Simms Guide Ambassador and Florida guiding guru Bruce Chard talks about guiding Leona Helmsley, protecting the Keys and life in the sun.
You have been guiding down in the Florida Keys for a while now? Talk to me about how you got there. I have been in the Keys for 21 years now. I moved to the Keys when I was 18 years old in hopes to guide on the flats as a fly fishing guide. I worked for Leona Helmsley in the hospitality industry in Sarasota, Florida where I grew up.
Did you ever guide Leona Helmsley? No, I didn’t actually guide Leona, but I did actually guide her private flight crew and captain of her own 747. They were cool guys.
I know your family is in Michigan. Are you now guiding there as well? I don’t do any guiding in Michigan – just in the Florida Keys. I also host my many different salt water fly fishing schools annually in Belize, Mexico, Bahamas and the Keys along with hosted trips to AK and Canada. I fill in the rest of my free time with watching my son play some hockey. I do interact with many of the local fly shops in Michigan and promote saltwater angling and some of my trips.
The Keys is a pretty competitive guiding environment – is that ever a problem? Guiding in the Keys is competitive for sure and at certain times of the year when the fish are only in certain areas its challenging to find areas where you would like to fish that are not already taken. I have found myself doing different things to get around the traffic. It’s been good in a way, too, because the extra competition has forced me to think even more out of the box and that has made me even a better guide.
Most of your clients, I would guess, don’t fish in the salt all year. How do you recommend they prep for their trip to fish with you? Practice casting is the most important thing for guys to prepare for a salt trip, I believe. Just get that rod in your hand as much as possible. The rest you really can’t practice until you get out on the water. But if you can’t even cast, then you have to focus on that and not on all the other stuff there is to learn once you get on the boat.
Being in the sun all-day for a good part of the year can be tough. Has your understanding of sun protection and clothing changed over the years? Yes, dramatically! I try my best to be as comfortable and protected as much as possible. That is why I love the new Simms products over the past recent years that make that combo of being comfortable and being protected at the same time possible
What do you see as the largest threat to the Florida Keys? Pressure. But Pressure from all different angles. Just plain boat pressure from people that live in the Keys and from fishing guides makes it difficult for fish to continue their annual migrations. The tourists that rent the jet skis and parasail all over the place are also more examples of pressure.
What conservation organizations do you support? Bonefish and Tarpon Trust.
Are you active at all in the tournament scene in Florida? How do you see that as a part of our sport? I actually don’t participate in the tournament scene in Florida. I find it hard to keep the fun of fishing when in a tournament atmosphere. That is just a personal feeling towards tournaments, but I think the tournament scene is important in the fishing industry to keep people’s interest in fishing sustained.
What’s the most misunderstood part of being a saltwater fishing guide? The most misunderstood part of being a salt water fishing guide is that we don’t control the weather. No matter what we do as a guide it never fails that when the weather is bad, it’s very tough for anglers to accept the fact that there is nothing we can do as guides to fix that. We can’t change the normal patterns of the fish when the weather changes.
What’s your favorite fish? Tarpon – They are huge, jump, eat everything and fight like a mack truck. What more would you like out of a fish?
For more information on Bruce Chard and to see if he is available for your next trip to the Keys, visit his website.