Meet Coach Duff: Howler Ambassador

Posted on August 1, 2012

A few short years ago, the massive bonefish of Hawaii were basically unknown and they certainly were not making the pages of the fly fishing magazines and blogs.  Terry Duffield, aka “Coach Duff”, single handedly changed all of that.   Duff originally went to Hawaii to coach defense for the University of Hawaii Rainbows football squad.  After sticking a 9# bone while blind casting on the North Shore, he dug deep into figuring out the water, set up his guide biz, Hawaiian Bonefishing, and planted his flag in the Aloha State for good.    Now you can find the Coach prowling the flats and edges in Oahu on a daily basis hunting for that 20 pounder that he knows is out there.

We’re glad to have Coach Duff join the now distinguished list of Howler Brand Ambassadors.  We caught up with him recently to discuss Howler Bros., Hawaii, bonefishing and find out what happens inside his very enthusiastic brain

Hawaii is known for surfing far more than than fly-fishing.  What are the similarities?  
A few things are connected.   I have never surfed but in living here I respect them big time.   Big time surfers are athletes, pure and simple, and out here in the country on Oahu in wintertime, it’s life or death some days.  Big time surfers face death more than they let on, they carry tiger blood.  If I see another guy try to present fly-fishing as “extreme” I’m going to puke in my flip flops.  It’s not extreme and it’s comical to see it presented that way.  So you hooked a big GT?  There’s no threat of it coming out of the water and kicking your ass, of it killing you.  Fly-fishing can have power, finesse, timing, some fast twitch muscle applications, but overall fly-fishing is just another way to fish, simple as that.  Some guys like powerbait, some guys like crankbaits, some guys like trolling and we like to fly-fish.   We are no better than they are, not a higher consciousness, not a higher level of “ANGLER”, none of that bullshit.  We just chose another way to do something just about everyone on the planet likes to do, whether it be watching a bobber or dead-drifting a dry fly, it’s all the same shit in the end, we all want a tug on the other end.  Now you go watch the Eddie Aikau surf contest when it goes down, and see guys PADDLING into 25 footers and that’s extreme that is epic stuff.  It is flat out life or death and only the chargers who wear the underwear with the pee holes need to be out there on that day.   I guess we both love the water, and both can feel something bigger than us when we surf or fly-fish and we both can connect to Mother Nature directly so there is some common ground in how it touches the soul.  We both care about our world more than most.  I know it touches my soul and connects me to our planet daily.

Native Hawaiians have a long and storied fishing history.  Are they becoming more interested in fly fishing these days or do they think you are a crazy mainlander with a bull whip?  
Not really, they are s l o w l y peeking around but locals NEED to catch something, so you see most guys blind casting all over the place feeling they have a better shot doing that than sight fishing.  We have a local cadre of guys though who can hold their own with a fly rod and fly-tie with anybody anywhere.  Our top end shooters, can really get it done!

Do you fly fish for other species around Hawaii besides bones?
I got out all the time with a 12 weight, a bunch of tips and flies both sub and top water and pretend I’m gonna hook a big GT.  I’ve hooked two monsters in 5 years.   We can catch small trevally pretty often, from 1 to 5 or 6 pounds and every now and then the sun and moon align and we hook a 15 plus pounder but it’s not common in any way.  If any guide here tells you he “knows” where the trevally are and can target them he’s full of shit, you just happen upon them while bone fishing and take your shot and cross your fingers.   You can chase striped Marlin and short billed swordfish in winter on Kona with a fly rod, but one or two shots a day is a good day and only a few guys know how to tease.  Overall we don’t have tons of anything except bones, but what we do have is BIG.  We do have far more bones than people think, but if you aren’t in a flats skiff, you will never see our fishery properly.  Simple as that.

The winds on Oahu are pretty notorious.  How windy does it have to get for you to tell your client it’s a no go?
If he/she has no fear, we’ll do battle in 30s and we’ve nailed big bones in 35 mile an hour blasters.   We just tie up the skiff and make it wading only day.  Remember in sick assed winds, you can get pretty close to big fish.   Keeping the line from swinging, and getting a good presentation is another thing, but you aint gonna hook the fish of a lifetime eating Cheetos in your hotel room…..


What’s the coolest thing that happened to you while you were in the Marines elite Force Recon unit?
Skydiving from 25.000 feet, with combat equipment on in training,  hitting 32 countries, shooting and blowing up a ton of shit,  drinking beers with Chuck Norris in Monte Carlo, (that’s right the Chuckster himself) following Jane’s Addiction up the East Coast, talking smallmouth bass fishing with Harry Murray (a treasure in our sport) and fishing the salt in Florida.  It was an honor serving in our spec ops in combat in Desert Shield/Storm and a long run in Somalia.  I got to serve with the most loyal, tough assed bastards who you could really count on in pure shit sandwich time and who always had your back every waking minute.   And of course knowing when the helicopter popped up and I grabbed the fast rope to slide down into madness that I was representing the greatest country in the history of mankind.  We got warts, and we can be self-centered and we got problems that need fixing, but I love my country and its people.   I’d lay it on the line again if I had to, for our children’s futures.  Don’t be one of the sheep, don’t follow blindly, question the government often, but never be ashamed to be a damn American.   If you still feel tears well every time they raise that red, white and blue or hear our National Anthem, you don’t owe an explanation to anybody.  We ARE the land of the free and the home of the brave and stand shoulder to shoulder like no other country on the planet when the bell rings for the Championship round.

Do you share anything besides a nickname with former Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan?  
We are both from Seattle and he used to play in a band in Seattle called the Silly Killers with my buddy Dan Stewart’s cousin.  Now he’s been with a whole hell of a lot of beautiful women than I have, come on he’s a rock star, but then you look at how ugly he is, and how ugly I am, we’ve both done pretty well, so we got that going for us.

It’s lunchtime on your day off, what are we eating?
If I had my choice, I’d take a prime rib bone in and wrap it in fresh herbs, with one layer of cheesecloth to keep the herb/olive oil paste on the meat and cook on it the weber with indirect heat as I smoke it with hickory chips for about 3 hours until the end caps are 150..  Then take it off, make a homemade horseradish cream sauce, some roasted garlic mash with gruyere cheese, love up some grilled vegetables and a homemade designer lattice apple pie brushed with apricot and have it out.  I can cook.  But being a guide and poor as shit, in reality I’d go with some Earl Cambell brand (that’s right the Tyler Rose)  grilled hot links on buns with relish and spicy mustard and a six pack of something golden and ice cold.  Maybe that’s why I wear 2X in Howler sizing.

You seem drawn to Howler and the gear we make.  Any reason in particular?
“Drawn to?”   Well, actually I was “drawn to” my wife’s perfect body when I met her (but that was after I completely noted her amazing eye color and her stunning intelligence and her ability to connect with me on both a spiritual and soulful level – she’s sitting next to me and just socked me)…… but really I like Howler because it crosses over into more than fly-fishing.  I love to fly-fish it is a true love, but I’m not so enchanted with “fly-fishing” and  the elitist  image that we keep trying to shove up people’s asses.  Howler gear works outdoors.  Howler Brothers carry no hint of snobbery, it is not exclusive in its cut, in short it can tangle with anybody.  I could wear my Howler gear fly-fishing, to a dinner party, to a dive bar, out with my wife, playing with my kids, or to a good old fashioned punk rock show.   Hell it would even look good in county lock up after the punk show got a little damn too much fun.  It’s chameleon wear which I like, as I am as likely to be seen with those who live the good life as I am at 3AM sharing a paper bag full of love with someone who didn’t get the right breaks.   I got room for everybody in my world and know how it feels to be on both ends.  Howler Brothers gets it and you can bet your ass if they really break it big, you’ll still see the Howler Brothers now and then sitting right next to me holding the paper bag full of love at 3AM.  We’re all in this motherfucker together…………….