Posted by: 1000fish | April 7, 2019

The Hall

Dateline: September 15, 2018 – Springfield, Missouri

It’s a rare occasion that leaves me speechless with awe, but we’re going add one here in the next thousand words … or so. This post originally wasn’t going to feature any fish, but I couldn’t help myself, so there will be a few. But mostly, I’ll be writing about one of the more amazing people I have ever had the privilege to know – Dr. Marty Arostegui – and his induction into the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame.

One of the very first 1000fish blog posts, in the dim historical mists of 2011, introduced you all to Marty, his amazing fishing exploits, his family, and the inspiration he would give me in my own adventures. I met Marty on a Saturday at an IGFA event; he and Roberta helped me feel at home in a room full of fishing celebrities. Our first fishing trip together was the next day. In the years since, I have been fortunate enough to share hundreds of hours on the water with the family, especially Martini, and indeed, most of the 1000fish blog posts that are actually entertaining have to do with them.

March 26, 2011.

March 27, 2011. My first bowfin. I added five species that morning.

I was at 1046 species the day we met, and in the years since, the Arosteguis have put me on 114 more. I was at 1827 as of this blog. That’s 15% of my catches in the time we’ve known each other.

But Marty always thinks it’s funny to make me deal with alligators. I fear alligators.

Marty was told he had been elected to this honor earlier in 2018, and the family invited some guests who had been key to Marty’s success – legendary guides like Alan Zaremba and Captain Bouncer Smith. Somewhere in there, I also got invited, possibly because they were concerned there might be leftovers at the buffet. I wouldn’t be more honored if they asked me to give away Kate Upton at Martini’s wedding. This is a man who has put 440 records on the books himself, and guided God knows how many more. More importantly, he has been a consistent and powerful voice for conservation.

So Martini and I had been wandering the Ozarks, eating irresponsibly and catching a species here and there. I had mentioned that our final destination would be Springfield, but I had neglected to mention the purpose of said destination. Springfield is known for many fine attractions – Dickerson Park Zoo comes to mind – but the unquestioned big show in town is the Wonders of Wildlife Aquarium and Museum, which was set up by Bass Pro Shops’ founder Johnny Morris and is where the Hall of Fame induction would take place. Imagine an awesome aquarium, a fishing museum, a wildlife museum, a Bass Pro Shop, the IGFA Hall of Fame, and soft serve ice cream all under one roof. I can only hope heaven is like this.

Oh this place is awesome.

Martini and I pulled into town on Friday night, just in time to take a decent shower and head out to dinner with the whole clan. I was secretly relieved to be eating real food, and less secretly relieved not to be looking at any more #&%$ black redhorse.

It was humbling to be at a dinner with three people who have more world records than I do. And with at least five people who know a whole lot more about catching fish that I do, six if you include the waitress. I was reminded of the first time I sat at a dinner table with this group, in early 2012. Shockingly, I didn’t do very much talking.

You might not recognize me with my mouth closed.

Marty was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1946. His childhood was relatively comfortable, and even as a youngster, he was always on the water, fishing or spearing. But the family suffered in the communist revolution and the repression that came with it. In November 1960, they emigrated to the USA. The grandson of a well-known doctor, Marty attended medical school at Miami, and went on to be a successful MD and an even more successful hospital administrator. He married, had a family, and somewhere in there, he did what smart, hard-working people often do – very well for himself. This gave him the freedom to fish when and where he wanted, and I have never seen someone embrace an opportunity as completely as he has.

Marty was very active in the Miami fishing club scene beginning in the 1970s, and his accomplishments there started to build what would become the ultimate fishing resume. Joining the Miami Rod and Reel Club, Marty attained Gold Rod Master Angler status, a feat accomplished by only five other individuals in the club’s history. He also was a frequent competitor in the Metropolitan South Florida Fishing Tournament (MET) and is one of only three people to qualify for the MET Hall of Fame.

Somewhere in there, he decided to put an IGFA record on his resume. His first record was a big tripletail on June 20, 1994.

I believe this is the fish. This took some digging.

An expert fly angler, he pursued fly and conventional records with equal skill. The numbers started piling up, and in May of 2007, Marty went into uncharted territory by setting his 200th record. It’s tough to beat these details out of Marty – he’d rather talk about conservation than his own exploits.

But his exploits are pretty darn amazing. Yes, that’s an arapaima. Yes, that’s a fly rod.

On the day of the event, I figured I would let the family hang without me for a few hours. But what do to in central Missouri on a beautiful fall Saturday? If you don’t know the answer, you must be a new reader. Welcome! Ben Cantrell was also a hero in this blog, suggesting a few nearby spots for me to try. I would have just enough time to take a shot at repairing my fishing dignity, grabbing lunch at Wendy’s, and getting back to Springfield in time to see the museum and attend the event.

Kora the cat belongs to Ben’s sister-in-law. She is basically a nice cat, but Ben’s brother found it amusing to drop her on Ben’s abdomen while Ben was trying to nap. The photo was snapped while they were both figuring out how to be elsewhere. Kora enjoys chasing string and nibbling on people’s hair.

On the drive out to Ben’s first spot, I passed signs for the Laura Ingalls Wilder home in Mansfield, Missouri. This brought back terrible childhood memories of dinner conversations hijacked by my sister, mother, and grandmother, who had all read the books repeatedly, and who had not read The Lord of the Rings, so we had nothing to talk about. (Sauron could have sorted out Nellie Oleson in a heartbeat.)

Nellie Oleson.

The smart money is on Sauron.

It also brought back even worse memories of missing Hockey Night in Canada because they would all insist on watching “Little House on the Prairie,” which was always on during hockey games.

Admittedly, many of us had a crush on Melissa Sue Anderson. who played the blind sister.

Ben’s main spot was a small pond and a nearby creek. These were both well outside of cell service, and when I couldn’t find the pond, I thought I was screwed. Luckily, a couple of local guys, Lyle and Gordon, kindly pointed me the right way.

Another day saved by kind strangers.

They were completely bewildered as to why I would fish in the pond, which was a something of a stagnant backwater that had nothing living in it, EXCEPT for a large population of plains topminnows. I figured the surest way to break my slump was to fish someplace solely inhabited by things I hadn’t caught, and although the slog through the bushes left me with poison ivy on my ankles, at least I finally, FINALLY got a new species. It had been a very long four days.

I may have wept with relief.

The creek was an afterthought, but as I waded through the shallows, I could see it was jammed with micros. I hunted down a few darters, which turned out to be the common orangethroats and therefore a new one.

I love darters.

I also noticed a few sculpins poking their heads out from under the spillway edge. They took some coaxing, but eventually, one came out and attacked. It took several weeks of research (a big thanks to Tyler Goodale for checking his resources) but the creature turned out to be a mottled sculpin, another new one, and with three in an hour, I could show my face again.

Don’t panic – there is more excitement in this blog than three ounces of steaming midwestern micros.

On the drive back, I had some time to think about what Marty Arostegui has meant to me, and more broadly, to the general fishing world. For me, I’ve had the privilege of fishing with an expert. His gentle but direct feedback has helped me become a better, more responsible angler. (Perspectives from Marta – “Marty didn’t just make you a better angler, he made you a better, more responsible human. And better dressed.)

Golden tilefish, my 1100th species, August 4, 2011. I wouldn’t have caught it if Marty hadn’t completely changed my rig.

He never messed around – when I missed a cast after a jaguar gaupote, tangled a bush, and splashed the whole mess into the water onto the spot, he simply said “I think you spooked him.” Marty also changed how I think about terminal tackle – for example, I drastically scaled down my swivels and snaps after he mentioned that my swivels were way, way too big. It isn’t a coincidence that I started catching big surfperch in San Francisco Bay once I figured out how to make ultralight bait rigs.

Watching Marty prepare for a trip is a clinic. I would say he works harder the night before a trip than on the actual fishing, but he has everything, and I mean everything, ready, laid out, and at arm’s length. It is this type of attention to detail that has helped him accomplish some things that would seem impossible to normal people, like a 385 pound Lemon Shark. On fly. On a 16 pound tippet.

Think about that. 24:1. And the fish was safely released.

But in terms of Marty’s accomplishments, I would have to say the most insane is catching the Royal slam on billfish. On fly.

A spearfish on fly. We are not worthy. We are not worthy.

How does he do that?

A swordfish on fly earlier in his career. So he has done this more than once.

But with everything Marty has going for him, he is still more about others than himself. A lot of his time is spent on conservation – he has written hundreds of articles in both English and Spanish, and he is a popular speaker on conservation and fishing topics. I personally moved a lot of my fishing to circle hooks when he showed me that they actually work. Imagine how many more records he would have if he wasn’t busy helping the future of the sport.

Which brings us back to the event. I walked over to the museum early, mostly to experience the aquarium. It was just awesome – filled with things I hope to catch someday. But what was my mean-spirited takeaway? I found a mistake on one of their displays.

We all know “Salmo trutta” is a striped bass.

The event itself was magnificent. The backdrop was a massive saltwater aquarium, and just off to the left of it, the IGFA Hall of Fame.

The venue.

The five inductees.

I wandered around back there and looked at the amazing stories that had earned a spot on the wall. The first-ever inductee, for those of you who think fishing is male-dominated, was a woman, and she remains the only nun in the hall – so far. Look it up – Dame Juliana Berners.

Ok, she is a bit intimidating.

And then there is Hemingway, who has been a hero of mine for ages.

I believe every book he has ever written ends with “And then he died, alone, in the dirt.”

Marty made the evening about friends and especially his family. You know most of them, although oldest sister Ali was stuck at her home in North Carolina by a hurricane and couldn’t make it.

That’s Danielle, Roberta, Martini, and Marty. Danielle has 17 world records. Ali has two.

Danielle and Steve at the rum waterfall. Yes, there was a rum waterfall.

And I had to throw this photo in. From left to right, that is #4, #3, #2, and #1 in world records. I show this photo to strangers.

At the time it was taken, there were 1024 world records represented in this group.

The evening rolled around to Marty’s induction. He went up there to say a few words, and the applause didn’t die down for quite a while.

Marty addresses the group.

He seemed proud, but a little embarrassed by the whole thing. He gave a very nice acceptance speech, stressing that the real stars of the evening were the fish – every fish – not just the marlin and tuna that few people can afford to pursue, but all of them, especially the “ugly fish.” (They’re all beautiful.) As someone who has dedicated their life to catching every fish, large and small, glamorous or not, this resonates in my very soul. And this message resonates in most of the fishing world – it recognizes the reality of the world we have created and the imperative that we must make changes to preserve even what we have left. I felt a lot of things as I walked home – proud to have Marty and his family as friends, humbled by his dedication to the sport – but most of all, I was inspired, and it is Marty’s ability to inspire us that put him in the Hall of Fame.

Steve

 

 


Responses

  1. […] one of the species would be an open IGFA world record. That next record would be my 200th – territory explored only by the Arosteguis. I was heading into the trip with 1881 species, so I knew a spectacular showing could put me to […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Categories

%d bloggers like this: