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LESSONS LEARNED


What 50 years on the water have taught


legendary Florida guide Capt. Steve Huff By Charlie Levine


C


APT. STEVE HUFF says he’s


spent his whole


adult life floating. He hasn’t been just


gliding his skiff across countless miles of Flor -


ida’s famed backcountry over that time; he’s been doing whatever it takes to


When Huff was 10, his father gave


him a spinning rod. Not long after his father was gone and Huff would never see or hear from him again. Huff caught his first fish on that rod, a 2-pound snook, and that fish sparked a fire with- in him that still burns strong today. As a boy in South Florida, Huff


“I’ve never gotten over the sight of a giant fish taking a fly.”


He’s done more for light-tackle


angling and saltwater fly-fishing than just about any of his contemporaries. Accolades, however, aren’t why Huff, who turns 70 soon, still spends 200 or more days on the water. He’s an addict and his drug of choice is landing big fish in quiet waters. “I’ve never gotten over the sight of a


giant fish taking a fly,” Huff says. “Ask anyone who has light-tackle fished their whole life and they will tell you that it’s fun to reel a fish in, but seeing the fish come up and bite — a giant tarpon sucking down a chicken feather — that’s a narcotic. If you fish, you get it. If you don’t, you don’t have a clue.”


14


fished from the many causeways and jetties, using a bike that he tricked out with tackle storage and rod holders. He studied marine biology at the Univer - sity of Miami and began fishing full time after graduation in the Florida Keys, much to his mother’s chagrin. He took out his first client in 1968,


and they went fishless, but that didn’t deter Huff. He worked harder and fished longer than his fellow guides. His attention to detail and knowledge of his quarry and their chosen habitat is beyond impressive. He can recite details of memorable catches like a baseball statistician recalling famous games. His reputation as one of the best guides on the water grew like a fingerling. His clients come back year after year,


many of them fishing with him for sev- eral days or even an entire season. Clients became close friends. One such client, legendary


fly-fisherman Del


Brown, booked Huff for more than 50 days in one season to pursue permit on fly. Together, they would set many angling records and with Huff as his guide, Brown caught a 41.5-pound per- mit on 8-pound tippet that remains the largest permit ever taken on fly. The two innovated this fishery, coming up


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