A self-taught fly caster and imaginative fly tier, he has been featured in publications such as Saltwater Sportsman, South Florida Sportfishing Magazine and Fly Fishing America Magazine.
He’s fished such notables as Curt Gowdy, Chico Fernandez and Flip Pallot. Captain Barry is an amicable and patient guide who enjoys introducing anglers to the wonders of Everglades National Park.
Captain Barry Hoffman Interview
Barry, thank you for sharing your time and expertise with our readers. Tell us how and why you decided to become a flats guide in the Florida Keys.
Fishing has been a hobby of mine since I was a young boy. I’ve always had a passion for the water and have worked on or near it my whole life.
I’ve operated a dive boat, a marine maintenance company and have worked as a Bahamian charter captain. I’ve always been attached to the water in some regard.
A good friend that I’d fished with in my spare time (who was a very accomplished and sought-after guide in the Keys) pushed me to become a guide as well.. With his help and the time I’d already racked up in the “swamp” I was able to guide full time within a year. That’s of course back when the number of guides in the Keys was much lower. So for nearly 20 years, I’ve been at it.
I’m sure that most of our readers feel you have the “perfect” job. What is it you enjoy most about guiding?
I really enjoy people. Bringing them out into one of the World’s most unique and magnificent national parks and showing them the Roseate Spoonbills, crocodiles, the beautiful seascapes, the calm water and islands that make up the Everglades National Park. Catching fish just adds to the fun.
Some of the species you pursue such as bonefish, tarpon and permit are notoriously hard to catch. How do you deal with anglers that have perhaps only fished for bluegills and bass?
From my perspective, I’m just very happy to spend a day on the water with a new client. While some of our species (bonefish, tarpon, permit) require some skills to have a productive day, I realize that many may not have the expertise to catch them.
I’m certainly happy helping them with their abilities and making the most out of each opportunity. The most important thing I can do as a guide is understand what one expects from me during the course of a day.
If their abilities are not as high as their expectations, I might suggest we fish part of the day for an easier species such as seatrout, jacks and ladyfish. But if they really want to catch one of our gamefish, I’m a patient guide and if I’ve got a patient angler and good weather conditions, we can usually get our target.
What is your personal favorite salt water species to fish for and why?
Easy… Any thing at any time I’m sight fishing the flats. I love to watch the fish react to a fly or bait. The water is typically very shallow and you can watch the event take place right in front.. I get just as excited as the angler, especially when the fish take off and/or jump. I’m fishing vicariously through them.
You have been guiding the “Keys” for over 19 years. What is the biggest change you have seen take place during your professional career?
The traffic on the water is just overwhelming to me and the fish. Many species rely on “quiet and calm” water to reproduce and feed. With so many recreational boaters, dive boats, wind surfers, jet skies and kite boarders racing around and across the flats, the fish have left many traditional places. It has gotten harder to pursue some species, but now we just have to make every cast count.
If you could implement one rule that every fisherman would have to follow, what would it be?
Release your fish. I’ve read a publication released from the park service that boat traffic is up over 100 times what it was ten years ago in Florida Bay. That’s potentially a lot of fish removed from the water each day.
The fun is in the catching of the fish. Once removed, they can’t reproduce or be caught again. While I do enjoy eating fish, there are other commercially available sources for me to get a great fish dinner.
What advice can you share to those who are just beginning their fly fishing journey?
If you want to learn, get with a good instructor from the start. Be it a friend or organization, the time and frustration saved will be worth it. One quick thought.. not all great casters are good instructors. Everyone learns at a different pace. It’s important to find an instructor with patience and the ability to teach the technique.
On those rare occasions when you aren’t guiding or fishing, what is it that you like to do with your free time?
I spend a few days a month golfing with several friend and a few guides.. Pushing a skiff around all day can be tough work, so a relaxing day on the course with friends and perhaps a libation afterwards, relaxes me. My wife and I do a lot of kayaking in the backcountry, where I exercise a small passion for wildlife photography. I also enjoy the serenity of running early in the morning. It’s good for my health and my mind.
What’s in your personal bucket list for 2010?
My wife is an adventurous traveler.. So each year we visit an exotic location for three weeks or so. We been many times to Costa Rica, Indonesia and next year, Thailand.
Before we leave Barry, is there any thing special you would like to share with our readers?
I’ve been jokingly told that the meaning of life is death. Our time on this Earth is relatively short. Spend time with those you love, get yourself in shape at any age, and get out and see the World. It’s easier than you think.
To make reservations, or check on Captain Barry’s availability, you can contact contact him here:
Captain Barry Hoffman
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