Tag Archives: Outer Banks

The Most Fascinating Guides I’ve Ever Met

catchacure3
Texas bass guide Randy Oldfield shows off a Lone-Star-State largemouth.

Fishing guides, of their nature, are a fascinating type of person, almost all of them. The fishing guides who think: “Oh, I’ll get paid to fish!” are fishing guides for about three days. The good ones realize that fishing doesn’t have a lot to do with it. Yes, you have to be a great angler, but the job is equal parts tour guide, babysitter, PR rep. for the region, knot-untangler, therapist, conversationalist, storyteller, and… well… suffice it to say that if you can’t multitask, you’d be in the wrong line of work. I could never do a guide’s job, for even a single day, but I’ve met some who do it better than you might imagine someone could before you got to fish with them. Because I’ve been lucky enough to fish with guides in almost all of the lower 48, I could never list all the deserving ones who’ve helped in one blog, and this is by no means a “ranking,” of “best guides,” nor is it meant to be. But these guides will always stand out in my memory as fascinating people to have shared the water with.

Brett Isackson, Florida: Isackson is a bass guide with Bassonline, and these guys have the best. From Steve Niemoeller to Todd Kersey, this group is just hands down a crew of top-notch anglers who are fun to share the water with. The amazing thing about Isackson is that he invented a snake bait. Yep, this guy noticed that largemouth bass, and big ones, were eating small snakes at the water’s edge and he set to making a mold that allowed him to replicate the snake to target those big bass. Now, I’m a fishing nut, but I’ve never said to myself “Let me go home and in my garage try to create a bait from plastic that I melt from other baits, which will fool the bass nobody else is catching.” Genius takes many forms, and Isackson is a largemouth savant if ever I’ve met one.

Brook Hidell, Maine: If you cross the border into Maine from Southern New England, you’ll run into all the “Maine” things: a picturesque coast, more lobster restaurants, shacks and shanties than you could shake a stick at, and beautiful coastline. It’s when you keep going that it really gets interesting. Now, Lake Sebago isn’t way up, as far as Grand Lake Stream, but it’s far enough removed where you’re out reach from the day-trippers from Boston. Hidell trolls flies on Lake Sebago (yep, he trolls flies) for the landlocked atlantic salmon and lake trout that inhabit that beautiful part of the country. Again, he’s just one of those guys that took a unique approach to a legendary American fishery, and like Isackson, he couldn’t be nicer to the people he fishes with.

John Kobald, Meeker, Colorado: Now, first I’ll start off with a confession here… I’ve caught fish on the fly, I love fly fishing, but I’m far from great at it. So if a guide can put me on fish on the fly, he’s truly one of the best. Kobald not only got me some of my biggest browns on the fly when I was in Meeker, he even had his son Shane, who could not have been older than 10 at the time, catching 15-inch brown trout on the long rod. Like Isackson, he’s a guy who loves to create, and he is as good of a sculptor as he is an angler.

Matt Wettish, Connecticut: Although Wettish doesn’t guide for a living, he could if he wanted to, and he guided me to one my biggest trout ever. Here’s a guy who really seems to have pioneered a unique way to catch enormous trout. He fishes for them with ultra… UTLRA-light spinning gear (we’re talking 2- and 4-pound test) to almost create a hybrid method between fly and conventional angling. I’ve only caught a few “truly big,” trout in my life, but one was with Wettish, it was all of 18 inches, and the way we caught it had the ultralight drag singing for seemingly endless seconds.

Randy Oldfield, Texas: If all you did, while fishing with Oldfield, was listen to him tell stories about his life before he became a guide, you’d get your money’s worth and then some. But this guy is one of the best bass guides in Texas. He’s truly one of those guys that just has an absolute fascination with, and appreciation for, all the subtleties that make big bass tick, and he puts that knowledge to great use on behalf of his clients.

Chris Senyohl, Seattle: Seattle was one of, by far, the most beautiful parts of the country I got to see, and I have little doubt that it’s because guys like Senyohl took the time to show it to me. Senyohl chases the native species around Puget Sound in a lot of different ways, but backtrolling for chum salmon from a drift boat was about a cool a thing as you could have asked me if i wanted to do at 24, and I’m grateful every day that I did. Letting him talk me into whitewater rafting? That might be a first- and last-time thing for me.

Chris Robinson, Florida: The Robinson Brothers guide service on Florida’s “Forgotten Coast,” are the guys to go to if you’re looking to get away from “Disneyland” Florida for a few days. Robinson is one of the better redfish guides I’ve ever met and a joy to share a day on the water with. He introduced me to oyster rockefeller, a part of Florida I’d fall in love with, and put me on some nonstop redfish action for an entire afternoon.

Tommy Scarborough, South Carolina: This is another one of those guys who, if all you were doing was taking a boat ride with him to hear stories, it’d be worth the money and then some. But Scarborough, who put me up on his couch, hooked me up with a shark and a few redfish in the same week, and managed to even make fun of me while the shark was, in his words “Whupping my butt,” is both a hilarious character and a first-rate angler.

Rob Alderman, North Carolina: Alderman’s specialty, out of the Outer Banks, is kayak fishing. And let me tell you, the OBX is known across the country for its legendary offshore bite, but if you make it to Hatteras and don’t fish from a Kayak, you’re missing something truly special. Again, I’m no kayak expert, but Alderman had me launch in the surf, put me on a few fish, and even made sure I got back to shore in one piece. When, trying to execute a surf landing with the kayak, I flipped the kayak in the wash (waves were breaking hard on the beach) and snapped one of my rods, he said: “At least it wasn’t your neck.” I’ve never felt so good about a broken rod in my life.

Dan Harrison, Massachusetts: I bet there’s a lot of people from the greater Boston area who, in an attempt to see beautiful wilderness, catch wild trout and drift scenic rivers, drive about 40 hours farther than they’d need to. The Deerfield River in Western Mass. is truly one of the most unique bodies of trout water I’ve fished, and when you’re on it you have to keep reminding yourself: “I’m smack dab between New York City and Boston.” The Harrison Brothers guide the Deerfield the way they did out West, and even in Chile, and they bring all that knowledge and experience to bear on a body of water you won’t need to fly back from if you’re a Northeast angler.

(One More) Joe Demalderis: I have the words ‘one more’ tattooed on my arm, you didn’t really think I could stop at ten, did you? Demalderis guides on the Delaware River in Pennsylvania and New York and is one of the more experienced and accomplished trout guides I’ve ever had the pleasure of fishing with. Again, he’s one of those guys who is a wealth of information to share the water with, and will send you home laughing with stories to tell regardless of how the fishing is… although I can’t imagine for the life of me this guy floating a body of water without getting his clients on at least a few trout.

Now, it goes almost without saying that I’ve been luckier than most, and I’ve fished with some amazing guides who I didn’t get the chance to list here, because… well, these blogs are supposed to be relatively short, right? But some day I’ll make a list of the best 100 guides in America, although even then I doubt I’d get to list as many amazing anglers as have helped me on my journey and… anglers who… you should definitely make a part of yours.

 

 

 

The Ten Most Incredible Fisheries I’ve Ever Experienced

DSC_0057 26
This Amberjack convinced me Virginia’s fishery belonged in the top ten.

We all have that bucket-list of places we’d love to fish, and it makes for some great winter conversation with fellow fishermen… because dreaming’s free. But what about the places we have been blessed enough to experience? It’s equally important to think about the water we’ve been fortunate enough to fish… and these are my the top ten that I’ve fished in my 29 years.

 

10. Montana Trout: Some will be shocked that this isn’t higher, but keep in mind I’m only talking about my personal experience, and I’ve only fished Montana in December. Still, fishing the Madison River with Fly Rod & Reel Editor Greg Thomas was a memory I’ll cherish forever. The most amazing part about Montana, for a kid from the East Coast, is the stunning beauty of the scenery you’re surrounded by.

9. Texas Border Bass: There’s no doubt that an element of danger adds some excitement to any fishery, and when you’re on the border lakes between Texas and Mexico, you’re in an area that’s been notoriously problematic for U.S. law enforcement, but that makes you all the more appreciative that you’re able to, with relative safety, pursue some of the U.S.’s largest bass right where the lower 48 ends.

8. Virginia AJsI have never fought any fish that left me as completely tired, worn and whipped as an amberjack off the coast of Virginia. That alone puts this fishery in the top ten.

7. South Carolina Sharks: There’s a guy named Tommy Scarborough who is a South Carolina legend. He’ll laugh hysterically while a South Carolina shark “Whoops your butt…”on light tackle, and that’s part of the fun

 6. Montauk Striped Bass: I cannot, nor will I try, to describe Montauk in all its funky awesomeness in a couple sentences. But it is the striped bass capital of everywhere.

5. New Orleans Redfish: Start a conversation with a Texan and a Louisiana fishermen about who has bigger redfish… and you’d better wear something bulletproof. But the fishing culture around the Big Easy where you’re chasing redfish in water that came sometimes barely cover their backs is one of America’s truly unique ones.

4. Seattle Salmon: Seattle gets a bad reputation for wet weather… but here’s the catch: That’s from people who’ve never fished there. Sure, it rains. And if you’re on the water when the silver salmon bite is on with a guy like Chris Senyohl,it can be pouring silvers and chum salmon. You’re a fisherman… how dry do you want to be?

3. Maine Salmon: Grand Lake Stream, Maine, is not the southern coastal part of the state that most New Englanders envision when they think “Maine,” and I promise you it’s not where most of those “Maine” stickers you see on the back of S.U.V.s come from. On GLS, you can wade crystal clear water and cast flies to landlocked atlantic salmon that will sit right in front of you, taunting you, while passing up your fly.

2. The Keys: The beauty of the Florida Keys defies description. Every day when you wake up and look at the water, it’s as though some part of hardened cynicism you’d developed along the way in life just melts. And the number of species you can potentially target on one given day is greater than almost anywhere else in the lower 48.

FB_IMG_1449970427369
My cousin and I wading the Brewster flats in 2001.

1. The Brewster Flats, Cape Cod: Right on the elbow of the Cape, you can wade out almost a mile and cast light-tackle gear to striped bass that feed on one of the world’s largest tidal flats. The mile walk out is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever been lucky enough to transverse. Again, there’s some danger here… when the water floods the flat as the tide comes in, you’d better be high and dry. But the chance at connecting with a striped bass, on light tackle gear, hip-deep in the Atlantic, almost a mile from shore, is one that’s hard to come by anywhere else on the coast. (Disclaimer: Our entire enormous Irish Catholic family packed mini-vans and crammed into a rental house on the Cape for a few weeks each summer when I was growing up, so this one has some sentimental value, boosting it to number 1).