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Death of an Angling Legend

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George Hommell Jr., renowned as President George H.W. Bush's flats guide and co-founder of Islamorada's World Wide Sportsman store, has died, aged 88.

Source: Kevin Wadlow / KeysNet.com

Born in New York State, Hommell moved to Islamorada in 1945, started guiding in 1951, and played a large role in making the Keys the sportfishing capital of the world.

World Wide Sportsman manager Mark Klingbeil, who worked with Hommell for 15 years said:

"It was just fun being with George, he was an inspiration to everyone here and had 100,000 different stories - if you were planning a trip somewhere, he had a story about it."

With a relaxed demeanor not common to all flats guides, Hommell attracted a clientele that included luminaries like Paul Newman, Jack Nicklaus, Dan Rather and Bush. He was a founding member of the Islamorada Fishing Guides Association that promoted release fishing. A military veteran of World War II and Korea, Hommell taught himself to fly fish the flats and then shared his techniques with others. He created the first bead-eye fly, named the Hommell Evil Eye.

With famed angler Billy Pate, Hommell opened the original World Wide Sportsman in June 1967 as a specialty tackle shop and travel agency in Islamorada.

"Fly fishing was at the heart of the store," Klingbeil said. "They built the business and a reputation that made it one of the most-pursued destinations for anglers coming down."

Pate, who died in 2011, and Hommell collaborated to design fishing gear that has become a sport standard. Hommell met and befriended Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, who purchased the World Wide Sportsman and hired Hommell to run it as general manager. The current location opened in October 1997.

Hommell is survived by Doris, his wife of 60 years; son, George III; and daughter Mariellen.

A celebration of Hommell’s life is being planned and donations are suggested to the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust or the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center  

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