Dr. Martin Arostegui

Dr. Martin Arostegui

This retired doctor knows a thing or two about records

  • By: Steve Kantner
Marty Arostegui's name is synonymous with world fly-fishing records. He has over 150 International Game Fish Association records (with 6 more pending) to his credit, and will likely add more in the years to come. Since retiring in 1997 from a medical career that included stints as chief of staff at Cedars Hospital in Miami and as an executive with a healthcare company, Marty pursues fly-fishing full time. With any luck, he could eventually become the most decorated fly-fisherman in the history of the sport.Steve Kantner: Doctors doubling as fly-fishermen; now there's a novel concept. Do you have any ideas why the two go hand-in-hand? Marty Arostegui: Sure. Both involve a certain degree of precision and dedication. Of course, making a bad backcast isn't the same as botching an emergency diagnosis. With all your recent achievements, you've built quite a reputation. In your opinion, what's the secret to locating a trophy fish? Mostly, being able to afford the hunt. That's where the doctor part comes in? I suppose. But in order to be successful at either endeavor, you have to work at it. When my family arrived in the States [from Cuba in the 1960's], my father worked as a manager in a sugar mill. Later, when the mill went bust, he was forced to do menial labor for 80 cents an hour. I swore I'd never live like that. Did the two of you fish together? Always. He helped develop my love of the sport. Incidentally, when I started out I was strictly a meat fisherman. When did all that change? I don't remember. It just did. I still keep a fish or two for dinner. You frequently refer to the Miami Beach Rod and Reel Club. Is that because the Club encourages competitive angling? Actually, it's because the Club played a major role in my development as a sport-fisherman. How long have you been a member? Fourteen years, I think. I remember joining right before my youngest daughter was born. I know I've been a member just slightly longer than I've been fly-fishing or trying to set records. Like the IGFA, the Miami Beach Rod and Reel Club has established species categories. But your friends claim you'll fish for anything. I will. In fact, I get just as much kick out of catching one-pound bass on popping bugs as I do casting big flies to billfish. You've fished all over the world? Not everywhere. So far, I've been to Alaska, Central America and the Amazon, as well as Cuba and the Caribbean. This year, I'm headed to Colorado to look for a record kokanee [salmon]. Incidentally, whenever I go to Brazil, I piss off my buddies by fishing for weird stuff. I'll try for trahira, red-tailed catfish--anything new or different. What about world records? Critics claim they're strictly an ego trip. Maybe they are. But I'm just as happy seeing you break mine as I am breaking yours. The real reason I like going after records is that it forces me to learn all I can about a particular species. Whether it's tarpon or toadfish, it still makes you think. If you don't believe me, go out and catch a five-pound Florida gar. Of course, chasing records helps keep me organized. Tell our readers more about your organizational strategy. I guess I learned it in the emergency room. First of all, you have to research the different categories before setting a specific goal. Then you have to be rigged and ready in advance for the exact moment a potential record fish becomes available. Fishing is unpredictable. The odds against randomly landing a record fish are equivalent to finding a moon rock in a landfill outside Cape Canaveral. You own a flats skiff and an offshore boat. So do you ever fish with guides? All the time. Besides, for knowing where the fish are, a good guide provides the best possible fly-fishing education. What about your fly-tying? I enjoy fly-tying, especially inventing new patterns for unusual species. What's the biggest fish you've ever taken on a fly? I recently landed a 257-pound lemon shark on 16-pound tippet. If approved by the IGFA, it'll be the second-largest shark, and fourth-largest gamefish, ever landed on regulation fly tackle. I understand you landed a broadbill swordfish and released it. Why did you end up killing the shark? I was fishing out of Key West with Captain Ralph Delph, who has this huge live-well in his boat for bringing fish back alive. Unfortunately, this one was injured. However, last year we were able to weigh and release a 202-pound lemon on 12-pound tippet. So IGFA rules no longer require anglers to kill potential records? That's right. You just have to weigh the fish on land. Do you take your kids fishing? Every chance I get. My son has over 30 world records. Like father, like son? Hey, so I'm no good at throwing a baseball. Landing big fish requires stamina. Do you train for it? Yes. I lift weights and try to run three times a week. Lastly, do you have any advice for tomorrow's fly-fishermen? Absolutely. Have fun, practice conservation, and most of all, don't take yourself too seriously.