Tag Archives: Florida Keys

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.


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.


Growing up in South Florida in the 80s, my friends and I had a certain romanticized idea of what Key West should be, one that never quite met reality when we took the trip down US 1 and hit the bridge from Boca Chica. But it did exist at one time, and that Key West is captured perfectly in Tarpon, the fantastic documentary made by UYA Films in 1973.

Filmmaker Christian Odasso and producer Guy de la Valdene made the film to try and capture the vibe of tarpon fly anglers at a time when it was still generally a cult sport. In doing so they accomplished far more than creating fish porn, they encapsulated a cultural slice of Key West in the early 70s.

Tarpon contains a lot of cool stuff,  from the sound track featuring old school Jimmy Buffett (before he became a corporation), to the sound bites from Thomas McGuane, Richard Brautigan, and Jim Harrison. It also shows many different parts of Key West life, from local characters and partyers to artists and treasure hunters. A lot of the guys have porn-star mustaches, shark tooth necklaces, and cut-off jeans, and you catch people in the background saying things like “Far out, man,” and “Made in the shade like lemonade.” It also has highlights from a roundtable discussion with tarpon guides and anglers interspersed throughout.

But the film mainly follows Guy de la Valdene on the hunt for tarpon in a platform-less Maverick flats skiff that he often poles from the bow. Much of the tarpon footage is contrasted against a party boat scene where the crew is thumping fish after fish and dumping them in buckets, helping clarify the pursuit of tarpon with a fly rod as something altogether different than just fishing.

The tarpon fishing scenes are awesome, with video as compelling as any of the HD clips found today. When Valdene is fishing with Gil Drake or Paige Brown, the instrumental “Brahma Fear” is turned down and the only sounds come from the skiff moving through the water or from the anglers whispering as they stalk tarpon.

If you’re expecting to see fishing footage of the three literary giants you’ll be disappointed. For the most part you see them partying or lounging around in hammocks. But Jim Harrison (with a Michigan accent) delivers one of the more memorable lines talking about how life produces diminishing enthusiasms, “…so you have to have something that gives you this electricity and freshens up your feeling about being alive.” Good stuff.

To order Tarpon, go to www.thebookmailer.com

Check out the trailer over at Midcurrent.com.