I started working at a fly shop in 2005, part time, and it just evolved from that. I left the fly shop and continued on my own and got my Forest Service permits to guide in the US Forest Service’s property – and that’s when I started my guide service business.
The knowledge base that I had at the fly shop, and seeing the demand, made me realise that I wanted to work as a fishing guide. It was a good part-time job on the side and pretty good money so I just started doing that and everything evolved into owning my own business and continuing on for the last 10 years.
I started fishing when I was a kid. Most kids around here fish, some of them stick with it, some don’t. My dad took me fishing and it just stuck with me and I’ve done it my whole life. As a matter of fact, I’m just coming back from fishing on my own now, so I fish either on my own or as a job, and I still get enjoyment out of it.
What does a typical tour day look like for you?
I meet the clients at a pre-determined location, usually early in the morning. We’ll meet and drive to the fishing location together and if it’s a drift boat trip, then we’ll put the boat in and float downstream to the take-out and to their vehicle. If it’s a wading trip, then we’ll just go along the river, wade fishing as we go, for either a half day or a full day – however long a time they have purchased. A half day would go to about 2 pm and a full day to about 6 pm.
Have you got a certain style of guiding, or do you just run with it on the day?
Most of it’s fly fishing. As far as the instructional side of things, I find a lot of my clients are wanting instruction throughout the day so some of it is instructional, some of it is letting them fish on their own as I row the boat – or pretty much whatever they’re looking to do. I let them determine the route that they’re wanting to take, and I just fall in and help them however I can.
The best part would be teaching people, enhancing their skills in fly fishing or just seeing the enjoyment that they get from fishing if they’re new to it.
What’s a secret or tip to catching a fish with fly fishing?
Probably just to get a good drag-free drift on the fly and to keep the flies moving naturally on the water.
What’s the key to a good day of fishing?
A good day is just having clients that are easy going, we get along well, obviously catching fish, and just having a good time whether we’re catching fish or not. Just a low key, enjoyable day.
The Hiwassee River is my favourite spot because it’s good fishing and it’s one of my only float trips that I do in a boat, and I enjoy that. It’s actually the States’ first scenic river designation.
Do your tie your own flies? What’s the key to a good fly or what should people look out for when buying a fly?
I tie a lot of them, not all of them. People need to look to make sure the fly is a good indication of what they’re trying to imitate, meaning the proportions of the fly are true to the way the natural flies are, and anything else from size and colour. The key to it is to keep everything as natural as possible.
Every job has its ups and downs. Are there any aspects of your job that you don’t like or aren’t that keen on?
I would say bad weather days. I don’t like fishing on really windy days because it just makes everything harder, especially if you have people that are relatively new to fishing. It’s hard for them to cast and hard for them to fish in the strong wind.
We’re familiar with the local waters, we fish them all the time so we’re up to speed on what the fish are eating, how to catch them at a specific time. For instance, the tailwaters, the dam controlled rivers, we know the release schedules and when we can safely fish. Overall, the benefits are the guide just knowing the area and being familiar with how to catch a fish.
Tell us something about fishing in Tennessee that only a guide would know?
I would say how to fish the different tailwaters – how the water generation schedules affect the fishing and how the fish react to the rising and lowering of the waters.
In your view, what makes a good tour guide?
I think 80% of it is personality and 20% is just pure fishing knowledge. No matter if you’re the best fisherman in the world, if people don’t want to be around you, you’re not going to have a good time.
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