As part of a continuation of our '20 Questions' series, following is our interview with Jim Plante -- guide on the Housatonic and Farmington Rivers in Connecticut. To learn more about Jim, including links to his blog, check out his profile.
Hatch Magazine: What's the first fish you can remember catching? Tell us about it.
Jim Plante: I remember my very first trout on a fly rod. Was on the Salmon River in CT. I was actually fishing a small tributary of the river with a Mickey Finn. Nice little brook trout. At that very moment, is when this became an obsession. I'll never forget it.
HM: What's your favorite piece of gear at the moment?
JP: Too many to give an answer to but I absolutely love my Scott S4 and S4S fly rods. These are the best fly rods I have ever fished and believe me if you know me, there isn’t a rod out there that I haven’t tried. The bus stops here. These are my sticks. Nuff said. Of course, also love all my Patagonia gear. That company rocks and makes kick ass stuff!
HM: What's your favorite river to fish? What makes it so special? Feel free to not plug the main river you guide on. If you have to, that's okay.
JP: I would have to say that my favorite CT river is the Farmington. It is also my favorite in the east. I love it because of the quality of the fishery. A ton of big hold over fish. More wild fish are being discovered in the river. The river holds a BIG number of fish. Very scenic. Tons of different water to fish from riffles and runs to slow moving classic dry fly water. Just a great fishery. Most of all, it is a tailwater so it is fishable 365! I am sure some would ask why when we have the Delaware and other great rivers in the east. I like the D too but I don’t live locally and the D is a weekend or long day trip away for me. I do have to get back there and fish soon.
HM: If you could fish anywhere in the world, where would it be? Why?
JP: Right now, my next big trip will be Argentina. Patagonia. Why, because the fishing is so good. Beautiful country. Wild fish. Plus I want to target the fall time for the streamer and nymph fishing for big browns that come up out of the lakes into the rivers to feed and spawn. This will happen within the next 5 years. New Zealand is another big trip that will take place. That place speaks for itself.
HM: Everyone has the "one that got away". Some of us have many. Tell us about yours. This might be your fish, or one of your clients.
JP: Well, nothing major to speak of. However, have lost a few over 20 inch browns on the Farmington and it still haunts me to this day. I have caught a ton of fish there as well as a ton of big fish up to 20 but can’t seem to break that 20 inch mark. However, this year I am bound and determined to do it.
HM: What about the ones that didn't get away. What's the best fish you've ever brought to hand? Again, your's or your clients. It's the fish we care about.
JP: This is easy. In 2005 I made a trip to Alaska and fished the Kenai River and Russian River. Aside from all the bows we caught between 18-22 inches plus a ton of Dolly Varden we caught up to 24 inches, I hooked and landed my biggest trout ever which was a 32 ½ inch Kenai River bow. Was a beast. 18 inches around at the shoulders. Love that fish. Funny thing was, I spoke to the guide later in the Fall and he said he saw someone catch it again and it was even bigger!
HM: What led you to your current, rarified profession?
JP: Well, I guide part time. Can’t do it full time. But, once I fell in love with the sport and began growing and getting better, I really wanted to get into guiding others especially who were new to the sport or who wanted to learn more. So, I started my own business doing it for around 8 months. Was slow going and felt that working out of a shop would be the way to go. Well, walked into the Housatonic River Outfitters Inc. one day and spoke with Torrey Collins who is the general manager. Chatted a bit and the rest is history. Have been guiding for them for 6 seasons now as well as running nymph clinics and tying clinics.
HM: What would you say to other fly fisherman out there that aspire to be a guide?
JP: Go for it. You certainly want to make sure your confident with your skills and the amount of time you have spent on the water. But like I say, you are always learning. You never know it all and to pretend you do, just limits your learning capabilities. Keep an open mind. Also, get out and fish. Nothing like time spent on the water. You want to continue to grow as an angler and if your looking into teaching others, your going to want to be able to be consistent yourself.
HM: False modesty must be checked at the door. What's the key to being a great fishing guide? If it helps to say that the question is "what do you think the key is", then fine, that's the question.
JP: Patience and persistence I think are the most important. Making sure your clients understand what you are teaching them. Doesn’t help if at the end of the day they are not clear after spending 8 hours with you on the water. You want them to come away with the knowledge and have a better understanding of what you taught them. Rushing through things with clients is a big no no in my book.
HM: What are the best and worst parts of the job?
JP: I can’t think of any bad things. To me it’s all good.
HM: What's the worst/craziest thing that's ever happened to you during a day of fishing, guiding or otherwise?
JP: Sorry no crazy stories to tell. Yawn.
HM: What makes an ideal client?
JP: Someone who wants to learn and is willing to listen. Someone who is out to have fun!
HM: Some guides say they haven't had one. Hard to believe. Whether you have or you haven't, what makes a terrible client?
JP: Haven’t had a horrible client per say. I did have one guy that tried my patience. All day long, all I did was tie knots, tie on a new fly, and no matter what I said, he seemed to do the opposite. Thought I might be on a candid camera show or something. Funny when I look back at it but wasn’t very funny then. But, like a good guide, held it together. Barely. HA HA
HM: It goes without saying that you've probably seen your first-timers and novice clients pull some unbelievable shit. We've all been there. But what about the decent fisherman you guide? What is the most common mistake you see otherwise skilled fly fishermen make?
JP: I find that a lot of skilled fly fisherman makes mistakes when nymphing. Nymphing is still a skill that even a lot of experienced anglers still don’t do enough and practice. This was how I learned to fly fish. This is what I gravitated to right off the bat. To this day, this, along with streamers is my favorite way to fish. These individuals can throw a dry or chuck a streamer but their nymphing skills are something they need to work on. So, I end up spending time going over their nymphing skills and by the end of the day, they are picking up a lot because they are already skilled in the sport and have a good understanding of basic skills and concepts. Your not starting from scratch so to speak.
HM: What about you? Everyone has a weak spot in their fishing skill set. What's yours?
JP: I am not a very experienced wet fly fisherman and over the last couple of years have began dabbling in that a little more. Not much but picking up things here and there. It is and can be a deadly part of this art. So, I would have to say I am not a good wet fly fisherman.
HM: What's the biggest negative change you've noticed in fly fishing in the last 10 years?
JP: Angler etiquette. It is something that still needs to be worked on and people need to be educated on. However, I am a firm believer in self awareness and common sense. Unfortunetly, these are dying in our society.
HM: What's the biggest positive change you've noticed in fly fishing in the last 10 years?
JP: Conservation efforts continue to grow and are strong. Also, the gear! The technology and quality seem to continue to get better overall.
HM: The Farmington, your home river, is highly touted by eastern fly fisherman. Trout population density is reported to rival some premier western waters. At the end of the day, however, you've got a river that isn't predominated by wild fish and that sees extreme angling pressure. That said, there's no question the Farmington offers up shots at some hogs, and lots of them. So, does the Farmington live up to the hype?
JP: Yes I believe the river lives up to it’s rep. We are very lucky to have a quality fishery like the Farmington here in New England.
HM: Many strong tailwater, spring creek and other fisheries throughout the country that still see regular stockings have many advocates for an end to stocking on these rivers, combined with a change of regulations that would allow wild fish populations to thrive. Is this something you'd like to see for the Farmington? If so, how should it take shape?
JP: I know that this has been a topic thrown around on the Farmington. Some I think would love to see it. Others don’t feel it would fully work. The DEP has done river shocks and they are finding more and more wild fish in the river. But, the question is, would the fishery be able to sustain an all wild trout population without the stockings. I don’t know if it would. If I had to guess I would say it could but I think it would take quite a while for the fishery to get to that type of fishery without stocking assist and also, some would argue if there is enough nutrients in the river to help sustain. I know it’s a tailwater fishery bu I have had conversations with other fisherman about bio mass and compared to other local rivers, the biomass is less in the winter time. So, would this effect it. Might. But I really don’t know.
HM: We're assuming that you having something else in your life besides fishing. What's your M.O. when you're not on the water?
JP: Spending time with my wife and kids. No questions asked! They are the most important things in my life. They complete my life. Love doing sports with my son, and yes, fishing is included but other sports as well. Love doing family outings and vacations. I also just love hanging around the house playing with the kids. I am a big kid! I love toys and I don’t know who likes going to Toys R Us more, the kids or I.