Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Fishing the New River with Mike Smith
Anyone who knows my interests knows that if it were up to me, John Carlin's Virginia would actually be John Carlin Goes Fishing In Virginia.
But, that is not what the folks at Fox had in mind when we started this segment just about a year ago. "But you can do a few fishing stories," they said.
The story I've never done is muskie fishing. Muskies, for those who don't know are kind of like freshwater barracuda. They are long and slender with a mouth full of teeth. Muskies grow to be huge. Virginia anglers consistently catch monsters over 40" long.
The problem from a TV perspective is that they are really hard to catch. You can't do a story on muskie fishing, unless someone actually catches a muskie.
So I've been asking around to find the best muskie fisherman I could. A man who ran a campground along the New River suggested I call Mike Smith at Greasy Creek Outfitters. Mike, he said, "caught a lot of muskies."
So I called Mike and asked him if he thought he could catch a muskie in the four hours or so we could devote to the story.
When he stopped laughing, he said, "No."
"It takes 10,000 casts to catch a muskie," he said. "We might catch one, but let's shoot for a big smallmouth bass and see if we don't luck into a muskie along the way."
Turns out that Mike himself is quite a story. He holds a Ph.D. and teaches English at Bluefield State in West Virginia, where he is both a professor and a dean.
He teaches when school is in session and fishes the rest of the time, guiding other fisherman looking for his expertise on his home water – the New River. He guides for Greasy Creek Outfitters and increasingly for New River Fly Fishing, which offers fly fishing only opportunities.
“I got into fly fishing 10-12 years ago and now that’s my specialty,” he told me. “I would like to fly fish exclusively.” He still takes many clients, however who prefer more conventional spin fishing.
You’d think his time would be completely used up with the two pursuits, but he’s found a way to design flies for the Flyman Fishing Company, many of which were just released this week. He’s also written several books on fishing in Virginia. (Hey – he’s got the job I want!)
(Click here for a list of books Mike has written.)
So we decided we would drift the four miles of river upstream from Austinville, throw some flies, talk about English, fly design, muskies and whatever else came up.
In the TV story you will see me casting a massive 10” muskie fly. Try that for about an hour and you’ll understand what tired means. As the day wore on and the muskies continued not to bite and my arm began to feel like it might fall off, I asked him if we weren’t at least close to the magic 10,000th cast.
“I’ve been counting,” he said. “You’re right about at 300.”
It looks like the only thing harder than catching a muskie may be doing a TV story on it.
I’m sure I’ll keep trying.