There's nothing wrong with being in Florida in
January. Even if you're there on business. A recent trip put
me, serendipitously, into the same complex as the IGFA Fishing Hall of
Fame and Museum in lovely Ft. Lauderdale. How could I resist a
chance to visit? Visitors are greeted with a breathtaking sculpture,
a marlin in mid leap captures all the fury and immense
power of which that creature is capable.
And this is even before you reach the front door!
stunning contemporary building, there's no doubting the focus of this
effort. This is the home of sportfishing and the legacy of a club
philosophy is " founded on the beliefs that game fish species, related
food fish, and their habitats are economic, social, recreational, and
aesthetic assets which must be maintained, wisely used and perpetuated;
and that the sport of angling is an important recreational, economic, and
social activity which the public must be educated to pursue in a manner
consistent with sound sporting and conservation practices." It
feels like home!
The IGFA has traditionally been thought of as
an organization that focuses on big-game fishing in the world's oceans.
That perception is correct, but it only tells part of the story. The
IGFA did, in fact, have it's beginnings with the ocean-going big-game
angler; "Before 1939 there was no universal code of sporting
ethics to guide ocean anglers in their pursuits. Some rules pertaining to
sporting conduct were in effect at certain well-established fishing clubs
but they varied according to the dictates of each club. The idea of a
worldwide association of marine anglers had been brewing for some time in
Australia, and the United States, and the first steps in this direction
were taken in the late 1930ís by members of the British Tunny Club who
hoped to establish headquarters in England to formulate rules for ethical
Officially established in 1939, the IGFA was
originally created to serve as an interface between ichthyologic
societies, governmental agencies and international organizations involved
in the commercial and sport fishing industries. 31 years later the
IGFA took a significant step in growing its audience. In 1970, "E.
K. Harry, then IGFA vice president, proposed opening the organization to
individual membership to insure its continued funding, unify international
anglers, and inform a much larger audience of the problems threatening
fishery resources. Then, in 1978, Field & Stream magazine officially
turned over its record-keeping responsibilities to IGFA. Thus the
membership-driven organization that IGFA is today, responsible for all
saltwater and freshwater world records and for spreading awareness of
fishery and conservation issues to fishermen around
the world, was
formed." I have been a member, on and off, since 1973 and still
wear my very first IGFA membership patch proudly on my fly fishing vest.
If you think the IGFA is still about marlin,
sailfish, sharks and tuna, you might be surprised to find that the very
first exhibit one encounters as he enters the museum is a retrospective of
Lee Wulff. In the glass
case in the entry foyer is the very last fly Lee
ever tied - a saltwater pattern that was left in his vise on that fateful
day in 1991.
glass case is filled with treasures enough alone to keep an avid fly fisher
dreaming for a full day. The flies Lee tied are unique - he was
obviously playing with splayed wings and heavy body palmering in an effort
to move more water and create a sonic signature when the fly was fished.
Sound and vibration are critical components of an effective presentation,
especially on the open ocean. Wulff actually hooked and landed
sailfish on a "dry fly" - a jointed, palmered pattern much like the one show
above. I wonder if we'd have patterns like this in our fly boxes
if Mr. Wulff had lived long enough to complete his experiments? This
fly certainly shows the perspective of someone who's seen a different side
of the sport.
A stone-cold-mint example of a rare Garcia 2073
Lee Wulff fly rod also graces the exhibit. There are many who'd pay a
princely sum to own such a rod, or even to have an opportunity to simply
Many of the exhibits at the IGFA Museum are
geared towards kids. There are machines that mimic the pull of a big game
fish and allow the little tykes to sit in a fighting chair and get an idea
of what the battle might be like. And there are plenty of exhibits that
demonstrate the technology behind everything from fishing reels to rods,
lines to hooks. From the earliest history of the sport to the most
contemporary bass blaster, all the various branches of the angling tree are
there heavy with fruit. This is a great stop for a family on vacation
in south Florida!
There's plenty to keep a fly fanatic
slack-jawed, however. This facility houses some serious treasures of our
angling past. There is an exhibit of original flies tied by Don Gapen,
Ed Hewitt, Preston Jennings, Art Flick, Ray Bergman, Theodore Gordon, G. E.
M. Skues, F. M. Halford, Harry and Else Darby and many, many more. The
one complaint I can legitimately voice regards the lighting of these
exhibits. The flies are small, some are exquisitely detailed.
Yet the lighting is so marginal that much of the beauty of the ties is lost.
One would be well prepared to bring a small, bright LED flashlight to better
bring out the color and detail of the displayed patters. Photographing
the exhibits is nearly impossible due to glare on the Plexiglas case.
The E. K. Harry Library of Fishes is also housed
at the IGFA museum. Established in 1973 in response to the need for a
permanent repository for angling literature, history, films, art,
photographs, and artifacts, this library houses the most comprehensive
collection in the world on game fish, angling, and related subjects. I am
not certain how one can go about accessing this library, as it is segregated
from the exhibits. The Fly Fish Ohio team is currently working to get
the museum curator, Mr. Chris Hess or perhaps the IGFA Librarian, Gail
Morchower, to join us for an Adventures in
Fly Fishing Podcast to talk about the collection.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention
the world records. There are 170 species of game fish that earned
world record status suspended over your head as you walk through the museum.
Each record fish has an informational plate detailing the date of catch,
angler, and the place the fish was captured displayed on the floor under the mount. The largest mount is Alfred Dean's 2,664 lb great white shark
caught in Australia in 1959. Nothing can prepare you for the actual size of
an animal that impressive! It's almost frightening to think someone
would want to hook it!
When I look at the notes I took during my brief
visit I smile at my last entry. It says "If you want to remember
why you fish, come here." I know my time at the IGFA
Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum made me feel like a kid again!
f you find yourself in Miami or Ft. Lauderdale, do yourself a favor and take
a couple hours to find your way over. You won't regret it!