In the landmark book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey, which focuses on those individuals who, for a variety of reasons, are the masters of their craft. These are the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. Gladwell's best seller also poses the question: What makes high-achievers different?
His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of Silicon Valley billionaires and what made Bill Gates great. Why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.
So how does a future outlier kid from Venice, Florida — a son of a preacher — find his way to the mecca of saltwater fly fishing in the Florida Keys and become one of the most sought after saltwater guides in that community?
Bruce Chard came from a non-fishing family. Chard's journey started with a good friend of the family who introduced him to ultralight beach fishing for pompano. Chard spent his formative years fishing the beaches of the West Coast of Florida for trout, pompano, whiting, snook, redfish and tarpon. He also explored the canals for any critters that could be caught with rod and reel. Years of watching "Walker Cay Chronicles" with Flip Pallot and reading the heroics of Lefty Kreh, Stu Apte and other icons of the early years of the Florida Keys saltwater scene left an indelible impression on the young teenager.
When Chard turned he headed to the Keys with a fly fishing buddy, he fished and camped at Long Key State Park spending weeks camping in the back of his pickup truck living the dream. He fished the nearby flats and mangroves with his kayak, creating a passion that drove him to move to the Keys to start his career as a fly fishing guide.
After making the move to Big Pine Key in 1992, Chard took a managing position at a fly shop in Marathon. This allowed Chard to meet the local guides and fisherman in the area. Being involved with the shop also helped Chard learn the fly industry and created opportunities to start working with fly industry manufacturers on product testing and designs while guiding on his days off.
As Chard started to guide full time he noticed most of his clients benefited greatly from some casting instruction. So Chard studied for years to accomplish what few have done in the casting world and became one of the youngest Master Certified Fly Casting Instructors.
This inspired Chard to start one of the industry's most popular saltwater fly fishing schools. Hosted by Chard personally, his bonefish schools in the Bahamas, Permit Schools in Belize and tarpon schools in the Florida Keys quickly became a gateway for many anglers to become better casters and fishermen.
Chard increased his involvement within the fly industry and designed an award-winning saltwater fly-line taper that makes up the very popular Airflo-Chard Tropical Punch fly line. This saltwater taper helps to lay out your line, leader with fly in a straight line, and is straight especially helpful when casting into the wind.
Not only has Chard guided the saltwater flats for the past 24 years, but he has also become a top saltwater speaker at fly fishing shows, fly shops and fly fishing clubs around the U.S. His presentations on saltwater fly tying, fly casting and destination travel keep Chard busy during the winter time.
In 2008, Confluence Films featured Chard in the popular flyfishing DVD Movie "RISE" where Chard reveals the world-famous tarpon palalo worm hatch.
All of this industry exposure, including his inclusion on the covers of 14 different fly fishing magazines, has increased his popularity. In 2011 this in-depth industry exposure helped Chard become a nominee to the board of the AFFTA (American Fly Fishing Trade Association) — the first-ever guide to represent the fly industry and to serve as an ambassador promoting the sustained growth of the entire fly fishing industry.
Chard is far past the 10,000 hours of practice that Gladwell pegs as the magical minimum hours of commitment required to become a true master. If you're lucky enough to get a day on the water with Chard you will immediately be drawn to his unbridled enthusiasm and true passion for the sport of fly fishing.