Tred Barta, the outspoken and renowned big game fisherman and hunter, host of The Best and Worst of Tred Barta, died unexpectedly on August 12th, 2019 in a car accident in the Yukon territory. He was 67. Barta was known for his outspoken and sometimes controversial remarks. At times his rash egocentric personality rubbed people the wrong way but deep down his work ethic and sportsmanship showed true especially after he was paralyzed. Below is a tribute to Tred from a fellow angler and friend.

“Tred Barta was an inspirational outdoorsman. He traveled the world hunting with a wooden longbow and fly fishing with a bamboo rod. His achievements are legendary and encompass numerous fishing world records. Life dealt him a humbling blow when he became paralyzed from mid-chest down in 2009 at the age of 57. He still continued to pursue hunting and fishing with the same enthusiasm. An advocate for individuals with disabilities he positioned himself as a role model for paraplegics around the world.

I became Tred’s personal fly fishing guide shortly after his spinal infarction in 2009 that left him paralyzed from mid-chest down. The first time we met he asked if there were any places I could take him to fish in his wheelchair? As a longtime fly fishing guide, I had a short list of places popping into my head immediately. 

We began fly fishing together the following week and for the next six years, he and I spent over 300 days together fishing and hunting. Our fishing adventures would include time spent in freshwater and saltwater, on land, in rafts and boats. Our time spent hunting included hunts for deer, elk, antelope, black bear, turkey, ducks, geese, rabbits, and prairie dogs, all of this was post paralyzation.

Tred was born and raised on the eastern coast of the U.S. where his father introduced him to the outdoors at an early age. A product of a privileged upbringing in New York he often told me the he “wore Brooks Brothers to elementary school.” Later out of Shinnecock he began pioneering the off-shore currents around “the canyons” catching multiple big-eye tuna in a single outing. His knowledge of Blue Water fishing led to a career writing for multiple fishing magazines and two books.

The expertise he gained on the high seas brought him notoriety and acclaim. It was with this knowledge that he parlayed into his long-running television show, the Best and Worst of Tred Barta. Starting in 200,4 his exploits with a longbow were recorded on film. One of the pinnacles was his harvest of a grizzly bear with his primitive gear. His travels with rod and bow were filmed for multiple seasons even after his paralysis, a testament to his enduring spirit.

 Before Tred was paralyzed he obtained multiple world record fishing trophies. One such quest he told me took over $250,000 to finally capture the record. His light line record for dolphin still stands today, a 38.6lb dolphin on 6lb tippet. He held multiple tuna records and is recognized as the angler who has caught more Big-eye Tuna on rod and reel than anyone.

 A fundraiser for numerous charitable organizations his notoriety, whether love him or hate him, brought attention and delivered donations for good causes. From serving on Boards of Directors for different organizations over the years, his devotion to giving back trickled down all the way to Wounded Warrior and Project Healing Waters weekend or day events we attended together. A Project Healing Waters event held on the famous Blue Valley Ranch aka. Jurassic Park was one of the more memorable events where we appeared. Tred shared his off-color jokes and colorful blessings for the day before we snuck off for the Upper Oxbow, the Secret Pond and the Governor’s Pond and the giant trout that inhabited the private ranch. 

Our time together encompassed hunting, fishing, and travel. We indulged in fine food and great laughs on our adventures. One such fishing trip here in Colorado had us sleeping for a few nights in a converted chicken coop and dining with the ranch owners who had entertained other famous fishing guests like President Jimmy Carter. Not exactly the political party of affiliation for Tred but an indicator of the level of exclusivity the ranch provided. 

Burdened with a colostomy bag, a urine tube and external bladder he never stopped pushing the limits an individual with a disability can accomplish. Many nights I assisted as he would transition from his wheelchair across a board into his bed. The physicality of his affliction would humble most into submission. But not Tred he continued to serve as a role model for individuals with disabilities everywhere. His last adventure up to Alaska, solo, was a climax for himself personally. The Barta Get Off the Couch adventure was recorded in the Facebook entries he provided throughout the entire trip. Up North Journal made multiple Podcasts with Tred throughout the Alaska trip as well. Traveling solo with only his canine assist dog and towing a handicap accessible RV the adventure was equivalent to a Hank Patterson video on steroids. Ultimately it would be during his return travel to the lower 48, where he would pass away from an automobile accident in Canada.

 A man who placed a higher value on the experience rather than the harvest. He often made off the cuff comments just to elicit a response. “Love me or Hate me, did you read me?” He would say. Tred knew a lot of people were hanging on to hear what he would say next. Brash, bold and full of himself, I hate to say it but he earned it. 

 A successful trip into the salt out of Islamorada, Florida was often measured in the number of snapper limits we could manage. Tred had his own lowered, wheelchair-accessible cleaning table at the World Wide Sportsman marina. After a day out on the water, Tred gave Captain Skipper Gentry and I the instructions to double-check the number of Mangrove Snappers we had on the table. Capt. Gentry and I promptly lied and told him we were over our four-person limit by one fish. He casually looked left then right like a schoolboy preparing to run across a busy street, snatched one of the snappers off the cleaning table and before Skipper and I could say anything else he chucked it to the half tame tarpon that lurk beneath the cleaning areas for free grub.

 A custom Andros boat allowed him to continue to participate in deep sea fishing from the Captain’s seat. He was able to secure his wheelchair to the deck and maneuver the boat strategically, naturally, like second nature. He truly excelled in saltwater fishing despite his paralyzed status or being confined to a wheelchair. When I was on the saltwater with him you could feel the confidence he exuded. He possessed a deeper understanding of the immense watery world around us far beyond what my comprehension could ever imagine.

 I, like others, owe him a lot. He set me up for my first Tarpon over 100lbs and guided me to my first three sharks on the fly in Islamorada. Coached me when fighting big fish on lightweight bamboo by lifting the whole rod while protecting the fragile wooden tip. 

His time spent with my family, especially his influence over my daughters has been touching. Their attention when it comes to individuals with disabilities is greater than most adults will ever possess because of their exposure to Tred.

 An outspoken advocate for all things outdoors, Tred cultivated a lifelong obsession with hunting and fishing. Even in the darkest shadows of disability he still persevered, providing a roll model that everyone can use for motivation. Tred Barta was an author, pilot, captain, hunter, angler, traveler and more. And he was also my friend. Love him or hate him there will never be anyone else like him. Tred Barta March 28, 1952 – August 12, 2019.

By Michael “Sal” Salomone @mikesalomone88 (www.michaelsalomone.com) a trout fly fishing guide and writer based in the mountains of Colorado at Vail Valley Anglers.

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