Every once in a while, we take a break from our normal focus on bass fishing and talk with a talented and interesting angler about other species. I kind of had a feeling when I first asked James Josephi to do the interview that we were going to have a good discussion about fly fishing for trout. Though I have to admit I didn’t know how great it would be. Keep reading to learn about James, his fly fishing addiction, and the guardian angels that surround him on the trout stream.
So you are a self-described fly fishing addict. When did the addiction first start?
Fly fishing is still somewhat new to me. I grew up fishing farm ponds for largemouth bass and bluegill with cane poles and a bobber. As I got older sports and women took over my focus and less and less time was spent fishing.
As I moved onto college I lived close to my Nan, grandmother, and she would always invite my friends and I over for dinner. I remember her asking me about fly fishing and what it was and I had no clue. One of her friends in the building had a cabin at Elk Springs here in West Virginia and was always telling stories of fly fishing for big trout.
I had never really been into trout fishing much but it caught my attention and I looked up what fly fishing was. After watching a video of a guy casting a fly rod I knew I had to learn how to do that. My Nan and I talked about making a trip with David to Elk Springs when spring comes around and he would teach me the way.
Unfortunately health played a big factor for both my Nan and David that following year. My Nan ended up passing away of brain cancer and David was sickly and in no shape to go out. I knew I needed to make that trip to Elk Springs and get away to clear my mind.
So my parents and I booked a cabin at Elk Springs and off we went into the mountains of West Virginia. Once we got there I walked into the fly shop and was amazed at all the gear and flies there were. We talked to a guy named Patrick there who was the manager of the place, and he hooked me up with everything, from waders to fly rod and flies.
We booked a lesson and guide trip for the following day and I was very anxious. I woke up early the next morning ready to go with my waders on and fly rod in hand. I walked over to the lodge where I meeting up with Patrick to get my casting lesson on the lawn.
After spending about 30 minutes with Patrick I had a nice basic cast down and it was time to move over to the spring creek out front of Elk Springs which had some monster trout in it which you could see. My heart started pounding a little faster knowing I was about to cast into this pod of fish. Patrick told me to put the fly up near the head of the riffle and let it drift down the run. So I gave a false cast and plopped it right where he said.
No longer than that fly landed I saw a mouth come out of the water and suck the fly down. I yanked back on the fly rod and broke off on my first fish. After laughing a little, Patrick had to remind me that I wasn’t bass fishing and didn’t need to set the hook that hard.
He tied on another stimulator dry fly and told me to do the same thing. I plopped the fly right back in the same place and saw an eruption on my fly, Patrick told me to lift my rod high in the air and I was tight on my first fish. From here the rest is history in the making.
Who do you consider your biggest influence for fly fishing?
The reason I got into fly fishing was because of my Nan. We always took fishing trips when I was a young kid, and she wanted to take me to Elk Springs to learn to fly fish. I made a point to go there with my parents when she passed and had the time of my life catching big trout and learning the way of the fly. Every time I’m out on the water I know I have a couple guardian angels watching nearby enjoying the scenery.
What continues to fuel your addiction today?
I feel like there is always something new to learn about fly fishing. Here recently I have been researching more about aquatic insects and their stages of life. I like looking at these insects and trying to tie a fly pattern that looks just like it.
You can have a lot of thought in a single cast in fly fishing. There’s the fly your throwing, the wind, where your standing at, are you going to hang your fly in a tree, is there a fish rising and if so what is it eating. There is a lot that comes into play when holding a fly rod in your hand and you see a rising trout in front of you. It can really get your heart pounding but you have to maintain calm so you can make that perfect cast and drift to catch that fish, and when your line is tight, nothing else matters.
Congratulations on your engagement! You recently wrote about your beautiful fiance that you are “thankful to be marrying a woman that gets me outdoors more instead of a line at the mall.” What has time in the outdoors meant to your relationship to this point? Does she share your fly fishing addiction?
Alyssa and I spend a lot of time outside during the summer months hiking with our dog and going camping. We both love getting away from all the noise to spend quality time either on the water or on a trail. She doesn’t have the itch for fishing like I do so usually when I’m fishing on a stream she’s on the bank watching me, reading a book and taking photos.
I recently got her the Orvis practicaster to hopefully spark an interest in her. I think she has more fun whipping me with it, but at least she’s getting some practice.
What are your favorite West Virginia rivers and streams to fly fish?
My favorite streams to fish in West Virginia are the Elk River and Seneca Creek. There are many other small streams and rivers that I frequent often but these two streams have the most stories to tell.
The Elk River is a well known stream here in West Virginia for many different species of fish. The headwaters offer great trout fishing year round with multiple side streams that run into it and hold native brook trout. The fish can be picky at times but I can’t remember the last time I made a trip up near the headwaters and didn’t catch a fish.
The hatches can be very prolific especially the sulfur hatch in the spring which I have yet to experience in full effect. You can usually spot a bald eagle or an osprey flying around and I have seen them dive down in the water and pick out a trout, one of the coolest things I have seen out in the wild.
When I was fishing a hole by myself one time on the Elk I heard a loud splash like someone fell in the water across me, I looked over to realize it was black bear swimming across about 25 yards away. There are so many other stories on this stream that I will forever remember.
Seneca Creek is another one of my favorite streams if not my most favored. It is a completely wild stream that is not stocked and the best parts you have to put some leg work in to get to. The more you are willing to walk the more your going to see and the better the fishing gets. There are some big waterfalls and lots of plunge pools that serve as some awesome backdrops in pictures. The native brook trout and the reproducing rainbows that are in this creek can be massive and their colors always amaze me.
How would you describe your ideal fly fishing day?
My ideal fly fishing day would be in the spring time after a nice rain to get the stream a nice tinted green color. The morning fog would be so dense you couldn’t see across the river and the only thing you hear is the stream flowing, no cars, no people, not even a road near by. Completely surrounded by nature itself, high in the mountains fishing a wild brook trout stream. There is just something about fishing for these wild brook trout and the places they live that I have really have come to love.
Some days are like a dream on the water and those are the days that you need to sit down and soak it all in. I have had one day on that water that was like a dream, and I will never forget. I was up camping with a group of guys from work in the mountains of West Virginia. We woke up early made breakfast and coffee and talked about where we were all going to fish that day.
I was talking to one guy who is a member of Trout Unlimited, and he knew I wanted to catch some wild brook trout. He brought out a map and pointed to a blue line on there and told me that’s where I needed to go. So about 30 minutes later I showed up to a stream right off the road that went up the mountain.
I rigged up my rod, tied on a Royal Wulff and started walking upstream. I came up to a good looking hole with a rock in the middle and made my first cast. As soon as that fly hit the water I see a little trout jump out of the water taking my fly in its mouth, and I had my first brook trout of the day.
I kept walking up, and I started to notice some pretty large mayflies in the air. As I got to the next big hole, I saw rings of rises all over the small pool. I couldn’t believe how many little wild brook trout there were in this hole. I worked my way from the back of the hole to the front and managed to catch 5 trout out of that hole.
I continued pushing upstream fishing little pockets and pools catching nice fat brookies that were all colored up. I managed to catch my biggest brook trout to this day, a stunning 13 inch trout in the most unsuspecting place.
After fishing for what seemed like only a couple hours, it was getting dark out and I had a long walk back to the truck. I walked back to the truck whistling with a grin on my face from ear to ear. I have taken a couple friends there since then, and they swear there is no fish in there. Maybe it was a dream.
What is the one hatch on your favorite West Virginia waters that you want to spend as much time fishing as you can?
When the hatches are coming off here in West Virginia, I like to make my way up to Durbin which is in the middle of it all. The green drakes can be thick at times and you can catch trout right at the campground on dry flies. The trout aren’t too picky on flies as long as they are the same general size and shape.
The flies I always keep in my box are an assortment of Royal Wulffs and Parachute Adams along with Flashback P-tails and Woolley Buggers.
One hatch I would like to get familiar with is the sulfur hatch and on the Elk River it can be pretty dense. I have seen pictures where it looks like fog in the air and the water is bubbling with hungry trout at Elk Springs resort catch and release area. I am still learning about the different hatches and how to fish them. That’s one reason I love fly fishing, there is always something to learn.
You describe your recent trip to New York as the most epic week of fishing you have ever had. What made the trip so fantastic?
I made my second trip to Pulaski, New York this year to fish the Salmon River. The first time I went was last year with a group of guys from work. They have been going up as a group for over 10 years, and I was fortunate enough to get invited. Last year was fun as I caught my first king salmon and I got to experience the whole salmon river elbow to elbow fishing.
I decided to bring a friend this year and drive up so we could explore some other tribs of the Salmon River and do our own thing. Well as usual there was a lot of people everywhere. It had just rained and the water was up a lil’ and had a good color to it.
We decided to fish around the town of Pulaski and walk to get away from people. We parked at the ballpark and walked down to the side stream and saw everyone making their way to the main river. I looked down the way and saw there was nobody on this little side stream. So my buddy and I started making our way down to a bigger hole and we couldn’t believe what we saw. The water was black with salmon, fins swaying in the current. I have never seen so many large fish in one place.
We began casting egg pattern flies into the mix of fish and the fight was on all day long. It was like this everyday for the 6 days we were there. We went all over the Salmon River and caught fish everywhere including some nice coho salmon that were all chromed up. By the end of the week I had a solid bruise on my stomach from fighting fish, and we had a cooler of salmon to take home and smoke.
What are 5 pieces of advice to anyone considering a fall trip like you did?
When thinking about planning a fall trip, you really need to think about the water levels. It can be hard to find good fishable water in the fall after a long dry summer especially. You need to take notice that it is spawning time for brook trout and to be careful where you walk in the streams. Handling fish should be kept to a minimum and only a second or two out of the water for a quick picture. I always carry a net with me so I can net the fish and keep it wet in the water while I get my camera situated to take a picture.
Lastly, when is the wedding? And will the honeymoon include any fly fishing?
I will be tying the knot September of this year and my fishing buddies couldn’t be happier. They always joke with my fiancé saying she needs to keep me off the streams so they can catch some fish. We had a couple options in mind for our honeymoon and she even considered going to New Zealand until realizing it was a full day away on a plane. I think were going to pick Hawaii though and leave New Zealand for an anniversary trip in the future. Hopefully I will find some fishing to get into in Hawaii.
Have a great wedding James. I will be following on Instagram @jamesjosephi for fly fishing photos and some wedding pics as well.
Read More about Weddings and Fly Fishing: A Wedding and Fly Fishing in Alberta with Wade Pratt