BOTWW: Lords Of The Fly Edition

An obsessive steelhead angler’s thoughts on a book about the obsessive pursuit of tarpon.

OCTOBER 28TH, 2020:  Lords Of The Fly by Monte Burke, Pegasus Books

Another new one here, but back to the fishing theme. This is a fascinating—and to me, incredibly foreign—story of the obsessive quest for world record tarpon. It centers around Homosassa, Florida, and the handful of men consumed by the competition in the late 70s and early 80s. Burke is clearly a skilled journalist. He goes deep into the history of tarpon fishing, the biology of the fish, profiles of the characters, and toward the end after the fishery collapses, he ponders the conservation angles and human values surrounding this story. The record chase as reported here feels a lot like a pointless sack race between privileged, grotesquely wealthy men with nothing better to do than kill huge fish for trophies. And the egos! But these characters, whether you agree or not with their priorities, make a truly compelling story. And really, it’s not like my own obsession with swinging steelhead flies has much of a point, either. I will be interested to hear other readers’ thoughts on this one.

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One thought on “BOTWW: Lords Of The Fly Edition

  1. I can see it now….

    Boogie Nights and The Deuce meet fly-caught Big Game.

    Two responses from a clueless, never-done-tarpon Brit.

    1) Working (briefly, in London) for a very “colourful” ex-Pan Am Executive of the Golden Age who was looking to get some of his old boozing and pussy-hound American fishing pals of the 1960s and ’70s to come and fish with him in Iceland for salmon and in India for the mahseer that at the time I was catching in both size and numbers.

    “Write a letter to an old Pan Am pilot pal of mine, Paul – Stu Apte. Tell him that that I am looking to generate some groups of fishers for Iceland and India…”

    So I did. And duly got a reply from the very respectfully addressed and written to “Mr Apte”.

    “Dear Paul, If you are in any way associated with that terrible reprobate, you not only have my deepest sympathy but also the words of advice of mine – “Get out the hell out whilst you can.”.

    2) Tales told around a ranch-house kitchen table on Tierra del Fuego many years later (mid 1990s) by a couple of young American fishing guides I had got a job for at the same ranch a year or two earlier (after they, a couple of Trout Bums, had knocked on the front door, asking for permission to fish Rio Grande sea-trout for a day and were about to be sent away by the then not-yet-opened-lodge’s Alaskan-based founder-manager, when I whispered in his ear – “They might be guide material for next year, Tom… you’re going to need guides…”….

    … Tales told by those two now up-and-running lodge’s fishing guides (after I had inducted them into the mysteries of sea-trout fishing) about their off-season spring and early summer, bonefish and tarpon break in Florida, about living in the same old house that Billy Pate had lived in “back in the day” and the “interesting” things they found twenty or so years later (under the floorboards or somewhere…).

    Taking it to the limit fishing, it happened back then.

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