On Alaska Flight 16 at 37,000 feet en route to Islamorada, the birthplace of modern day flats fishing as we know it, I find myself reflecting upon the reasons I am doing so. There are obvious attractions that draw people to the Silver Kings but why am I now making my way to fish for the Giant Tarpon of the Florida Keys? (Islamorada fishing and trip report in next article) Besides the fact that I have always been a enthusiastic fisherman, the path of my present journey evolved from the circumstances and events in my life after fishing with one man. Ironically this man has seen, cast and jumped more tarpon than most any other person on the face of this earth.

Billy Pate and I first met in the fishing port of Mooloolaba, Queensland, Australia back in 1998. This was not Billy's first time to Australia as he fished out of Cairns back in 1972. Cairns is where he became the first person to catch a Black Marlin on fly.

When I met Billy he had come to fish a Game Fishing Tournament that was for the first time including a fly section.This particular tournament,The International Saltwater Flyfishing Challenge, was the brainchild of Gavin Platz. Platz, also a fanatical flyfisherman a little ahead of his time, had already taken a risk with the first ever flyfishing ONLY shop in Queensland. He had also formed a fledgling fly fishing club called the Sunshine Coast Flyfishers. Gavin had asked me to construct a letter to Billy and inform him of the fishing opportunities available from our home port. Little did I realize this would actually change my life forever. You will understand when I say that traveling with Billy and his other American friends was a fly fishing magazine journo whom had come to report on Billy's trip. That journo was Kate Van Gytenbeek who turned out to be the love my life and now my wife!

From the moment I met Billy on the back deck of my old boat "Wahoo" he struck me as someone who knew what he wanted and knows how to achieve it. During our first chat Billy introduced me to his harness system. He wanted to install it in case we hooked a fish that required a deckhand to gaff a big fish. The harness was to stop a angler or the deckie from going overboard while sticking a fixed head gaff (required by IGFA flyfishing rules) into a big fish.

After spending a few hours removing the game chair and fishing station and readying the cockpit to accommodate flyfishing Billy then introduced us to the wonders of using eels as teasers! We had a great time during those first days with fellow Australian angler George Voisey having his first shot at a Sailfish with Billy as his instructor.Unfortunately, during the tournament our persistence and dedication to trolling teasers during a time that the fish remained deep feeding on massive bait-schools saw us with few opportunities. Later in the week with a film crew on "Sea Legend" and Skipper and best mate Geoff Shorthouse at the helm we managed to get some better results. Those days ended with Billy's then wife Jodie landing another world record Sailfish. Click picture to enlarge.

Timing is everything and the weeks following Billy's departure were red hot. The numbers of small Black Marlin raised to the teaser were flashing around like fleas on a dog.

Billy left me with some great lessons, advice and stories that gave insight into some amazing fishing facts during his stay. However it was the man not the myth that impressed me. Not once did Billy deviate from his game plan and methods while we fished. His methodical planning, preparation and arrangement was very evident in every detail. This in itself gives you some understanding how someone might actually be able to encounter and catch as many big fish as Billy has in his lifetime. He alone has jumped over 5000 tarpon and has countless achievements with billfish on fly.

Recently on a visit to Seattle I had the chance to catch up with Billy again for dinner at Washington Fly Fishers Club meeting. Also sitting at the table were longtime friends of Billy such as Cam Sigler and Peter Van Gytenbeek. It was fascinating to hear tales from the early times of these anglers as well as from the beginnings of such organizations as TU and FFF. WWFC Photo 1 (Fishing youth,Billy Pate 74 and Gordy Young 94) WWFC Photo 2 (Old friends, Billy Pate and Peter Van Gytenbeek) Photo 3 (Keith Robbins and Billy)  Photo 4( Randall Bryett and Billy)
Listening to Billy's presentation and the subsequent Q&A portion of the program further illustrated how full the life of this 74 year old (unbelievable) has been. Billy's story of his own personal introduction to tarpon was hysterical. As the story goes, Billy being hung-over after a night on the town and was coerced into getting out of bed at 5am only to find himself under the hot sun during a low tide in a hole full of fly hungry tarpon. The group loved it. They also ate up his accounting of his most satisfying fish which was not his biggest but a fish that he saw ,cast, caught, lip gaffed and pulled in the boat. It had bigger dimensions (he had help there) than his previous world record but was only 173lbs !

Billy Pate has been inducted into the IGFA Hall of Fame and bio below gives us a short peek at the accomplishments of true angling history.

William W Pate Jr.

Billy Pate is one of the world's foremost big-game fly fisherman. He maybe best known for his 188lb world record tarpon on 16lb tippet, for starting World Wide Sportsman in 1967 and for catching the first Blue
Marlin on a fly rod. But thats just he start of Pate's angling achievements. He has held more significant saltwater fly fishing records than any other angler. He was the first person to catch a Black Marlin on fly (Australia 1972) He was the first person to catch six
billfish species on fly.

Pate began fishing South Carolina brooks at the age of 6. Eight years later he persuaded his parents to by him a fly rod and from that point on he has fly fished almost exclusively with fly tackle. during a trip to the Florida Keys in the early 1960's Pate became enamored with catching tarpon on fly and on his first day out he was "hooked for life.

There is a complicated science to fly fishing for billfish and Billy Pate is a leader in this specialized sport. Dr Webster Robinson pioneered the technique catching the first Atlantic Sailfish, Pacific Sailfish and Striped Marlin. When Pate caught a 146 pound Striped Marlin in Ecuador in 1970 ( a record on 15 pound tippet which stood until 1995) no one had yet taken a blue , black or white marlin on fly.

On his way home from Ecuador, Pate resolved that he would be the first person to catch six billfish species on a flyrod. He spent the next eight years doing just that, catching a white marlin, a black marlin, a Atlantic and Pacific sailfish. On August 21, 1978 in Havan , Cuba Pate finally caught a Blue marlin the fish that proven to be the most difficult, fulfilling his long -sought dream and also becoming the first to catch this species on fly.

A inveterate traveler, Billy Pate has journeyed to 40 countries in search of his quarry. he meticulously researches , organizes and prepares for all trips and for each and every contest between man and fish. Though Pate has actively sought records for him it is not just about filling up holes in the record books. he fishes for the thrill pursing species that are challenging and exciting. Besides holding records for blue, white, black, and striped marlins , Atlantic and Pacific sailfishes he has set records for mako shark, jack crevalle, bonefish, channel bass grouper and redfish. But to Pate light tackle fishing for tarpon is the ultimate challenge. His 188lb 7'5" tarpon caught on 16lb tippet on May 13 1982 in Homosassa , Florida was a record for 21 years. from Carolina to Brazil and from the coast of Panama to Sherbro Island off Africa's Sierra Leone, Pate has fished for the silver king, estimating that he hooked more than five thousand in a lifetime.

It was on a trip to Costa Rica in the mid - 1980's the Pate and Islamorada fishing guide George Hommell came up with the idea for World Wide Sportsman. World Wide became one of the most famous fishing tackle shops anywhere and is credited with opening up many new fly fishing locations around the world. Twenty eight years, in 1995 pate and Hommell sold the company to Bass Pro Shops.

Billy Pate is an encyclopedia of fly fishing knowledge. Interested in a fly reel that would be the "best in the world' he combined his ideas with features of the Seamaster and Fin - Nor brands designing the reel
that bears his name and his been manufactured by Ted Juracsik since the 1970's. Pate has been featured in a segment of The American Sportsman and in many video; he sees these films as teaching tools and a way to pass on his lifetime of fishing experience.

Pate has won numerous tournaments including four victories in both the Gold Cup Tarpon Fly Championship.

Not only dedicated to the pursuit of the of the fish he enjoys catching the most, Pate is also a committed conversationist. He was instrumental in instituting the $50 tarpon tag system in Florida and is a founder or has been a board member of the Everglades Protection Association (now part of the Florida Coastal Conservation Association) Trout Unlimited, Bonefish & Tarpon Unlimited the Don Hawley Foundation and the Pate Foundation.

Though he has established remarkable milestones in fishing, Billy pate insists his greatest pleasures have come from the wonderful friends he has made and the lovely waters he has fished. this dedicated master angler will always rank among the truly outstanding fly fishers of this or any other generation.

Billy Pate and Randall Bryett