Vol 6 No. 4 - October 19, 2005
Stu Apte: a life devoted to fishing
sun staff writer
Angling legend Stu Apte was born in Miami in
1930, at a time when it still felt like a small town
and everyone knew each other. He wasnt
introduced to fishing in any traditional sense, as
no one in Aptes family fished. At the age of
5, the first of his many conquests was conducted in
the neighbors goldfish pond with a bent pin,
thread and a dough ball. Even at this early age, he
was analyzing his quarry. He noticed that the hybrid
fish fought better than the domestics, often breaking
his thread. His familys response to his new
skill was less than enthusiastic, and he was punished
for his exploits. But it was too late; fishing was
in his blood. Later, at age 16, when Apte inherited
an old split bamboo rod and reel and taught himself
to fly fish, the seeds of a lifetime passion were
In his early 20s, after serving his country as a fighter
pilot in the Korean War, he worked as a commercial
pilot for Pan Am. He chose to fly the cargo routes
simply because he would have more time off to fish.
When he was eventually laid off by the airlines, he
embraced his obsession by becoming a full-time fishing
guide in the Florida Keys in the mid 1950s.
Stu Apte helps out a young angler in the annual Chuck
Lamar Celebrity Fishing Tournament, which benefits
kids with cancer.
SUN PHOTO/RUSTY CHINNISS
As an angler and guide, Apte crossed paths with fishing
greats and world leaders.
He had met baseball legend Ted Williams as a teenager
while fishing the canals that bordered the Tamiami Trail
west of Miami. It was Williams who taught him how to pole
a skiff, and Stu eventually became Williams guide.
Among a lifetime of guiding memories, two of his favorites
include poling Joe Brooks, his mentor and saltwater pioneer,
to his world record tarpon (148.5 pounds) on the fly in
May, 1961 and guiding former President Harry Truman and
his wife, Bess.
In addition to guiding, Apte has been instrumental in
designing numerous boats. His first, the Fibercraft, conceived
in 1960, is still being used as a mold for hulls today.
He helped originate many of Mako Marines designs,
worked on the Hughes Bonefisher and totally designed and
named the ActionCraft Flatsmaster. Recently, he completed
a design for the first shallow water backcountry boat
for Scout Boats, the Costa 170.
The list of awards and distinctions that he has received
in his career are numerous. Some of the highlights include:
a 1971 induction into the Fishing Hall of Fame; his Stu
Apte Tarpon Fly featured on a United States postage stamp;
the prestigious Ted Williams Award in 2003; as well as
more than 44 world records he has held in 50 years of
Stu Apte has fished every continent in the world except
Antarctica. In more than 40 years, he has explored and
helped to develop some of the preeminent fishing destinations
in the world. Through his memories and personal experiences,
he shares his top destinations.
Apte was introduced to Montanas blue ribbon
trout streams by his friend and mentor, Joe Brooks. Brooks
was the fishing expert for the American Sportsman Series
and had rented a home in Livingston. Brooks insisted that
Apte would like fly fishing for trout, but Stus
reply was always, If I want to cast a fly to a fish,
it wont be a piddling trout. Apte was already
adept at subduing large tarpon on the fly.
Then he finally made it there on his honeymoon in 1962,
fishing Nelson Spring Creek with Brooks. The trout were
rising, but Apte, using his standard double haul, put
them down with every cast. Suddenly, he understood that
trout fishing could be very challenging and required a
certain finesse. A motivated Apte was a quick study, and
soon he was fooling selective trout in Nelson, Armstrong
and Depuys Spring Creek.
Later, in the 1970s, Apte did a two-part article for Sports
Afield titled A Trouting Odyssey. He was given
a Winnebago to use and traveled all over Montana for two
months, experiencing the best the state had to offer.
The lure of Montana continues to pull him back. In late
June and July of 2004, Apte will return to fish his favorite
river, the Missouri, near Wolf Creek and the town of Craig
in west central Montana. He also counts Georgetown Lake
as one of his top travel destinations. Located in southwestern
Montana, the lake provides excellent rainbow trout fishing.
Apte enjoys pursuing rising trout from a float tube. He
travels with his Winnebago Itasta, and finds
the well-maintained forestry campground at Georgetown
Lake a perfect place to stay. Best of all, the rainbows
are big and challenging.
In 1965, Apte traveled to Costa Rica where he became
the first American to fly fish the Caribbean side of the
country. His host for the visit was Carlos Barrentas,
who owned the only tackle shop in the country. Barrentas,
who had heard of Aptes reputation as a guide in
the Keys, flew him to San Jose and then to an area on
the Parismina River. They landed on the beach and fished
from a traditional native dugout with a small outboard
motor they had brought on the plane. Barrentas wanted
to know if the fishing was good enough to open a lodge.
I thought I had died and gone to heaven, says
Apte. You could have almost walked across the backs
of the tarpon in some of the lagoons. Apte gave
Carlos the nod, and Barrentas built what is now the famous
Parismina Tarpon Rancho Lodge.
A few years later, Carlos again asked him to come back
and try another location farther to the north. They made
the trip, experienced terrific fishing and the Casa Mar
Lodge was born at the mouth of the Rio Colorado.
While he was on the Caribbean side, Barrentas told him
about the fantastic fishing for sailfish and marlin on
the West coast. When he returned in 1968 to an area known
as Playa De Coco on the Pacific side, he believes he may
have been the first Gringo to fish the billfish of the
Today, Apte regularly returns to Costa Rica. These days
its the billfish in the fertile waters of southern
Costa Rica that attract him. His destination of choice
is the Golfito Sailfish Rancho in the Golfo Dulce on the
Pacific. He organizes a group which he takes there during
the months of January and February. He considers these
months to be prime time to fly fish for billfish.
Next week: Travel the world with Apte as he fishes Panama,
New Zealand, Australia and Alaska.
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