Dateline: April 14, 2012 – Dania Beach, Florida
There are only so many pictures of me holding a trophy anyone wants to look at, and that number goes down quite a bit when people figure out I’m not talking about Marta.
To rewind you to this time last year, I had just won my first IGFA men’s saltwater title and attended the ceremony proudly but as a complete stranger. (See https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/a-tale-of-two-trophies/) I didn’t know anyone in the room, and my steady date and I were in a bit of a snit. It was an unbelievable honor – but it’s never ideal to fly solo.
Fast forward to 2012. Without submitting a fish that weighed more than 3 pounds, I had run up the same total of saltwater world records as I had in 2011 – 13. Again, this was good enough for first place, even though all of my entries combined did not weigh as much as the 67# Ruby Snapper turned in by the runner-up, Phillip Richmond, Jr. In my wretched defense, no one remembers whether someone wins a World Series with a bunch of infield singles or a big home run, but let’s face it, Kirk Gibson was pretty cool.
While Kirk Gibson has likely caught a 3 pound fish, he has certainly never gotten a 67# Ruby Snapper.
Far from coming in as a stranger this time, I felt like I was coming to a family event. (Except, of course, the food was better.) Marta and I had managed to de-snit ourselves (is that a word?) and so she was there, risky for me as she always says cleverer things than I do. We were invited to sit at the Arostegui’s table – with the first family of fishing. Marty and Roberta were more than gracious hosts – they have really, over the past year, made me feel not just a close friend, but as a family member, and there will never be words to express my gratitude.
Marty and Roberta Arostegui. Yes, Roberta does look like she’s done something wrong, and yes, she is capable of evil – see https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/pilates-of-the-caribbean/.
2011 was a bumpy year – losing my mother and the aforementioned Marta-related snit – and these folks were a welcome break from what seemed like a never-ending series of disasters. It has also been quite a privilege to fish with a family which holds something over 600 IGFA records. I’ve learned a few things, the most important of which is: I have a lot left to learn.
Marta and I flew in late Friday night. The accommodations were her worst nightmare – a Marriott with a fishing museum on one side and a Bass Pro Shop on the other. (I know – AWESOME – although she did find a rather expensive purse at BPS. Who knew.) After a nice day around Miami and lunch at a great Cuban place, we headed over to the IGFA headquarters.
The IGFA Headquarters – where it all happens.
The reception before the ceremony was a highlight – we chatted with other guests and IGFA staff, and just like last year, I made friends who had caught all kinds of things I had not. The silent auction, however, can get viciously competitive.
Marty, Patrick Sebile (of Sebile Lures), Marta, and Steve. Only the IGFA can bridge such barriers – I am in the same photo with a French guy. (A French guy who has caught around 700 species of fish, by the way.)
Marty with Bo Nelson, who took top Men’s Flyfishing honors this year. Bo is tall.
Phillip Richmond, his wife Hitomi (who hosts a fishing TV show in Japan,) Marta, and Steve. Phil is also tall. For Pete’s sake – I’m 6 feet and he makes me look like a (very frightening) 9 year-old.
We then moved into the main auditorium for dinner and the World Record Achievement Awards – the Oscars of fishing. After the food was pretty well gone, they started passing out the hardware.
Dear Marta, This is EXACTLY how I want to redecorate the den. Love, Steve
Some of the stories were simply amazing. Of course, I think of Phil Richmond. Full time with the US Navy, he has still managed to get out to some amazingly isolated locales and do exactly what I would – hunt for records, and with some much bigger critters than I have. He got one of the biggest ovations – this crowd was very appreciative of the sacrifices our military makes because the French won’t.
There was also Stan Nabozny, who collected perhaps the highest honor of the evening – a Lifetime Achievement Award. Given as recognition of 100 – you heard me, 100 – world records – the Lifetime Achievement Award is as rare as an honest politician. And Stan did it in a shorter period than any previous angler.
Stan Nabozny, Lifetime Achievement Award winner, and Steve. Oh, how I want one of those trophies.
Then we have Natalie Carter, the teenage UK native who took junior female honors by setting three records with Jean-Francois in Thailand. Two of these were 6 pound plus Snakehead. I have never caught a 6 pound plus Snakehead. Of course, neither has Jaime, so there.
Natalie accepts her award from Jack.
The female Smallfry category was taken by Brielle Bennet, who had 6 records, including a 118 pound Hammerhead Shark. (I too have a Hammerhead on my list. It weighed 2 pounds. Maybe.) She was amazingly composed in front of the crowd, especially considering her age, and her family could not have been more proud.
Brielle Bennet, her Dad, and Jack Vitek, and the hardware, not necessarily in that order.
And then came the moment. I saw my name up on the screen – Marta rolled her eyes and said something like “Who’s the guy with all the small fish?”
I wonder if we can get this screen made into wallpaper for the bathroom.
If you look carefully, you can see Jack dozing off. I can only hope the audience did better.
Jack and Steve with the hardware. Marta made me keep it on my side of the bed.
I don’t really remember what I said, although if I wrote it and Marta approved it, it was probably long but reasonably polite, and ended with “Behind every successful man … is a surprised woman.”
Speaking of family pride, one of the more touching moments came when Roberta accepted one of Martini’s awards. (I think the family took home 7 plaques, including one for the cat.) Martini couldn’t be there because he was in the middle of exams at Stanford, and Roberta’s comments at the podium were from the heart and as proud as any parent could ever be. There is simply nothing like a mother’s pride in her child, and the Arosteguis are as genuinely close and loving a family as I have ever been around.
How’s that for a mother/son moment? Roberta caught the fish. It’s an Alligator Gar, and it weighs more than them combined.
A moment with the Arosteguis. Like all sane persons, they loved Marta but questioned her decisions on men.
I will always remember the amazing stories around me that night, stories that show how many incredible people are out there with the same passion as me, the same drive as me, and much better haircuts. And, however briefly, I got to be on the same stage with them all.
There is something wonderful that this sport is so much bigger than any one person. Sure, everyone who got an award that night did something cool, but over time, there will be more amazing feats and more trophies. The names will change, records will be set and broken, but the sport will be there. It’s bigger than us, and it wasn’t one person’s night or even all of our nights – it was a night for the sport, and we are all responsible to make sure it’s here for future generations. From every kid who might dream to have his name on a record someday, on up to a Marty Arostegui who has come to have over 400, we all follow the same passion.
SPECIAL BONUS SECTION – A PILGRIMAGE TO THE KEYS
I felt nothing but inspired. Inspired to catch more records on even more obscure fish, to continue the long haul toward 2000 species, and to make all of you read about it. (Sorry.) With all this inspiration, I had a lot of thinking to do. What were my goals, for this year, next year, and the rest of my life? Should I use Grecian Formula? What better way of considering these deep questions than communing with the spirit of one of the Gods of sportfishing – Ernest Hemingway. So, the day after the awards, Marta and I made the pilgrimage to the Hemingway estate in Key West.
A sacred site for fishermen, polydactyl cats, and anyone who loves dark, doomed characters.
Yes, the place is full of 6-toed cats. Go ahead, count ’em. (This is where Cousin Chuck says “I can only count one cat.”)
Although there were a lot of guests at the house, for some reason, I had a moment to myself in the room with Hemingway’s portrait. And I swore that he spoke to me. He said “The species thing is OK, but try to catch something manly once in a while. Santiago didn’t chase Eastern Mosquitofish. Real men drink whiskey, not Red Bull. Remember you’ll die alone in the dirt someplace, and zip up your fly.” I was humbled.
Steve communes with the Big Guy himself. Key West, Florida.
I then spent long moments admiring art inspired by Old Man and the Sea, one of the greatest books of all time.
Steve contemplates Santiago, the paradigm of quiet pride and the spiritual challenge of going one on one with half a ton of angry fish sticks.
I decided here that 2013 would be my year to get an Atlantic Blue Marlin, but perhaps not by myself in a leaky panga.
Marta takes in the spirit of Hemingway, unaware that he inspired me to make a large number of trolling trips, which she particularly hates.
Confidently inspired, I took Marta and headed off into town. We enjoyed a couple of nice meals, some disturbing local culture, and a walk on the beach. The next day, I would be heading back out onto the water to continue the quest for 2000 species.
File this one under “disturbing local culture.”
Marta had no egrets about making the trip.