Part One: Ralph Delph
Fishing has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was a little less than 5 years old, my grandfather caught a carp and with my attention diverted, as with most any 5 year old, he hooked the fish onto my hook and slid it back into the muddy creek. As the cork slowly eased below the surface, he yelled to me, that I had a bite. I grabbed the pole and began to struggle awkwardly, back and forth. Finally, I was able to slide the fish up on the muddy bank and with all of the excitement that a child of that age could muster, let out a string of expletives followed by an almost whispered, “What a fish!” My grandfather used to tell that story and just laugh and laugh. I don’t think that he realized the influence that experience had over me. My interest in fishing only intensified from that point on.
Around the age of ten, an older retired gentleman friend of the family would take me fishing with him. He loved to fish for Bass along the levies of the Everglades. On one of those excursions, as he waded off from the boat, I ask if I could use his fly rod. He answered in the affirmative and I eagerly grabbed the rod. It had a bumble bee popper attached to the leader, so I was ready to try it. I made the first cast, about 10 feet from the boat, and a cloud of War Mouth Bream swarmed the lure. One little “pop” and it was like a school of Piranha. Every cast was met by the same cloud with the same results. Man, was I hooked! I was now a fly fisherman.
Throughout my teenage years, my buddies and I would bag groceries and use the monies to finance our fishing trips to the keys bridges where we would fish night and day and until we had to get back to Miami for school that morning. We would fish the bridges in Miami for snook at night and the Everglades for Bass in the afternoons. My mother said that I was obsessed with fishing. What did she know?
Later in life, as I practiced structural engineering, I also practiced fishing. My buddy and I built a boat and widened our horizons. We were always hanging around the local tackle shop when the proprietor suggested that we form a fishing club. After posting a note to that extent over his shrimp tank, there were enough anglers that were interested that we drafted the purpose constitution and fishing rules of the Miami Sportfishing Club. With all of our knowledge, experience and the willingness to exchange ideas, we became a force to contend with. Our youth and enthusiasm led the club and many of it’s members to many championships and records. Many of the members of that organization went on to fame in the boat and tackle manufacturing industry as well as T.V. fame. Much of the tackle, boats and motors that we use today were strongly influenced by those people.
For well over 60 years,The Miami Metropolitan South Florida Tournament was the oldest and largest and most prestigious fishing tournament in the world. The top honor of that tournament was titled “The Master Angler”. With the knowledge and expertise that I had gained through the Miami Sportfishing Club, I decided to try for that title. After the smoke of the five month long tournament cleared, I had prevailed. Two years lated I decided to try to be the first angler to win the tournament for the second time. Five months later, I was again declared “The Master Angler” and the first two time winner of that great tournament.
A couple of years later, I decided to get my captains license and dabble in guiding on a part time basis. As luck would have it, the bottom soon fell out of the construction business and the demand for structural engineers decreased accordingly. I then decided to head for my favorite fishing grounds and ply my trade as a fishing guide in the waters that I was so familiar with. At that time there were only two light tackle guides in Key West and I has helped them to learn the area when they first got started. One of them had filmed a show for T.V. and had brought good publicity to the fishery in Key West. As the publicity of the catches that we were making, were made public in the Miami news papers and through the standings of the fishing tournaments, My business began to grow. Throughout the years, I guided my clients to hundreds of trophies and titles. for the next twenty plus years, most of the Master Anglers of that tournament fished from my boat. I won the “Guides Achievement” (symbolizing “the top guide of the year”) for twenty consecutive years. The crowning achievement of that time was the winning of the “Triple Crown of Guiding”, that is, the most winners, the most citations and the most releases of any captain in the tournament. This had never before been done and has not been done since.
Throughout the years, the production of quality fish and fishing experiences has been my highest priority of my chosen career. Knowledge, experience, hard work and the adherence to the rules of sportfishing have been the foundation on which I have built my reputation. I was the first captain to guide my clients to 100 I.G.F.A. world records, then the first to 200 and am now approaching the 300 mark. I have guided my anglers to the winners circle in several world famous Tarpon fly fishing tournaments as well as numerous Sailfish tournaments. Several of these tournaments were filmed with a T.V. crew on board, complicating the feat. Boats from all over this hemisphere gather in Key West to fish the Texico Classic Sailfish Tournament. My angler, Susan Gross landed her first sailfish in that tournament and went on to win it, becoming the only woman to have won that tournament. Later, she won it again, becoming the first and only woman to have won that tournament, captured on camera, on two occasions.
For twenty plus years, my sons and I traveled to the cool waters in quest of the Giant Bluefin Tunas. Utilizing our knowledge and expertise of fighting large fish on stand up tackle, we headed for New England during the summer, seeking new adventure and escape from the heat of the tropics. Little did we realize the adventures that lay before us. Some of these experiences will be related in the “Chronicles” section of this web site in the near future. Using stand up tackle with 50 wide, two speed reels and 100 pound test line, we quickly worked out the kinks and became proficient in the fishery. Over the years, my sons and I have brought to boat more than 300 of these giants. For the first eight years, the average weight of the fish that we caught was 764 pounds. Over the years, I managed to boat 4 fish that weighed more that 1000 pounds each, the largest of which weighed 1154 pounds. That was the largest fish ever landed on stand up tackle.
With hundreds, possibly thousands of trips along the reef line from Key West to the Dry Tortugas and beyond, My sons and I have evolved in the bottom fishery to a technique whereby it is more scientific and mechanical than just fishing. We consistently produce catches that impress the most experienced fishermen. See the “carts full of fish” section of this web site.
I have fished from Yukon Territory, throughout Canada and the United States, Central America, many regions of South America down to Ushuaia and in New Zealand. Each experience was an adventure of a life time. However, I seem to gravitate back to the Skeena River drainage during the summers to meet up with the largest Steelhead in the world. This is the fishery where if I had to choose one fish to fish for, for the rest of my life, this is it. I love the cold, fast waters and snow capped mountains. Casting a one handed fly rod or a two handed spey rod with a reel that you would be using for Tarpon in the keys, and hooking up to a giant Rainbow, though it be sea run, and battling this beautiful creature for half an hour or more in the swift currents, somehow touches my heart more than any other angling experience. I hope that you may find this joy in your heart, perhaps in one of the fisheries in this web site.