Tag Archives: tarpon

BOOKS: My Life In Fishing by Stu Apte

I had heard and read that Stu Apte was a pilot, first for the Navy and then for the old Pan American airlines, and when I interviewed him for a Midcurrent.com article about the late George Hommell, I remember thinking, “That’s the kind of voice I’d want to hear over the intercom at 35,000 feet.”

He sounded confident and direct over the phone, with a hint of military cadence, and when he started telling stories about his pioneering fishing experiences in the Florida Keys, I just shut up and listened.

That’s the same way I felt reading through Apte’s new book My Life In Fishing, ($29.95, Stone Fly Press). It’s a collection of 38 short essays where Apte tells anecdotes collected during his life chasing fish.

my-life-in-fishing

There are stories of Apte fishing for snook with Ted Williams, traveling to Costa Rica with Curt Gowdy, and hosting the ex-president Harry S. Truman on a bonefishing trip that also involved the former first lady, a full bladder and an open livewell lid.

There’s the story of a chance encounter with Ernest Hemingway in Cuba that led to mojitos, of being pulled into the water by Joe Brooks’ record tarpon, of wade fishing for largemouth bass in the Everglades….The whole collection is fun to read.

The best thing about the book is the brevity of each individual story. You could imagine Apte in his guiding days, entertaining clients with such stories while poling around for a shot at a big tarpon.

On that note, I always love hearing the stories of these early anglers figuring out the tackle and techniques to land big silver on a fly rod . In one chapter, highlighted in a pull quote, Apte says, “I am never happier than when I’m prospecting the Florida Keys flats for tarpon, fly rod in hand.”

Although I must admit when I read that quote it reminded me of an  episode of Andy Mill’s “Sportsman’s Journal” show from the old Outdoor Life  Network. I remember Apte fighting a tarpon from the bow of the boat and Mill asking something along the lines of, “Is there any better feeling in the world?”

“Yes,” Apte deadpanned. “Sex.”

You could say Apte was right on both counts.

When Tarpon Aren’t

“Sure is pretty down here don’t you know.”I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House

Other things to do include snook, trout and Euchre until last call.

snook slr

The price of the plane ticket is supposed to be exchanged for silver but for a well-placed low pressure system that’s been given a Christian name.

An osprey swoops down low over the grass flats and spears a mullet and flies it across the vast bay to an island in the distance full of dead trees. Add watching this to the list of other things, as well as Bimini ring toss, eating, acoustic sets, ladyfish, mangrove snapper and rehydration.

Untouchable

tarpon under the dock

In the back corner I sat and ate two cheeseburgers at the saddest fast food joint in the universe. It occupies the ground floor of a building off Lincoln Road, through the gauntlet of shops and street performers and open air restaurants filled with people drawn in from every habited continent. A current of energy flows by, funneling from Collins and Washington and A1A, but it doesn’t swirl into the windowless interior where the broken silver haired man sits staring at an empty cup of coffee.

The Venetian is the back way off the island, safeguarded by a series of toll booths and draw bridges that bring transit to a halt. At the foot of one bridge women on skateboards wait for the gates to reopen.

On the incoming tide the bay fills up with bright blue water that flows in past the cruise ships in the Cut. But it was at night here where I saw my first tarpon, fooled by a jigged shrimp drifting in the dark water. I followed the crashes until my eyes caught it leaping, silver scales illuminated by the ambient light of the city.

Years later the water runs blue under the Venetian and through the piers of the marina on the mainland side, where 40 to 50 million dollars worth of boats float in the water waiting for the affluent to open their checkbooks. Underneath the shaded docks the moving stream is occasionally interrupted by splashes that sound like tail flicks and then the unmistakeable sound of tarpon gulping air. They float in formation facing into the tide and when I lay down on the dock and stick my head underneath they do not flinch.

These fish are not to be touched. But even if you could they’d retreat to the concrete and your line would go slack before you even had a say in it.

Support the Bonefish Tarpon Trust

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All about TARBONE

We like the Bonefish Tarpon Trust because they have a cool sounding URL – tarbone.org – and because everything they do is driven by scientific research, and the desire to keep doing it.

So when Aaron Adams dropped a note about supporting the org’s new membership drive, I’m all in.

They are now offering associate membership for $50 contributions. As Dr. Adams wrote:

“As always, the funds go to support BTT’s research, conservation, and education. We are having monthly give-aways of gear (this month it’s Howler Brothers), next month Cheeky, then Orvis,…. But best of all, the final drawing at the end of the year is a trip to Ascension Bay.  And for people who join and renew at $100 of higher, there is a year-end raffle for a trip to Pesca Maya.”

BOOK REVIEW: Marquesa

Marquesa is a book penned well before the existence of blogs, but it is the type of published work every fly fishing blogger wishes he’d written. Author Jeffrey Cardena’s  account of his solitary venture by houseboat in the Marquesas Keys, an atoll sitting 30 miles west of Key West, is as compelling a first person fishing narrative as you’ll read.

Cardenas was, and still is, a well-regarded Keys fishing guide, but his words are not confined to that world. He writes without pretense, in a natural voice that perfectly reflects his sheer joy and wonderment from being immersed in this wilderness with tarpon, permit, sharks and even cassiopea.  He limits his descriptions of the actual fly fishing–a very good thing–and when he does talk about it he avoids altogether the angler as hunter-hero stalking prey vibe that bogs down much outdoor writing. Plus, Cardenas is well aware of the historical, cultural, and political significance of his surroundings and his weaving of that into the work gives it heft.

It seems weird to be writing a review of a book first published in 1995. But it has been out of print for years now and, in the process has attained a cult status. I first heard of it in a conversation two years ago, and had been trying in vain to find a copy not selling for $400 on eBay. That Departure Publishing** has republished it as an ebook has given it a rebirth and an entirely new audience. (It parallels the release of Tarpon on dvd, both in buzz and in quality of content.)

As an ex-Floridian who never made the crossing to the Marquesas Keys, I had great expectations for this book. Marquesa met them; I found it hard to put the Kindle down. Cardenas ends the book perfectly but too soon. I want more, and more than ever, I want to get there.

$9.99, Departure Publishing

**(Yeah, my book is published by Departure too, but I have no vested interest in posting about this one. I paid full price for it and wrote this review unsolicited.)

Bonefish Tarpon Trust Symposium

Click on the pick for more info.

We’re big fans of the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust and are spreading the word about their upcoming Symposium. In their words:

Two full days of presentations on cutting edge scientific research of bonefish, tarpon and permit from fisheries scientists around the world is scheduled, as well as panel discussions, fly casting seminars and tying clinics by some of the world’s noted flats anglers.  On the final night an “Evening with the Legends” banquet will be emceed by author and angler Andy Mill, participants include; Joan Wulff, Bob Popovics, Lefty Kreh, Flip Pallot, Chico Fernandez, Sandy Moret, Rick Ruoff, Mark Sosin, Ralph Delph, Steve Huff, Bill Curtis, Stu Apte and George Hommell.