Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Stu Apte: Master of the line dance

ST. PETERSBURG — Sitting at breakfast, hoping the weather would clear so we could go fishing, fly rod legend Stu Apte talked about his life on the water.

"Memorable fish?" he said, repeating a reporter's question. "Why, I have caught so many over the years …"

Apte wasn't bragging.

At this particular tournament, where the format pairs celebrities with the Tampa Bay area's top fishing guides, there was no shortage of egos. Yet Apte, the event's biggest name as far as fishing was concerned, moved humbly around the tent like a 10-year-old looking for autographs.

"Well, if I really thought about it," he said, scratching his chin. "There was that sailfish …"

I had first heard the story more than a decade ago. It was 1995 and Apte was in the bay area giving a speech to the Tampa Bay Fly Fishing Club.

Apte had several dozen world records to his credit, but there were two that stood out in my mind: a 58-pound dolphin caught in 1964 and a 136-pound Pacific sailfish caught in 1965, both on 12-pound tippets.

The two marks have yet to be surpassed and are considered the longest standing fly records in the International Game Fish Association's book of world records.

I must admit that, at first, I was skeptical of Apte's sailfish. I had never heard of anybody catching a billfish on a fly rod before, but nobody else had either, until Apte showed them how to do it.

But the story of that fish, and many others, is told in a new book called Of Wind and Tides. The 496-page autobiography recounts Apte's friendships and fishing trips with other legendary anglers, including baseball great Ted Williams.

In 2005, Apte joined the ranks of Ernest Hemingway and Zane Grey in the IGFA's Hall of Fame.

"For 50 years Apte fished with Ted Williams," proclaimed the Hall program brochure. "Ted taught him how to pole a boat and called him 'bush' because he considered Apte's skills 'bush league' compared to his own. When Williams finally started calling him 'Stu,' Apte knew he had made it."

But Apte had proved himself time and time again before that.

Growing up in Miami, Apte was just 12 years old when he landed his first tarpon. At military school and later at the University of Miami, Apte devoted his time to studies, boxing and fishing.

During the Korean War, Apte flew fighter planes like his friend, the Red Sox's Williams. After the war, he worked as a pilot for Pan Am, which gave him the opportunity to fish all around the world.

During his down time, he tried his hand at guiding out of Little Torch Key in the Florida Keys. When the airline laid him off, he ran a charter boat full time. Word of his tarpon-catching flies quickly spread, and in 1991, one of his signature creations was featured on a U.S. Postal Service stamp.

In 1967, Apte made history again when he became the first person to catch a tarpon over 150 pounds on a fly. In 1982, Apte actually set two tarpon records in one day, one in the morning and one after lunch.

In 1995, I asked Apte to share the secret to fly-fishing, half-thinking he would pitch some fancy rod or reel company that was sponsoring him.

"You don't need to spend a lot of money to catch fish on a fly rod," he said. "That's not it."

Then what does it take?

"Speed and accuracy," he said. "That's it."

And plenty of practice, he added.

Before Apte ever hit the water, he worked on his casting skills in the backyard of his parents' home in Miami. Once he figured out how to get the line to do what he wanted, he tried his luck with real fish.

"I started off fishing for anything I could catch plenty of," he said, mentioning ladyfish. "But before too long I was catching snook, jacks, you name it."

Stu Apte: Master of the line dance 12/04/08 [Last modified: Thursday, December 4, 2008 3:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs-Jaguars: Five things to watch Thursday in Jacksonville


    JACKSONVILLE — The Bucs have their second preseason game here Thursday against the Jaguars, and here are five things to keep an eye on as Tampa Bay moves closer to paring its roster from 90 players to 53 by Sept. 3.


    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) participates in training camp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. We knew Aguayo was a goner, and 'Hard Knocks' still delivers


    Tuesday night's second installment of Hard Knocks, the HBO show that is going behind the scenes at training camp with the Bucs, had plenty of interesting tidbits, revelations and insights.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Roberto Aguayo (19) kicks during training camp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  3. For starters: Rays at Jays, looking for some carryover


    The six runs and 13 hits the Rays posted on Tuesday were a positive, but the true test if they are out of their historically bad hitting slump will come tonight and in the coming days as they try to build on their success.

    "Hopefully,'' manager Kevin Cash said after Tuesday's 6-4 win, "there is a …

    Daniel Robertson is expected to make a third straight start tonight, likely at shortstop.
  4. What you might have missed in the second episode of the Bucs on 'Hard Knocks'


    We're back for another episode of The Annotated Hard Knocks, trying to find behind-the-scenes insights and things you might have missed in Tuesday's second episode of "Hard Knocks," following the Bucs in …

    As the crowd recognized him and got loud, Jameis Winston jumped up and down in celebration. [GREG AUMAN | Times]
  5. Why Noah Spence could be the Bucs' X-factor


    JACKSONVILLE — Noah Spence crouched in a four-point stance, bending low like a sprinter in starting blocks. At the snap, he took one step to his right, startling Jaguars left tackle Josh Wells with his explosiveness. Wells went for the move and Spence countered with an inside swim move, flying past Wells' right …

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Noah Spence (57) participates in training camp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times