Cable television star Tred Barta settles in at Salt Creek ranch

It’s not every day that shoppers can bump into a cable television star while strolling around the Eagle Pharmacy.

But that has become a more frequent occurrence since Captain Tred Barta moved to town.

Barta is known to millions of viewers through his Versus channel television show, “The Best and Worst of Tred Barta.” The program, featuring deep sea fishing and longbow hunting adventures, carries the highest ratings of any show on the sports network. Barta holds several world fishing records. His canyon trolling and boat handling techniques have earned kudos from many sport fishermen.

The famous outdoorsman and his wife, Anni Davis Mitchell Barta, purchased a 20 acre spread on Salt Creek, south of Eagle, last year. They christened the property the “Longbow Ranch,” and set about building a home and a lifestyle.

Western roots

Barta is a native of Long Island, N.Y., with some Western roots. He attended the University of Colorado 36 years ago. One of this teammates on the CU ski team was a pretty blonde named Anni Davis. While the pair dated in college, they both married other people and raised families. Both marriages ended in divorce. Barta and Anni eventually reconnected, and married in 2005.

“It seems like we’ve been married forever,” says Anni. But the vows came with a caveat: Anni wanted to live in the Vail area, the place she has called home for 30 years. But life in one of the valley’s tony developments didn’t fit Barta’s style.

“Cordillera Valley Club was not the place to put Tred Barta,” the captain explains with a rueful smile. “It’s not where Tred can be Tred. This is where Tred can be Tred.”

The Longbow Ranch is now headquarters for Tred Barta, Inc. In addition to his cable television show, Barta is a sought-after outdoors magazine writer. He co-owns Barta-Iso Aviation, an executive turbine and jet aircraft sales company.

When he isn’t busy with business, he hosts the Barta Boys and Girls Club Billfish Tournament in North Carolina. Over the past four years, the event has raised $400,000 for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Coastal Carolina.

It’s a hectic schedule, but Barta thrives in an environment of hard work. In fact, that’s become his signature.

The hard way

“Nothing that is easy is gratifying,” declares Barta. “The hard way, the Barta way” is his motto. All that hard work has paid off.

Barta has trolled blue water since he was just 12 years old. He’s fished all over the world and gained a reputation as a pre-eminent angler. Since the age of 25, he’s also been an outdoors magazine writer. He manages to balance his love of fishing and hunting with a successful aviation sales career.

Barta wasn’t looking to launch a television career when a man walked into his office five years ago. The fellow had read Barta’s book “The Best and Worst of Tred Barta,” and wanted to spend a day deep sea fishing with the author.

But this particular customer wasn’t a typical client. In fact, the man was the creative mind behind the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. After a day on the water with Barta, he suggested that Barta host his own show.

“I think he saw Tred as just another cartoon character,” jokes Anni.

Since its debut four years ago, “The Best and Worst of Tred Barta” has been a mainstay on the Versus network, and recently was granted a two-year extension.

“Most outdoor TV shoes are hourlong info-mercials,” says Barta. “I refused to do a show like that because I have a story to tell.”

That story is about values. Barta is a passionate man. He waxes poetic about honor and duty and hard work. He truly believes that hunting and fishing teach life lessons about those values.

“I think you can’t really appreciate the length of life and the perishability of life and how we should cherish life until you take a life,” says Barta.

He acknowledges that his philosophies can be controversial. That doesn’t bother him. He’s plainly at home in his own skin and he doesn’t mince words.

Barta counters criticism by walking his talk. For instance, he hunts using a longbow and wooden arrows. That way the hunt is really a contest, he says.

“In 60 percent of my shows, I don’t end up with any game,” he notes. “But I show people to do the work.”

He’s particularly passionate about instilling ethics in young fishermen and hunters. Barta notes that on any given Sunday, a group of wealthy guys will pile in a boat and compete in a tournament. At the end of the day, there will be a bunch of dead fish, further depleting a dismal worldwide stock of billfish.

In contrast, at his billfish tournament, competitors between the ages of 5 and 12 agree to a catch-and-release honor code. There are no observers and no lie detector tests. “We fish for the honor of winning and the honor of losing. We celebrate participation and the concept of doing your best,” says Barta. The event has struck a nationwide nerve, attracting 70 sponsors, including presenting sponsor Volvo Penta.

“We’ve had success like this because there is a moral vacuum in out country,” Barta says, “I don’t believe that playing on the computer and snowboarding all day necessarily makes you a great human being.”

“But families that fish and hunt together, stay together.”

Back at the ranch

Filming his television show regularly takes Barta all over the globe. But he and Anni plainly love settling into their new Eagle County home. Tred and Anni are avid skiers; and they are developing their horseback riding skills.

“I’m taking lessons from everyone in the valley,” Barta jokes.

At home on the ranch, the Bartas have seven horses including a month-old filly named First Bow. They are in the midst of a huge house renovation, but they proudly offer tours of their massive barn.

“We bought a barn. The house is going to be quite a project,” says Anni.

Rounding out the homestead is a local pound puppy, named Ahi, recently adopted by the Bartas.

The couple is clearly enthralled with their new environment. “We have 40 elk in our yard every night,” Anni notes.

“We feel very privileged to be here,” Barta concludes.