The fishing world lost one of its most prominent ambassadors when Jose Wejebe was killed in a single-engine kit airplane crash in Everglades City, Florida, on Friday afternoon.
My personal interactions with Jose had only been cursory; we’d be in the same booth at a trade show here and there; we were once part of a charity fishing event to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital together; our paths inevitably crossed when certain product manufacturers introduced and promoted their wares, and so forth.
Before that, and before I started writing for Field & Stream, I was one of the minions of Saturday morning television viewers who tuned in faithfully to watch The Spanish Fly. His enthusiasm was so genuine, his skills with a fly rod (and conventional gear) so readily apparent, it’s no exaggeration to say that Jose was a true inspiration, prompting a desire to explore far beyond the trout fishing realm I grew up in.
It was gratifying to realize that Jose’s passion for fishing went far beyond the show. Those who fished with him called him a “fish whisperer” because he had an uncanny ability to find the bite, anywhere, anytime. He was a great advocate for both fly fishing and gear fishing–it was all good–and that’s an example more of us should follow.
I also learned that Jose shot much of the underwater footage of fish himself. He was an expert with a camera, and a skilled diver. As I was working on “Going Deep” features for Field & Stream, which involved scuba diving with trout, walleye, pike, bass, and so forth, I yearned to expand that into salt water. And Jose was eager to help with a piece on tarpon, or bonefish. But sadly, that never happened.
Jose’s death is terribly sad for his friends and family, and for the fishing world as a whole. I only hope that we can collectively be grateful for the contributions he made, and resolve to expand upon his passion for fishing in ways that really matter. He will be missed by many.