nothing I could do but to slowly walk to the end of my platform until I couldn’t walk anymore then I just said “I’m going in” did a cannonball and spooked the heck out of all the Snook. The worst part is that I lost my sunglasses, other than that, we all had a good laugh for the rest of the day.
You have a knack of putting people on their first fish caught on fly. What’s your secret?
Secret? (laughs) It’s not really any secrets, just putting a lot of time on the water, studying a fish’s behavior and feeding patterns. I have a way to fish with my mind using the angler’s body as if it were me on the bow and rod in hand. Once I see a fish, I give play by play direction for what I would do in that situation. Then once the cast is out, I pray that the fish eats it!
Anything you’d like to say before we end the interview?
I’d just like to say thanks to the MBC family for giving me the opportunity and believing in myself and my business. Thanks to everyone who has helped me out along the way(you know who you all are) Also thanks to my boss at the Architectural/Structural Engineering firm for giving me the boot, otherwise I wouldn’t be living the dream! Oh and one more thing….Fish The Legend!