I am still pinching myself to make sure I am not dreaming. I have been fishing ever since I can remember, watching fishing shows that whole time and dreaming of one day being that guy on the other side of the screen. And now here I am, after a lifetime in angling, finally watching that dream come true.
I am not sure what it was that gripped me so hard about fishing, but ever since that first day, it’s been an obsession. I can’t get enough of it, and it never gets boring. When I am not fishing, I’m tinkering with my gear, or laying out a plan for my next fishing trip. This whole process started when I was a kid growing up on a farm outside Nashville, TN. Not only did I have miles and miles of the Harpeth River right around the corner, but there were a half dozen ponds scattered between our place and the neighboring farms. While my siblings spent their summers at the Club, I prowled the banks of the river, honing my skills. I learned to fish with lures and bait, and I get pretty damn good at catching everything that swims. One of my best friends at the time was a local kid named Max, whose family had a lake house on Center Hill Reservoir. These folks were dedicated anglers, and I fished with them every chance I got. I learned the finer points of bass fishing from them, and it was in their company that my undying love for smallmouths (an affliction that haunts me to this day) began. Scattered among these homegrown adventures, there were occasional trips to the Smokies for some trout, and rare trips to the saltwater. Every family vacation we took, I would find somehow and somewhere to fish.
Fast-forward through highschool and college, when, tobe honest with you, I kind of lost my way for a short time. Girls, parties, and team sports got in the way of more important matters like fishing, but not to long after graduation I was right back in the thick of it. Within a couple years, I found myself living in Jackson, WY, and selling insurance. Being in Jackson, I was fortunate to learnthe fly/trout thing on some of the greatest waters in the Rocky Mountain west. It didn’t take long before the insurance job was gone, and I found myself guiding the summers in WY and ID, and learning from some of the best fly anglers in the world. I guided on those western rivers for about 15 years, and still fish them every summer. But I wanted more. I wanted to fish year-round. One of my clients talked about a guest house they owned in the Bahamas, and let slip that if I wanted to give it a shot, I could run bonefish trips out of his property. This arrangement worked well for a season, and gave me the chance to explore the vast opportunities of the Bahamas. It was in this exploratory period that I happened upon the dream destination: Crooked Island in the southern Bahamas.
Over the next 14 years I cut my teeth on all that Crooked had to offer: flats, inshore and offshore. The great thing about Crooked at that time was that when you did something right, it produced results immediately. The island was so remote that almost nobody was sportfishing there, let alone flyfishing, and I learned a ton by trial and error. I spend days and weeks taking things I’d read about and then applying them. Crooked is where I met the two men who have had the most influence on my saltwater fishing, Jose Wejbe and Bart Miller. Jose came to fish and film with Spanish Fly, and each time he visited he would tell me things to look for, and to try. On each successive trip I would show him what I had learned, and the new places I was fishing, and he’d shed some more light on my fishing. Bart got me hooked on Marlin fishing, and introduced me to the remarkable Marlin bite we had in Crooked. Bart is the one who really taught me about selecting a lure and lure placement. He remains a great friend and teacher to this day.
During this period, I was joined by my wife Heidi to develop the destination fishery at Crooked. One of my greatest fishing memories is taking Heidi out for an afternoon to look for her annual Blue Marlin. It was just the two of us on the boat. I got the lures in the water and we hooked up immediately. As Heidi was fighting that fish I was clearing the other lines, and I got another bite. It was, of course, a Marlin. We suddenly had two on, but as I was clearing the last line, just 40 feet behind the boat, a monster crashes the last lure. We had 3 Blue Marlin hooked, jumping all around us and going different directions. Heidi was fighting her fish and I was fighting another while trying to run the boat and fight the third fish when I could. It was total mayhem. One fish was clearly over 500 pounds. It was dumping the reel, and there was not much I could do about it. On the Marlin’s last jump heading for the horizon, the hook pulled. We were now down to two fish, and a slightly more manageable situation. After another 10 minutes I lost my fish as well, just as Heidi got hers to the boat. We managed a good release on Heidi’s Marlin, and called it an afternoon.
I still miss those days in Crooked Island, but the adventure that followed took me to Panama, where I spent the next four years at Islas Secas. Isla Secas is a group of islands about 25 miles off the Pacific coast of Panama, offering easy access to the world famous grounds around Hannibal Bank, Isla Montuosa and Coiba. This region offers, without a doubt, some of the best Big Game and inshore fishing found in the world. Stepping up to the fishery at Islas Secas is like going from minor league to the pros. During my tenure at Islas Secas, I have guided numerous anglers into world record class fish of all species, with special attention given to Yellowfin Tuna, billfish, and Dorado. I’ve been fortunate to see what is truly one of the most legendary fisheries in the world.
For the past 18 or so years, I have spent 6-8 months in the saltwater, and 4-6 in the fresh, and fishing over 250 days per year. I love it all whether catching Black Marlin and giant Yellowfin Tuna in Panama, trout in Wyoming, or anything in between. I honestly can’t get enough. Wherever I go, people try to make sense of this desire, this passion that drives me. More often than not, they call it an obsession. Maybe they are right… but I just call it my life.
1-2 trout in JH
Panama inshore offshore