Playing by the Rules

steve huff

steve huff

Steve Huff (Courtesy IGFA)

Looks like my old friend and boss, Rob Kramer, is passing the blogger’s torch to yours truly. Truth is, I’m pleased to be able to contribute my thoughts, from time to time, to what I consider to be one of the finest fishing publications in the world. Unfortunately, like my predecessor, I don’t have a background in blogging per se. Fortunately, those that know me know that I do happen to have opinions on a fair number of things. So here goes.

I have been a lifelong fisherman starting as a kid growing up in Virginia Beach all the way through landing a dream job here at IGFA. Along the way I’ve had the great fortune to fish in some amazing places with some fantastic people for a variety of species. I’m generally a happy guy whenever I’m fishing, no matter what I’m fishing for; be it bluegill or blue marlin. But given my druthers, I’d say I’m most content chasing fish in shallow water with a fly rod. The combination of stalking fish, making the cast and watching the eat just does it for me like nothing else.

Several weeks ago, I had the honor of fishing with one of the true greats in the fly-fishing world, Capt. Steve Huff. Steve is considered by most to be the best flats guide of all time, and no matter whether you consider his innovations to skiff designs, tarpon and permit world records, or his IGFA Hall of Fame status, his peers will tell you he’s the man.

When Steve told me at an IGFA event that he wanted to fish with me, I was beyond elated. He also told me: “Don’t worry about the weather. Even if it blows like hell we’re still going.” A week later, I found myself mumbling these exact words as I drove across Alligator Alley on my way to Everglades City while listening to the day’s forecast for winds 20 to 30 mph with a 70-percent chance of rain.

As we had discussed, I met Steve at a little diner at 6:30am. We ate a hot breakfast, groused about the weather some but unanimously considered it better to give it a go than sit around the house all day. In short order, we hitched up Steve’s little skiff, made the quick ride to Chokoloskee and launched into the tempest. We did end up catching some snook and redfish on fly, but that’s not the point of my diatribe.

While we were eating lunch on the boat, Steve brought up the subject of IGFA Angling Rules and frankly stated that even though he didn’t chase records anymore, he still adhered to the rules religiously. While on the topic, we both contended that fishing is a sport, that every sport needs rules and that IGFA has served in that capacity since 1939. All that said, we were both amazed at the number people we knew that did not fish by IGFA rules. We talked about things like anglers passing the rod during a hot sailfish bite, using an electric reel to deep-drop for swords or using a two-foot shock tippet when fly-fishing for tarpon. It was equally obvious and sad to us both that some people just don’t think that rules are important to fishing.

Steve summed up our entire discussion best when he said: “When I hear a guy tell me that he caught a tarpon on fly but was not following IGFA rules, I immediately tell him he wasn’t fly-fishing. He might have been doing something else, but unless you’re following the rules you are not fishing.”

Regardless of my position at IGFA, I happen to agree with Steve’s statement. In reality, IGFA rules are not that onerous to the angler so playing by them isn’t too difficult. Besides making a few measurements on your terminal tackle, IGFA rules basically boil down to no one touching the rod, reel or line once the angler is hooked up. If you’re unfamiliar with IGFA rules you can download a copy by visiting

Next time you go fishing, think about whether or not you’re playing by the rules. If you’re not, consider if you’d think it would be OK if you were playing a round of golf with your buddies and one of them used a spud gun to tee off instead of a golf club. Every sport needs rules.