Saltwater Fishing Podcast
- Frank Smethurst was born and raised in a non-fishing family in Atlanta, Georgia.
- He showed an interest in fishing very early in life, began tying flies at the age of eight, and was working in revered tackle shop, The Fish Hawk, by age 12.
- Smethurst now guides out of Colorado and is well known for his role in several award-winning fly fishing films that take place in some of the world’s most interesting locations.
Frank Smethurst is a revered fly fisherman and guide whose passion for the sport began at a very early age. He began tying his own flies at age eight, starting working at The Fish Hawk by age 12, and eventually moved to Colorado to launch his career as a guide.
Aside from guiding, winning tournaments, and hosting television shows (and running a mothership operation in the Sea of Cortez somewhere in there), Smethurst is also well known for his role in a number of award-winning films that feature his fly fishing adventures in some of the most exciting and interesting parts of the world. One of Rowland’s favorites is a film called Running Down The Man, which features Smethurst and friends fly fishing up and down the Baja for the elusive Roosterfish...via dune buggy.
Join Rowland and Smethurst as they look back on their last fishing trip together in The Marquesas and share their thoughts on the most difficult fish to catch a various parts of the world. Learn how the fishing film industry has grown and evolved, what their favorite fish to go after is, and even the best thing to sauté your mushrooms in. This episode takes you on an adventure you truly do not want to miss!
- Tom Rowland
- Frank Smethurst
- John Duncan
- Doug Kilpatrick
- Brad Ellis
- Tom Bie
- Lee Wulff
- AJ McLane
- Zane Grey
- Ernie Schwiebert
- Gary Merriman
- Clay Watson
- Barry Reynolds
- Fitz Coker
- Dotty Ballantyne
Tom Rowland: I'm Tom Rowland and this is the Tom Rowland podcast.
Hey guys, my guest today is an old friend and somebody that I've always enjoyed fishing with and talking to. This guy has a very, very positive outlook on fishing. He likes to have a good time. He always has interesting conversations. We've been fishing together for a long time. It has been quite a long a time since we have shared a boat. I think the last time was in the Marquesas about 15 years ago. I really had fun catching up with this guy today.
He has been an industry sales rep all over the country. He's been a guide in Colorado and Alaska. He ran a mothership operation in the Sea of Cortez. He has really fished all over the United States. When I say that, I mean he has really fished probably in every state and quite extensively in quite a few of those states, particularly western states. He's won fly fishing competitions. He's also been featured in widely acclaimed fly fishing films and that's probably where you're going to know him.
As far as fly fishing films go, this guy is as old guard as they can be. He was shooting and starring in films before the fly fishing film festival even existed. I feel that he really has played a role in shaping that little industry of these films, fishing films, hunting films, and where they're going and this whole fly fishing film festival which packs the houses all over the country.
Two of the films that he was featured in, one was called Eastern Rises, and then my personal favorite was one called Running Down the Man and that was from Felt Soul Media. These guys took a dune buggy down the Baja beaches in search of roosterfish by foot, which is already kind of a crazy thing. When you throw in a dune buggy and camping on the beach and trying to do this on a fly rod, makes it pretty agro.
This looked a lot more like a battle than it did what most people would think of fishing. These guys are doing wind sprints up and down the beach. They're running trying to catch these fish, trying to get in front of them and making a really long cast. It was just very exciting thing. There were one of the people that absolutely pioneered this type of fishing and showed other people that it was possible. I always think that's super cool.
Recently, this guy has also been featured in a new film called Dubai on the Fly. They go to Dubai and catch queenfish, a fish that I know just a little about. Very cool, and it's very cool to see the fishing and just overall activity of this, basically, Las Vegas on steroids out in the middle of the ocean, and they're fishing all around these giant buildings and fancy cars and the whole works.
This man is a stud. He's an all-around interesting dude. It's my pleasure to introduce you to my good friend, Frank Smethurst. What's up Frank? You brought your dog.
Frank Smethurst: I brought my dog. I brought Roxy the river girl.
Tom: That's awesome.
Frank Smethurst: Yes.
Tom: How old is Roxy?
Frank: She is about one and a half. She's still really young, but she's--
Tom: She's very well-behaved.
Frank: Most of the time, she's well-behaved. She's kind of got a mind of her own.
Tom: Guss is the jealous old man. You see this? I even say Roxy's name and he comes over here and wants to be in the lap. A 187-pounds chocolate lab that feels like he has to be in my space all the time.
Frank: What would we do without our dogs?
Tom: I know.
Frank: He's sweet.
Tom: I know. I love dogs. I guess it's been about 15 years since we've hung around and probably maybe even longer than that since--
Frank: Yes, and too long since we fished. I remember the last time we fished was in the Marquesas.
Tom: Do you think that was the last time?
Frank: Yes. We were chasing-- [crosstalk]
Tom: Because I was thinking about the Dolores River. Maybe you weren't on that, but I know that-- Barchie and-
Tom: -and Pagano and John Duncan took me and Doug Kilpatrick on a camping trip on the Dolores River. Maybe you weren't on that trip. I thought you were.
Frank: I was guiding. I know you guys did well, but I was sadly not on that one.
Tom: I believe that was Doug Kilpatrick's first western experience.
I don't think he had ever been out there before. They showed us such a good time. Doug went on to buy like a hotel out by Cody. He goes out there every summer. It's funny how experiences like that will make such a big impact.
I remember the first time I went out west too. It was profound. Just looking at the Rocky Mountains for the first time coming from the south, and then if you imagine Doug coming from Florida. I'm pretty sure we went out there in the summertime so it was boiling in Key West, and step off the plane out there and it's- there's nothing better than a Rocky Mountain summer. It's so awesome; just dry and cool.
Frank: Crisp and clear.
Tom: Yes. We just went straight camping and fished all day, camped out that night, and the sky is so clear. I just love those memories of that. Yes, I forgot you weren't on that.
Frank: Dolores, that river, is my daughter's middle name.
Tom: Nice, because you spent so much time there.
Frank: You bet. The Dolores, that exact camp out that was so transformative for Doug and for you, also, that's where my wife and I fell in love. That's a river that has really steered the course of my life as well.
Tom: That's awesome. How long have you been married?
Frank: I've been married for a decade now.
Tom: A decade?
Tom: Your daughter is nine?
Frank: She is, yes.
Tom: Wow. You guys have lots of adventures.
Frank: My wife and I got married on a roosterfish beach in Baja.
Tom: No kidding. That reminds me of the movie Running Down the Man. I would say it's your claim to fame, but you have a lot of claims to fame. [crosstalk] I wouldn't just pigeonhole you into that.
Frank: Well, I sure am proud of that one.
Tom: That had to be very, very early into the Fly Fishing Film Festival or maybe even before.
Frank: At that point, there wasn't a tour. They were having a Fly Fishing Film Festival at the dealer shows that would happen. Running Down the Man premiered at the Telluride Mountain Film Festival before it played at one of those festivals. Literally, my future wife was seated next to me at the Running Down the Man premier.
Tom: What, you didn't know one another?
Frank: We had met. She was one of my best friend's sister.
Tom: Yes, and so then that- she's like "That's you"?
Frank: Yes, it was great. She was like "Oh, hey" whatever when I first sat down, and then the film starts playing and she really liked it. She turns over and she's like, "How you doing?"
Tom: Well, there was a lot of humor in there. She could have said, "Yes, later".
Frank: Well, adventure fishing comedies, that's my thing.
Tom: Yes, adventure fishing comedies. There was good humor in there. That was your brother, was on that?
Frank: Well, everybody thinks it's my brother because I was trying to get my brother to be in that shoot because he was- he along with myself had been going down to Baja for a long time and trying to figure out how to catch these roosterfish for a long time.
Even though I mention my brother, the guy that's in the film, this wonderful long-haired guy, his name actually is Brad Ellis, this great friend of ours who actually lived in Baja and lived on some of the beaches that we fished on. For a long time, he couldn't catch them. We told him a couple things and all of a sudden, he could.
Tom: You had been down there a couple times and decided that this might be a great film?
Frank: Yes. Ben and Travis who, with Felt Soul, that they had made The Hatch and we were very close friends from Telluride. We all lived there.
Tom: What is The Hatch?
Frank: The Hatch is a film about the stonefly hatch in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. In a lot of ways, this is- The Hatch was one of just a couple of films along with Tom Bides Feeding Time that really were seminal works in beginning of "Hey, let's make movies about fishing or fly fishing". Running Down the Man was just a couple of years after that.
They had made that. At the same time, we had been- I was running a mothership operation in the Sea of Cortez. I had gotten them some work doing a promotional DVD for this mothership operation. As they became familiar with the fishery and some of the stuff that went on, they started to see all of the potential for making a film about this very unusual style of fishing that really had never existed before. Obviously, I encouraged them.
Tom: If you haven't seen this movie, it is really something that you should definitely dig up. These guys have this dune buggy, the dune buggy. It's a dune buggy that they haul-ass down the beach and then get out where they think there are fish or maybe you're seeing fish from the dune buggy, and then you start running up and down, seeing a fish, and then running to try to get in front of that fish.
Trying to strip outline, at the same time you're running. The surf is coming in and then you're trying to make this your longest cast ever in the history of the world. You're stepping on the line. It's getting wrapped around the feet. The waves are pushing it in. It's very difficult, athletic fishing.
If you are someone who believes that fishing is sitting on a dock with a bobber and that's the only thing about fishing, this is definitely different. My favorite part of it was when you said, "That's like running wind sprints. I haven't run wind sprints since college". [laughs]
Frank: Yes, that was actually a stretch.
Tom: What? Since college? [laughs]
Frank: Yes, that was a lot, that was a lot. It's definitely a bit decathlon style, fly fishing where you've got to run to a place; you have to have a sense of what your line is doing. You can't really wear footwear because you have to feel where the line is and is not whether or not you're stepping on it. You have to have a sense of the sets in terms of the waves that are coming ashore.
It takes some real time to- basically, you've got to throw a whole lot of junk to ultimately throw something that's even halfway relevant. Because roosterfish are related to permit, they're pretty difficult to fool sometimes.
Tom: Their prime meat-eaters, right? I've never caught a roosterfish.
Tom: I would assume that they were a little bit like jack crevalle permit mix where they have aggression. I'm sure they can be very aggressive when they want to, but they could also be a little bit shy.
Frank: They've got huge eyes. They can really steer holes in a fly. They are very discerning. They know what their food looks like.
Tom: Even there
Tom: Even there. They're not getting fish, though?
Frank: They are not. Even back when they weren't, they were really hard to fool. Literally, when we started to do it, everybody was like, "The only way you can catch a roosterfish is with a live bait". They don't eat plugs.
Tom: They don't eat plugs?
Frank: No, they won't eat plugs. There are a couple of swim baits that work occasionally. If you blitz a couple of different types of surface plugs at about 25 miles an hour across the surface, you can actually fool them with that when the surf's up.
That's the thing. This is the fish that lives in the surf and they ride the sets in. It's watching them work a beach in these unbelievable wolf packs is you don't realize how cooperative and how clever fish can be. You really see roosterfish doing their thing right on- almost on the dry sand.
Tom: I'm sure there's pretty of time to be watching these fish because they're probably covering just out of range. You can throw a fly rod a hundred feet, and they're probably 130 off the beach a lot, and you're watching them and running after them and running after them, and then they make that move in, and that's when you have to make the cast.
They can see them so well because the roosterfish is black and white, basically, with this giant comb coming off of the top of the fish. the comb are basically these dorsal fins that look like a rooster's feathers almost coming off of the top of the fish. They're black and white. I sure just like a dolphin and just like everything else, they get super lit up when they get excited.
Frank: Do they ever?
Tom: They're showing up as black as this couch probably, in perfectly clear water over white sand, a lot of times.
Frank: I describe it as it's like watching the Batmobiles from down the beach. Sometimes they're hard to see. Sometimes they really aren't, and it's blatant is is what it is.
Tom: You had pioneered this area and kind of knew-- In the movie, it looks like you're just hauling ass down the beach and you stop randomly. Are you seeing fish? Are you getting to an area, and then you're patrolling the beach up and down? How does it work?
Frank: A little bit of both. My real preference is to park the
car and hike. A Camelback is as important as our [unintelligible 00:15:06]. I'll go through an entire gallon of water. Every single day, we'll hike between 5 and 12 miles and just walk; see what we see.
Tom: That's awesome.
Frank: It's great. It's an amazing workout. These days, there are a lot of people that ride ATVs up and down the beach which I've certainly done and will do again, but ATVs tend to really cost you a fair amount of fish, because you tend to only really see the easy ones to see. You're trying to deploy off of the buggy and you just cannot do that as quickly as you can when you have your toes in the sand, you're at the water's edge and you've got a couple quills in your hand and you're ready to go right now.
A lot of times, it's those fish that are in the trough you can barely see. They're only about 30 feet from you. Now, those fish bite.
Tom: They bite good, the ones that you can barely see?
Frank: Yes, well.
Tom: That's where the snook bite too, right there Interviewer that trough.
Frank: Exactly, and then Baja has black snook too.
Tom: That's very cool.
Frank: You want to talk about a hard fish to catch. Black snook, I think, are the-- they're right there with the permit. They're really impressively difficult.
Tom: I just saw on your Instagram that a hard fish to catch was a mullet.
Frank: Well, that's the first one I ever caught. First one I never caught. I don't know about you, but growing up in the south and have your throw-- [crosstalk].
Tom: First, you think they're something else. You throw at them, and throw at them, and throw at them until you're like, "Well, they're mullet". Sometimes, they're as long as your leg almost. In some of those South Carolina ponds or something, those mullet are huge. They look like "That's got to be a redfish, or it's got to be something like that", and then it jumps out of the water and it's a mullet. I don't know how to catch them, but I think that some people do on purpose.
Frank: I don't know how to catch them either, but I have now caught one. What's crazy is you would think that I would have gaffed it in the head or the side or something far, far from fair. He not only ate it, Tom, but he crushed it. He crushed it.
I thought it was this amazing shad. I was shad-fishing at the time. Fish jumped and I was like, "Okay, that's not a shad". I'm sitting there- basically you can't see a mullet jump the peer line. If you've been halfway in forward, you can't think that that's a mullet. It was like, I saw that, I know it's a mullet, but that's impossible. Lo and behold, I pulled it in. It was a striped mullet.
It was in it was in a freshwater river so maybe they-- It was either that he was in an eating mood because he was upriver in the fresh, or he was like, "Well, this guy throughout his youth has thrown 40,000 casts at mullet. We're just going to give him this one".
Tom: [laughs] Yes, maybe.
Frank: He ate a Chartreuse Clouser.
Tom: Really? That's a big thing for a mullet to try to eat.
Frank: I know. I swear to God I couldn't believe it. It was a small one, but--
Tom: I've heard that people catch them. It could be like the milkfish where no one catches them for a long time until somebody actually decides, "I'm going to really try to fish for these things", and now they've got that milkfish thing worked out. The first time I went to the south pacific-- [crosstalk]
Frank: They've got that milkfish worked out somewhere. There's a bunch of them in Baja that-- those things are impossible.
Tom: Yes. The Seychelles guides feel like they can catch them with-- [crosstalk].
Frank: With the [unintelligible 00:18:38] flies.
Tom: Yes, they've got a whole leader rig and they've got ways that they're going out there and catching them in different situations. I think there's a little bit of swing oriented with it.
Frank: Have you done it?
Tom: I have not gone with anyone who knows how to do it.
Frank: Are they flossing anthem?
Tom: That's a good question. I don't know. It's possible, but I know that I've hooked about a half a dozen of them on bonefish flies and in the mouth.
Frank: Right, and just got wrecked by that?
Tom: Yes. That is an amazing fish. I would say that that could possibly be, if you figured out how to catch them, it could maybe be one of the better game fish around because they jump. They have the body type-- [crosstalk]
Frank: Maybe the biggest tail.
Tom: They have this massive tail.
Frank: Yes, they've got a tail like a mullet.
Tom: I know. It's massive. When you're in the South Pacific fishing, you see these-- or other places I guess where there are milkfish-- We don't have them in the Keys or anything, but the milkfish is like a giant 50-pound mullet.
Frank: Super bullet.
Tom: You see them in these big schools, but they don't tend to eat anything except when you least expect it and you throw a bonefish fly out there. I have had them grab it with their mouth. I'm not looking them in the side because they jump
from me to you, and I can see that the fly is right in the mouth. I've never had any luck landing them. I would like to.
Frank: I've never had anything run that far away that fast greyhound.
tom: Yes, they are.
Frank: Like three coutas put together. Gone.
Tom: They're really something. Maybe somebody could figure out how to catch a mullet. They wouldn't be 50 pounds, but it could have a whole cloudy day fishery in all over Florida. If you figured out how to catch one and you did that on a four way, that could be fun.
Frank: It would. It would be fun. All fish are interesting to me, and I love diversity. I really do. I definitely have some fish that I like a little bit more than others, but honestly, I love them all. I really do.
Tom: Whatever I'm doing at the time, really, is probably my favorite, but I have favorites. I'll always probably put the permit up there. In the same sentence, I could say that a bluegill is also one of my favorites. I love that, and I could switch from one to another immediately. I could be permit fishing and have just an awesome time. I could do bluegill fishing and have an awesome time. It's all about just the method. It doesn't always have to be fly fishing for me. I enjoy all kinds of fishing.
Frank: Me too, me too. I think people know me a little bit more as a fly fisherman. I've definitely had some people shocked when I pick up a baitcaster and flip it or pitch it and stuff like that. They're like--
Tom: "You're a Southern boy".
Frank: Yes, exactly. When you're raised in the South, if you don't know how to throw all tackle-- Where I grew up working, which was the Fish Hog, basically our motto was fly, plug, spin. That's the whole enchilada.
Tom: That really gets back to in the days of Lee Wulff, you saw a little bit of this with guys like AJ McClane, with guys like Zane Grey even maybe, and then Lee Wulff. I think he got hijacked a little bit with Ernie Schwiebert going the complete angler as only fly. The complete angler would be somebody that could fish in fresh and salt water, but it was all fly.
I think that there's a move now. Maybe it's been going on for the last 20 years, but there's a little bit more of a respect, I think, for some anglers that can actually do it all.
Frank: Unfortunately, it's a little bit more- now that I'm here on the east bank of the Mississippi here with you, it's a little bit more east. Out west, it's still a fly shop typically has no other gear in it.
Tom: The same here, I think too. I think that you're having those anglers that are going in that fly shop, and then they're going to Bass Pro and they're getting their stuff there, and then they're going somewhere else and doing other kinds of fishing.
I think that certainly technology has helped a lot with the internet and being able to find different guides easily. You could find a musky guide, and then you could go striper fishing, and then you could run over to the coast and go red-fishing, and then you could go get on an airplane and go somewhere and tuna fish offshore, and then you can get on an airplane--
That technology, I think-- The airplanes have been there, the cars have been there, but what wasn't there for a long time was the information of where you would need to go, and the ability to contact somebody. Instagram's good for that. You can see what all these people are catching and you just send them a message like, "Man, that looks cool, I'd like to do that". "Okay, how about Thursday?" "Okay, I guess. That sounds really cool".
The days before the internet, that was impossible. What would you do? You'd have to pick up a phone and call somebody.
Frank: Or, you had to wait for some article to come out. When I was little, I'd read cover to cover all Field & Streams, all Sports Afield, all Outdoor Life. Sometimes, there would be some numbers for guides in there, or it would be in the back. You'd have to do all sorts of random detective work. When I was a little kid, I started working in a fly shop when I was 12.
Tom: What, the Fish Hawk?
Frank: At the Fish Hawk, yes.
Frank: I was tying commercial flys when I was 12. I had a catch a 160-pound tarpon at Homosassa, one of my flyes-- [crosstalk]
Frank: On a cockroach when I was 13. That was a great experience. That was a great place for keeping my fishing really well-rounded. The neat thing about Georgia, and for that matter the south-east, is that we really have this crazy mix of fresh and salt. Georgia, we can catch 10-pound trout and 100-pound tarpon just hours apart from one another. No kidding. They're both wild fish. It was a great and complete education.
Tom: You started working at the Fish Hawk which is probably the best fly shop in the southeast.
Frank: It's still the biggest fly shop for a lot of manufacturers east of the Mississippi.
Tom: And really stood the test of time. As other shops have closed down, Gary has been able to-- Gary Merriman owns that shop and has just done an amazing job always of being a first class all the way and offering really good service. In a day where lots of fly shops have trouble keeping the doors open, because of the internet probably and lots of other reasons-
Frank: Changing retail.
Tom: -he's managed to just keep chugging.
Frank: Well, that's one great thing about the south. The south really respects tradition. That is the Fish Hawks is Southerners Coca-Cola.
Tom: Well, it definitely is, but I think a lot of fly shops these days have a hard time because while the south might respect tradition, new anglers don't necessarily understand what life is like if you don't have a fly shop that you can go to. One guy that I talked to was saying that he has a real hard time when people are coming in and they try all his rods, and then they walk out and they buy it for the lowest price on the internet, and they wonder why the shop closed down. They've got to keep the doors open somehow. You've got to support that local guy.
Frank: I think that it's tempting to think that with fly fishing you can YouTube your way through it. The reality is that it's still- to me, it's still very much a mentorship thing. In the long run, you'll save a lot more money and become a better fisherman if you know some-, if you're able to along with another- the rest of a community support a fly shop that has some real deal people in it that really live it and have lived it for a long time and pass along that mentorship to you. That's what worked for me. That's what helped me become a guide.
Tom: How did that work with you growing up in Atlanta and ending up working at the Fish Hawk at 12? How does that happen?
Frank: Gary had a long tradition of hiring sharp kids.
Tom: Yes, but how did you even become a kid that was interested in doing that? First of all, working at 12 is pretty remarkable.
Frank: I wanted to work there when I was eight. Basically, I bought-- [crosstalk]
Tom: Well, because you have a history of fishing in your family or what?
Frank: No, I didn't have a history of fishing in my immediate family. My grandfather was- whom I never met; he died before I was born. He was an amazing fly fisherman and upland bird hunter. He died before I was born. It skipped a generation. His children, my mom and my uncles, did not fish. Not really. Basically, when I was one, when I was two, my parents and my babysitters and stuff like that, noticed that as soon as they got me on the dock with the line, that if I hand line in my hand, I would behave. Anything shy of that, not so much.
It just continued to escalate. My parents immediately saw that my draw for the ocean- I did all my first fishing in the ocean when I was a kid. This was really trolling for mackerel when we would visit the family in Maine.
Tom: Where would you go to Maine?
Frank: In Maine.
Tom: When you said that, I would think like 30A.
Frank: The southeast somewhere. Yes, exactly. I'm half Yankee and I'm half redneck.
Tom: That's what's wrong with you. [laughs]
Frank: Exactly, I know it's confusing for everybody.
Tom: You've been conflicted your whole life.
Frank: My whole life, it's true. In Atlanta, it was "You talk like a Yankee". I have a couple of beers in Colorado and I start saying y'all all of the time, stuff like that. There like, "Where are you from?
Tom: All over.
Frank: Yes, exactly. It is confusing. My mom's family, we visited them and spent time in Maine with them. We would go out in rowboats and row around Penobscot Bay trolling green linen hand lines with a daredevil, typically, tied on and just rope these Atlantic mackerel. From time to time, we would drop clams and mussels on hooks over the side, and catch flounder as big as a doormat.
Tom: That would be a pretty good dinner with some lobster up there and some flounder.
Frank: And mussels that we had picked on the shore or clams that we dig. Yes, we had some clambakes, Tom, that would absolutely floor-- [crosstalk]
Tom: When you're talking about a clambake, is that like I see in the movies for the northeast where you get the fire on the beach and you do the whole gig?
Frank: Giant black kettle with the white specs, this beautiful earthware; you layer the different types of shellfish and food in between layers of seaweed and you cook it in brine with seasonings. Lots of bay leaves and peppercorns and all kinds of different stuff that all of the different relatives would bring. Back then, the crazy Smethursts were the only ones who ate mussels. Everybody else would eat clams, but they're like "Ooh, mussels no". We were like "Ooh, mussels, right on".
We used to shock our relatives by breaking sea urchins on the beach and eating the row raw. Yes, that was- my aunts and uncles still- I think that freaked them out until the advent of sushi bars.
Tom: Yes, if you're on the cutting edge, then.
Frank: That was my mom.
Tom: How does she know how to do that?
Frank: I don't know. How does she know how to do all the stuff she knows how to do? Mom was ahead of the curve her whole life.
Tom: That's seems like there would be some Asian heritage there or something that would-
Frank: Exactly and it--
Tom: -even led you to the idea that you can eat a sea urchin.
Frank: Right. I remember we were tiny and it was just like "that's really good". Until I had some shad roe just the other day, it was my favorite. Yes, more of those shad, yes, they're going to need to die soon.
Tom: [laughs] The shad, where were you doing that?
Frank: Well, that's classified, Tom. I was on a river in Georgia and I went on spec to a place that I thought might have some. I didn't catch many, but I caught a few. Got that mullet, and I was catching most [unintelligible 00:31:49] and it's super fun and super beautiful. Those once you get to the coastal plain of Georgia, you're talking about all of these forgotten fisheries.
Everybody drives right by them on the way to go catch red fish and blue fish and sea trout, stuff like that in quite muddy water. On the way, they're driving past all these gin clear- they're slightly tea-colored, tannin-colored rivers that are spectacular as they flow and wind through the cypress country of the south.
Tom: Do you float that, or do you--?
Frank: Yes, I took my dory. I took my dory. Basically, it's you can't find them just anywhere, but you find a big shawl and then you look for that froggy water at the bottom. They're right on the seam as it goes into the-- [crosstalk].
Tom: What fly do you use?
Frank: I was using all the shad flies from-- I'd caught them on the sack with some friends out west and they loved orange. I was just beating the crap out of them with orange and then with red and white, all these shad flies "that are supposed to work". In true southern fashion, those fish wouldn't touch anything I threw until I pulled out that one chartreuse fly that I had. It was these--
Tom: Chartreuse, and I know you-- [crosstalk].
Frank: These shad could not have been better Southerners. I really appreciated that. They taught me something wonderful.
Tom: Getting back to this, you go up to Maine and you're catching fish with your family and stuff even though it skipped a generation. You bring this back just as a grammar school kid and just sitting in class daydreaming about fishing all the time?
Frank: All too often, Tom.
Tom: That's what I did a lot.
Frank: Did you?
Frank: Just take me away.
Tom: I can't really say that I was all that good in school. I think I did dream a lot about who knows what but fishing was definitely part of it growing up. I think I got the bug a little later, like really at 17 maybe, really got into it, but my dad always took me fishing early when I was a kid and I loved it. That was my favorite thing to do with him. I don't know. I did a lot of daydreaming in school. Did you?
Frank: I did. Especially in the south, you get these unbelievable downpours. As soon as I could hear the sound of water flowing outside or on the window pane, I would just basically lapse into a daydream. No lecture, no presentation on the teacher's behalf could cut through. It was over. It was over.
Frank: Do your parents see this and nurture it and say maybe you would need a job at the fly shop or something?
Tom: As a matter of fact, that's exactly what happened. My father had, in secret one year, built a couple of fly rods for my brother and I, a couple of Fenwick glass rods which- this kind of dates me.
Frank: Back in the day. Fenwick glass rods.
Tom: Yes, not only Fenwick glass rods, but orange- yellow Fenwick glass rods.
Tom: That was my favorite, spinning around with my dad's. I could use any rod except that one. That's the only one I wanted to use and it was the yellow Fenwick spinning rod.
Frank: That's all I would use for a long time was Fenwick and Fenwick only. My friends in high school called me Professor Fenwick. That's another story. I was just so into the fishing and they were just like, "Man, can't you focus". I did a lot of other stuff. I played soccer and all this other stuff, but it didn't take much for me to somehow work the subject and the idea back to fishing.
Tom: Do you remember going into the Fish Hawk and asking for a job?
Frank: Yes. My dad had built these rods and had mentioned to them that he had this kid. They knew who I was at that point because we would go in on Saturdays and just look at all the tackle and walk around. That was like our favorite thing to do was walk around the Fish Hawk. "Dad, can we go to--"
Dad would take us to church and be like, "Well we'll go if we can go to the Fish Hawk afterward", or this or that. Everything we did was like, "Well, I'll take you to Fish Hawk". For the kids, it was like "I'll take you to get some ice cream". I'm like, "I don't know. How about we go to the Fish Hawk?" He'd be like, "Okay". Typically, the Fish Hawk was a little bit more expensive for dad. [crosstalk]
Tom: Yes, that's not really an ice cream cone. Especially back then when a rod was- it was hard to come by.
Frank: Yes. Ultimately, I collected some Kennedy Fisher spinning rods and I had all kinds of cool stuff that I got by hook or crook and good behavior, sometimes. Anyhow, dad had mentioned to them that young Frank would be a pretty decent employee. Though skeptical, Gary gave me a shot and I worked there until I went to college.
I still would come back and put in the odd shift there, even throughout the time I was gardening in the west. It continues to be in Atlanta touchstone and family.
Tom: Where did you go to college?
Frank: I went to a variety of places, actually. I went to Georgia State for a while in downtown Atlanta. I went to the University of Oregon for a summer in Eugene. That's really what convinced me that I really needed to live in the west.
Tom: How did you get out there? How did you decide that you were going to do that from Georgia State to Oregon?
Frank: I needed a school that was near trout fishing and potentially steelhead so that I could get credit in steelhead at the same time.
Tom: Nice. Had you ever caught a steelhead?
Tom: It was just a dream.
Frank: No, but it needed to happen and it did. That and the west all in the same summer were transformative for me. I would go to class all day, and then I'd hop on my mountain bike and ride 15 miles to the Mackenzie, and I would catch these incredible redside rainbows and native sea-run cuts out of the Mackenzie. Literally every day, I'd walk through these beautiful wheat fields, kind of poaching-- I'm not sure if I was- I'm pretty sure I was trespassing. I meant no harm and I didn't kill any fish.
I literally fished there every single possible day. Throughout my education-- I ended up graduating from the University of Georgia with a journalism degree in radio-TV-film, ironically. I fished pretty continuously through school there. Fished the white bass runs, and for, of course, largemouth.
Tom: Now, when you move back, are you just dying to be back out west, or are you pretty happy back in the south?
Frank: I would say somehow both. As soon as I encountered the west, the clock was ticking and it was calling me back. All of the freedom and just the call of all that tumbling clear water was really a big siren song for me. Ironically, I didn't really know my southern countryside well enough to have encountered some of the similar type waterways here.
Ironically, I come back here now and I see so many incredible things now that I'm better versed and along lines the flow of information. I'm suddenly way hipper to all of the amazing fishing around here, or some of it anyhow, than I was when I was growing up.
I had to go out west to learn to be a better fishermen and a better searcher, and I came back. Now that I'm back for a little while now, it's a revelation. Anytime I look around, [unintelligible 00:39:56].
Tom: There's quite a bit of a fishing that
I didn't know anything about stripers, musky, the redeye bass, and the shoal bass, all of that, and then that the giant trout. All I knew were little trout.
Frank: Don't forget the weird fish like shad and bowfin.
Tom: The bowfin -- [crosstalk].
Frank: Bow fin's a sleeper.
Tom: Cool, and carp. I would consider it to been undiscovered fishery here because I rarely see anybody fishing for carp in the Tennessee area. I see the carp and I know that they're bow-fishing for them all the time. I'm thinking, "If they're up there, they can see them, you should be able to catch them".
Frank: Yes. The carp, in my experience back here, they eat so many mussels. It's a little bit more like a cow and less like a predator. They're more of a grazer.
Tom: Yes, but you could probably figure it out.
Frank: Yes. I'm sure you can convince them here and there. In my experience, they've been a tougher sell than the carp that I run into further west where there are less shellfish.
Tom: You know a little bit about that, the carp fishing out west?
Frank: Yes. I've been fishing for them for a while after getting kind of coerced into it by some friends who are like, "No man, you got to try it". I was like I don't want to fish for those stinky slimy things.
I could not have been more wrong. I'm right about them being stinky and slimy. They take a lot of talent to catch. The reality is that if you can routinely catch a carp, say in downtown Denver South Platte, you have a shot in the Keys. If you can't, keep working on it because they're an incredibly instructive quarry.
Tom: Well if nothing else, it gives you something to do in the off time of the trout fishing and other things. If you are planning on the one down to the Keys, I'm sure that that would be incredibly valuable. The carp is a good fish on its own. It's a spooky fish. It's picky, and then it fights hard-- [crosstalk]
Frank: It does, it gets really big. The thing that I like about them is they really teach you to read a fish's body language in slower motion. It doesn't happen as quick as tarpon and bone, so you can sort of get an inference of what you're looking for in terms of body attitude changing, and pectorals moving, and dorsals-- pectorals flaring and dorsals raising and lowering and stuff like that that's telling you that you're either somewhere near or far away from interesting them. I like them
We actually have a carp tournaments in Denver. When I was a rep, we sponsored this big thing. It's called the Carpslam. It's been going for 10 years now. I haven't done so well in the last few, but I won it a while back.
Tom: Nice. Are those like crayfish patterns, or--?
Frank: Yes. By the time they have it, it's like in late summer so all the crayfish are molting. You use a small crayfish pattern, sometimes swarm patterns, sometimes some damselfish dragonfly nenue fish type stuff.
Lately, word on the street is that this one guy who's just beating everybody the last three or four years is using some mop flies, cranes, stuff like that.
Tom: Well that's cool.
Tom: It takes somebody to try some different stuff to really change the game. I'm waiting for that to happen on permit fishing. While it's gotten a little bit better, we haven't had-- [crosstalk]
Frank: Thank you for bring that up, by the way. I need to ask you, [laughs] about permit. I've caught a few of them, but man, have I not caught a lot of these fish.
Tom: Join the club. Mostly, you catch none on fly.
Frank: A live crab is such an amazing layout.
Tom: Do you fish with them?
Tom: Do you do that?
Frank: Yes. Does it not work ever? [crosstalk]
Tom: No, there are definitely days where they refuse a live crab. There are definitely lots and lots of situations where you have a crab that has been on the hook too long, your client left it out of the water, it's sitting on the deck, it's really weak, it's barely moving and they don't eat that just like they don't eat a fly.
Frank: Is that right?
Tom: Yes. I always talk to these people, particularly fly fisherman, who have never thrown a crab, and I know exactly what that's like. When I went to the Keys, I was absolutely deadest, 100% determined that I was going to catch my first permit on a fly and there was going to be no exception to that.
I was not interested in any argument to try to dissuade me from that. That was what was going to happen, and that's what happened.
Frank: It's very principled of you.
Tom: In hindsight, I look at it and I think, "Man, it took me a year of fishing every day". When I say every day, if it wasn't blowing 40, then I was out there. I'm out there by myself trying to fly fish out of a skiff, which is really, really hard to do because the permit is a very spooky fish.
You go from the back of the boat where you're polling, you get off the tower and if you're quiet enough and you're careful enough and you put the pole down without making any noise, you've taken your eye off the fish, now you look up and most of the time the fish has gone, and it's right under the boat and now it's exploded.
Frank: That was fun. [laughs]
Tom: Yes. Now, you're back up on the tower and pushing down the thing again, pushing down the flat again. On the occasion that you would get everything set up right, you make your shot. I didn't know enough about the fish to know where the shot should have been.
I didn't know enough about the fish to see, like what you were talking about about the carp, of, okay, there's a body position change, the pectoral is flared, this happened, any kind of an indication that the fish was interested in that fly. I'm just going out there and hoping for the best. I think most people are, honestly, that haven't caught a lot of permit. I think that if I had started fishing with crabs earlier, I would have caught one. I would have not six, eight months off for that. I would have caught one on fly way, way earlier.
I love fishing with crabs. I love it because I love the permit so much that I don't want to just catch 50 of them in a year. I want to catch 500 of them a year or a thousand a year. I don't want to catch 50 a year. That's not enough. What I found is that you can catch them on crabs, and while you're doing that you're learning about fly fishing for them.
I think that you'll see the best permit guides in the Keys like a Mark Rocha. He catches few on fly, but he can win the fly tournament. He will be one of the top guys going into the fly tournament every single year. He would probably prefer to catch them on crabs, but he just knows so much about that fish. He knows every little body movement, every posture change of that fish to know if he's interested, if he even saw the fly, what happens.
The interesting thing about crabs and permit and fly fishing for permit is that a lot of people have this opinion that if you just put crab juice on the fly, they would just jump in the boat. It's not like that at all. We fish all these tournaments like the red bone down there where in the Key West it's the slam tournaments, so it's permit, bonefish, and tarpon. You're trying to put together those three fish in that combination.
The bay bone for a long time, it was permit and bonefish, and so you're trying to catch those two fish. You have a hundred of the best anglers and the best guides in the Florida Keys, maybe in the world. Most of them are throwing crabs. You just see the number of fish that come in. It's not 700. It's not like everybody went out there and caught seven. It's 40, maybe.
Tom: Yes. Depending on the conditions, it's very tough. If you can get a crab that is super lively, super aggressive, and you put that on the hook and you hear the legs clicking--
Frank: I was about to ask you-
Tom: You hear that.
Frank: -is that a click thing?
Tom: 100%. if someone were to ask me, "Your life depends on it- you can have a scent or you can have motion. Which would you rather have?" I take motion every time because I don't really think that a lot of crab-- [crosstalk]
Frank: What about sand? Do you like the click?
Tom: Definitely. I think that makes a huge difference. If you ever go snorkeling on the flats or-
Frank: It's amazing, the [crosstalk] of click.
Tom: -snorkeling anywhere, there's sound everywhere. You look at the permit's side of his head he's got a giant hole in his head that has to be an ear and he's got this lateral line. He's got all these ways that he is sensing everything that's around him. I just have thrown thousands or have had thousands of people throw dead crabs or partially dead crabs to permit, and they look at it exactly like they do a well-tied [unintelligible 00:49:29].
Frank: No kidding?
Tom: Like, "No, not really what I want".
Frank: Let me ask you this, 20 years ago, you and I were on the south-west side of the Marquesas. We were in some permit. You told me- you were like, "Look, I want you to cram that fly right into their face. If you spook them, right on. If they're swimming away from you, the second-best place for you to throw the fly, Frank, is to throw it at their tail". Do you still feel that way?
Tom: I probably felt that way. Probably fishing as a guide for permit fishing, you really have so few-- It's not like being a bass fishing guide where you're going out catching 50 in a day. The best guide in the Keys is catching 50 or 60 a year for all of his clients combined. Depending on whatever happened the week before, it always depended on what or was what I was telling people the next week because I was certain that if you threw it in their face and they ate it, great, that worked. If you threw it on their tail and they wheeled around and ate it again, that worked. Of course you--
Frank: I've seen that happen a couple of times.
Tom: Then, of course, you may have a couple of dry weeks where you're like, "No, don't throw it on the tail."
Tom: "-last time I was here you told me to throw it on their tail." "Yes, I'm sorry about that."
Frank: Forget about that guy.
Tom: I do know that the reason that we like to throw it right in their face was because we felt like the only way that that fly, even if it's a supper well-tied fly, the only way that it really looked anything like a live crab was when it was diving to the bottom because there was that motion and a real live crab-- That's the other thing man, is that if you don't fish with live crabs often, or you don't accidentally pick one up out of the love well and it shoots out of your hand and hits the water and you try to catch it and then it swims away like a fish, it is amazingly fast.
Frank: They are.
Tom: A perfectly healthy blue crab is amazingly fast. You can't catch it in the water. It's like a fish. That thing is swimming to the bottom.
Frank: Especially when they go sideways.
Tom: Yes. It's shooting to the bottom and that's where probably the most success I've had with permit is throwing it in there and it goes right to the bottom and the permit goes over tails on it and eats it. All the stripping and trying to make it like a bonefish, that works really, really well with a bonefish. Try to animate that flour and they think, "Oh, shrimp, I like that." I just haven't had the same success with permit and a lot of that is due to the place that we fish for them, particularly where I was fishing for them over turtle grass.
Now, you start stripping and you're catching the turtle grass and it's pulling the turtle grass in a strange way that the fish isn't used to seeing and it freaks them out and they take off. We were talking about with the moth fly and the cup, there're a lot of permit guides that are trying all different types of flies and techniques for the permit but we still haven't had the breakthrough.
Now, there's somebody out there that's going to be like, "[unintelligible 00:52:37], I'm catching way more than you ever caught." Well, maybe that's true but you're still not catching as many as we catch bonefish.
Frank: For example, have you tried anything like the Avalon flying the Keys [inaudible 00:52:51]?
Tom: Yes. [crosstalk]
Frank: I like the idea of the click. It's not a very appealing fly otherwise. It looks a little contrived.
Tom: The click is very important.
Frank: Me too.
Tom: It's really important. Now, is that Avalon that goes to Cuba? Is that the Cuban fly?
Frank: Yes, it's like the four beads on the weed guard [unintelligible 00:53:07].
Tom: Clay Watson was just on the podcast not too long ago and he just went to Cuba and fished with those guys. He didn't have very good weather, so he didn't really have a good chance. I'm unfamiliar with that fly and we've certainly tried it. The clicking that happens with a live blue crab is, It's more like clapping your hands. A lot of clicking. It would need to be a mechanical clicker.
Frank: Get a little stereophonic then put a little boombox inside the next fly attire.
Tom: It's one thing to do that and you're like, "Okay, well, we're going to really push fly attire into the edge." Well, there're lures out there that look exactly like a crab. They are a molded crab.
Frank: I've seen them.
Tom: You throw them out there and the permit looks at them and goes, "No." Then there're things like the, what's that stuff? The backly-- [crosstalk]
Frank: The gold?
Tom: Gold. Yes, and they have gold crabs.
Frank: I've seen those. [unintelligible 00:54:06].
Tom: [crosstalk] awesome for redfish, so good for redfish. They're the best ever. You throw them at permit and they're like, "No, it's okay." It's got the sand on it. I don't know that the sand is that important although [laughs] on our last shoot, it's so funny with permit. Everything you say gets contradicted about a week later.
Tom: As soon as you think you've got it 100% nailed, the--
Frank: The tea leaves change.
Tom: Yes. Take whatever I say with a grain of salt because not that anybody listening wouldn't take everything I say with a grain of salt. I hope you would. We go down to film our last shoot just right after the hurricane. We are at Hawks Cay and there are a big group of permit. We are caught up in the morning and so we catch a couple of permit where they're supposed to be in this channel and there's some buoys around. We're fishing with Jeff Malone and we catch one of those and so we think, "Okay, well, let's go get our bonefish," so that we have a couple hours of sunlight left. We run over to the resort flat where they're always bonefish and-
Frank: There's fish that comes over?
Tom: Yes, exactly.
Frank: That's fish, I'm cool.
Tom: They can be but they respond very well with chum. [laughs] We don't care. We're just trying to get a slam and it's after the hurricane and we're just checking on things like do bonefish still exist? Did they get miraculously taken up like in The Wizard of Oz? Did they all disappear? We go over there and we start chopping up a few shrimp. Jeff Malone throws a jig out there and within, I don't know, 15 seconds, he hooks a fish.
He goes, "I think that was a permit." Sure enough, he catches a permit. Then I throw a shrimp out there and I'm waiting for a bonefish, the rock goes down, just like it always does, permit. Then Rich catches a permit, same day, same deal. We catch three permit right there. Now, I'm thinking, well, I'm saying, "I don't think scent is such a big deal," but we throw it a few shrimp and we catch three permit [chuckles] so--
Frank: That's amazing.
Tom: I don't know.
Frank: That's a special area right around there too. I used to stay it on dark and that hole, it's very permity and you just never know what-- [crosstalk]
Tom: You got the flat right there where there are plenty of bonefish. There's lots of permit there. There's lots of permit all around that deep but then you have the taron migration in there. It is, probably in my experience, if I had a canoe, and I was going to try to get a slant, probably right there because, literally, you could go a 100 yards and you could be in bonefish and permit and tarpon.
There are other places kind of similar but that, to me, is the most compressed little slam hole.
Frank: Yes, it's true.
Tom: You could catch a slam right there really easy. The slam is the current bonefish tarpon all in one day. A lot of people think that that's, you know, the be-all-end-all of fishing. It is really super cool but that key area is good. We were talking about do I really still feel like if you don't throw it in their face then throw it in their tail. I've had good success with that but it could be all different [chuckles] next week. I just really don't know.
Frank: If you haven't spooked him would you go right back and do their face before?
Tom: Yes, yes. For sure.
Frank: If they are swimming away and are out of your range-
Frank: -if you could choose between over their shoulder or at their tail?
Tom: Well, I used to really like the over the shoulder shot because they're swimming away, and this is not a good percentage shot on bonefish or on tarpon necessarily because typically, with both of those fish, you need to move the fly to get them to see that it's something that they might want to eat. If you throw it over the tarpon shoulder, and then you pull it straight at them, that's about a 99.9% chance that you're going to totally freak that fish out, and he's going to leave as fast as a fish can swim.
Bonefish, also, if you can do that. Sometimes, you can get the fish to eat it like that, but just by barely moving the fly at all, giving it a little breath of life that works but I always like the permit over the shoulder and just put the flat line on his dorsal fin, and let the fly unroll out front, and then don't move it, because they look up and they don't see a boat like they normally do.
They're looking away from you and if they see that, they go down and eat it like that. We've had good success like that too but preferably, I don't want any fish swimming away from me. I would rather like the pemit be coming from the left or right, you throw in here, it passes over the fly without seeing it, and you just gently strip it in. Now, you make another cast here, and swims over the fly again.
That continues on and on and on until you don't catch him. [laughs]
Frank: Yes, I've seen that unfold. It took me a long time of fishing the Keys, long time after the last you and I fished. I'd stopped chasing them for a while and really got off on this roosterfish tangent and then I finally went back down to the Keys for the first time and got to be 10 or 15 years and finally, caught a really nice permit in the Keys. I was fishing with Captain Shane Smith, a really good friend of mine down on, not too far from Sugarloaf, I suppose.
It was really… they are everything they're cracked up to be. I've caught them in Yucatán, and stuff like that a little bit more easily but, yes, those Keys permit on a fly are really special.
Tom: Yes, I like them more than anything. I'll catch them on a fly on a crab, whatever. I just like where they are, what they do, places that they take you in and the whole experience of it.
Tom: You also did something else recently that was interesting to me, is that you did another movie, right?
Frank: Well, I've done a few. I did another one after Running Down the Man that in a lot of ways, was even better and that was the one we went to Kamchatka. It was called The Eastern Rises and it's the most acclaimed fishing film that's ever been made. It won the top award at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. It was during the time when I left the country despite the fact that my wife was pregnant with our [laughs] daughter and, ultimately, my daughter has a little, brief cameo in the film. That was super meaningful and I did actually, a film after that on carp and, just recently, I did one on--
Tom: What was the carp one called?
Frank: Carp Land.
Frank: Carp Land.
Tom: Was that in the film festival?
Frank: Yes, yes, and it was that was just a small part in that one, but it was about fishing in downtown Denver for carp. What's interesting, throughout the Rocky Mountain West, with all the other amazing fish that are around, including pike and bass and all this stuff, carp have, very quickly, become the second most popular game fish behind trout throughout the Rock Mountain West to the point where as reps, we were selling lots of seven weights and lots of carp flies and lots of carp stuff.
Tom: There was a book, who's that wrote that book, a western guy?
Frank: Barry Reynolds?
Tom: Yes, Barry Reynolds.
Frank: Carp On The Fly.
Tom: I've got his book upstairs and that had to help a little bit to justify the sport because he's a reputable author and--
Frank: Very, very, and he's in that carp slam every year, too. Yes, yes. I continued to make adventure, fishing comedies, in my spare time, when I'm not out in the water.
Tom: Anymore before The Dubai?
Frank: There was definitely some great humor in The Carp film. Tremendous humor in Eastern Rises, but The Dubai Film had definitely has its moments. The longer version of this film, which is not in the film tour is going to be a lot funnier and--
Tom: I love how you define success as the amount of humor that appears in a fly fishing film.
Frank: Well, to me, [laughs] Tom, it's really important, because, it's really important because I feel very strongly that a big part of what draws us to the water with our friends and our family is the ability to get together and observe things that make us laugh. Whether it's each other, take a moment to occasionally laugh at ourselves, here we are with all this equipment chasing a fish [laughs] sometimes only to turn it loose.
That's just, to me, fishing is in some ways a great set up for humor. In my opinion, if you are fishing and you're out in the boat and you're not laughing periodically, you're doing it wrong.
Tom: Yes. A lot of people take it way too seriously.
Frank: Totally, yes.
Tom: Way too seriously.
Tom: When, in fact, yes, you're right. Some of the greatest memories, some of the greatest laughs that I can remember are just days guiding, just out there and the crazy things that people say and the stuff they start talking about. The next thing you know you're trying to figure out if the thing you saw in the woods was really Bigfoot or-
Tom: -just one thing after another and you just have these crazy conversations and as a fishing guide, you're having these crazy conversations with the CEO of the fourth largest company and he's just a regular guy and you're talking about Bigfoot for three hours. It's hilarious and so fun but I do like that about, and I've always like that about, what you got going on is that you don't take it too seriously, you like to have fun. I love that about your hosting on TU on The Trout Unlimited show. You were the host for that for how long?
Frank: I produced and hosted that for, 39 episodes. That was a tremendous experience. I'm honestly not as well-traveled internationally as people think. I'm very proud of all the travels that I've had domestically. Thanks to that show, I was able to fish everywhere from Long Island, living in Long Island has the most beautiful, spring creeks you've ever seen. Do you know the biggest brook trout in the world all come from Long Island?
Tom: I didn't know that. I knew a little further North of Nova Scotia it's really hot.
Frank: No, they're way bigger in Long Island. They were all sea-runs, Dana Webster caught a 14 pounder on the Cairns River in Long Island and they were all sea-runs. Basically, they were winner run, they would wait until the strippers and bluefish left, and then they would go out and do the sound but they were--
Tom: Good move. Who would want to swim out as a trout swimming out there in a school of bluefish? That's like--
Frank: That wouldn't go well especially at succulent Brookie.
Tom: A trout is so soft and mushy and a bluefish [crosstalk] is just a bad ass man.
Frank: Total quiz nut with fins. I got to fish in Oklahoma. One of the places I really fell in love with, speaking of Oklahoma, was the Ozarks. I was a rep throughout all this time that I've been making films and TV shows, I had started a company that was in the fly fishing business, we had ultimately, the largest territory of any reps in the business. Our territory went all the way from Salt Lake City to New Orleans, a huge territory.
Tom: That's a big-- Texas too?
Frank: Whole enchilada and North throughout the Ozarks and it was fabulous. I got to fish all these wonderful places in Texas and in Oklahoma and in Arkansas. Arkansas, I just love, it's a lot of our favorite things about the Southeast, this amazing foliage and canopy and tremendous amount of water though the gradient is a little bit higher. The water clarity in the Ozarks is higher than almost any other place in America.
The water is just floating like in an aquarium. It's literally, there's a lot of rivers in the Ozarks that look like Silver Springs in Florida a lot.
Tom: Full of trout?
Frank: In places, yes, full of trout like crazy on the White River in the North Fork and stuff like that. Then other places are stripers, and Gar and bass and White bass and buffalo.
Tom: You didn't get to experience all of those fish? You strike me as a guy that wants to catch all those fish and now, you are the host of Trout Unlimited. First of all, how did that happen? How did you get that hosting gig?
Frank: They've done the show with Tim Lenhart as a host for a while and they decided to redo it and bear it productions which was based out of Madzilla whom I knew because of the fly fishing Masters. I've been doing that for a couple of years. I had the good fortune to win and place in that and they were like, "Do you want to do this trout unlimited gig?" I was like, "Yes, yes, that sounds great."
It was definitely an incredible experience. I learned a lot. I was a producer on that as well. There was definitely some times where some of those other great species that I really appreciate got left on the cutting room floor because we were focusing on trout, which, that's understandable. There was one time I caught this beautiful, we were on one of the spring creeks in Long Island, cut this beautiful largemouth in brackish water in a spring creek while trout fishing in Long Island under the Long Island freeway.
In a Sopranos-type accent I was like, "Hey, I didn't think I'd find anything under here except Jimmy Hoffa."
Frank: Anyhow, that one didn't make the final edit but anyhow, it was a great fish, nonetheless.
Tom: You get that gig and go for 39, that's what? Three years?
Tom: Then what caused you to move on from that?
Frank: Well, a bunch of different things. The main one being really I was really getting stir crazy because between rapping and the show, I was just starting to miss out on my daughter was, at that point, one, when I took the show my wife and I were just dating and then, by the third year we'd had Mallory and it was on. I was just so smitten with her. It turned out that that I wasn't only born to fish, I was really born also to be a father. It was like a tractor beam, I had to be with them as much as I could, the rapping thing didn't allow enough of that either but I was able to be there a lot more when I wasn’t doing the show anymore.
Tom: That's so important and kudos to you for realizing that in time. A lot of people realize that in hindsight, they should have worked less and spent more time with the family. That's so important. You will never regret that time that you spend with your family like that. You have all these great fishing opportunities, international opportunities and I remember I just had gotten my little international thing going, and I'd gone to Christmas Island in Australia and a few other trips.
I just realized, "I could go anywhere. All I got to do is tell my clients that I've got this trip going and it will fill up and I can go anywhere." All of a sudden, I just didn't want to anymore. I just didn’t want to. I just wanted to stay home. Luckily, plenty of fishing at home but that's a revelation of not feeling you missed out but feeling like, "Wow, I really don't want to do that right now. I'll do that later."
Frank: Physically couldn't. I couldn't.
Tom: That's awesome for you and so good for your family.
Frank: It was a surprise I got to the fatherhood thing a little bit late but could not be happier to have made it to this one.
Tom: That's awesome and so, does she like to fish?
Frank: I haven’t really pushed it on her very much. She's definitely caught some fish and she loves to net them. She would call her net girl, well, she's like Daddy, "You only catch some of them, I get to catch them all." [laughs]
Tom: There you go, see now when I say "does she like to fish"? I don't necessarily equate that with, "does she like to turn the handle and reel the man or cast for them". That was one of the things that was the best thing that I probably did with my own kids and it was really easy in Key West. I would make sure the live well was full of something alive. It could be crap shrimp, pinfish, pilchards whatever.
My youngest son, he had his head in the live well the whole day. [laughs] He just had his head down in there and he just loved it. Some people would be like, "Don't he want to fish?" Like, "He is fishing, and this is fishing."
Frank: That's a great way to put it. That's a great way to put it.
Tom: He watched us do all of this stuff and now, he knows there's 50 rods on this boat. He could pick one up and fish. He knows he could do that but he'd rather have his head stuck in the live well. Guess what? He's learning all kinds of stuff about those fish or the crabs or the shrimp. He's just sitting there and looking at them, turns out he turned into an amazing artist later in his life.
Tom: Yes. I swear. I believe that was a big part of it. [crosstalk] That is actually hiding but just being able to examine all these things, and we catch a crazy fish and I throw it in the live well for a while. He'd look at it-
Frank: For observation.
Tom: -he'd [unintelligible 01:13:24] it, and pick it up and look at it. I was thinking, "You know, I don't know if fishing is his thing." It was later in life that he came back to it with vengeance. He goes after it now and loves it but I don't know. I tell parents all the time, if your kids if they like to go, that's the big thing. If they go and they don't want to fish, man-
Frank: Don't push it.
Tom: -they would rather throw rocks, awesome. Just have them throw rocks somewhere where you’re [crosstalk] not fishing, in other guys pool.
Frank: -exactly, [chuckles] at Uncle William.
Tom: Just look at under the rock and see all the different bugs or whatever. My daughter when she was a kid, I'd take her trap fishing and she would paint self with mud. She'd put mud all over face and her legs and stuff and we come back home and she'd be all muddy. She loved that but that is fishing. It's the whole act of getting out there going, doesn't have anything to do with catching a fish.
Frank: Really observing the things that are going on either next to or in this whole other world. I want Mallory to be a fisher girl at some point, but I'm not going to force it upon her. I'll let that happen. The fact that she can row a boat now and she's nine, she can row my Doris.
Tom: That's better, anyway, you get fish. [laughs]
Frank: I don't really, "Daddy’s going to slip up into the bow right now." [laughs] Actually, for the first time while I was down here just about, it was in November, we were all down here in Atlanta. While she was rowing on the Chattahoochee, she was rowing the boat, my mom and my wife were in the boat and I caught a nice fish from the bow. Let me tell you something, that was one of the most sublime moments of my entire existence.
There've been a lot of good ones to compete with that, anyhow, that was really exciting.
Tom: When you told me that, I have this image in my mind of a picture that's framed upstairs and it's me hugging my daughter with a rod held high, bent on the Snake River with the Tetons in the background. I'm giving my daughter a kiss on the head and she's doing [laughs] that thing where she kind of likes it but [laughs] doesn't, dad that wants to look cool. It was this day I had decided a long time ago that I was going to propose to my wife on the Snake River.
We were going to go dead man's to most, and we're going to stop right there under the Tetons and I was going to propose to her. I've got the ring, I've got everything, she comes out and it's this day in October. You know what October is like in the Rockies. It could be beautiful, it could be going sideways.
Tom: That day it was snowing sideways and so I'm like, "Today's the day. I have to do this." I did it just at her house. I just asked her to marry me and she said, yes. It all worked out fine. That was one of my regrets, that I didn't give both of us this experience because back then, no one would have been on that river. It would have been a challenge to get a shuttle, a serious challenge, nobody's running shuttles in October on the Snake River back then. We would have been the only one.
Frank: No Uber?
Tom: There's no Uber, there's no Uber shuttle. That would be a good business, wow.
Frank: I do it all the time in Atlanta when I get down there. I can get my shuttles from my Uber.
Tom: You want to be dropped off here? Yes, right here.
Frank: This is good. [laughs] We didn't go as far to the right place but we'll Uber our way out of it.
Tom: That's a good idea.
Frank: It works.
Tom: Anyway. On our 20th anniversary, well, close to the 20th-anniversary couple of summers ago, I took all the kids out there, I hired two guides, we have two boats, we float down to that exact place. I've got my kids there and I told the guys exactly what I was going to do. I was like, "When we stop on this particular gravel bar, you guys just go over there and just make lunch and I'm going to propose to my wife, re-propose to her."
I get down on my hands and knees and I give her this other ring that goes on there right from the Tetons, right in front of my kids and then we floated off of that drift, off of that gravel bar. I catch a fish and I give my daughter that hug that I'm talking about. That picture that as soon as you said that, I just had that image because you said that was one of the greatest moments.
You were like, "It just hit me like a ton of bricks" I know that moment, that's incredible. You've got all the people that mean the most to you in the world right there, you're doing the thing that you love to do more than anything and you're in this place that you love more than any other. It all comes together and just it is powerful.
Frank: Well, that's the thing about fishing, the only thing better than fishing is sharing it, and the only thing better than sharing it is sharing it with ever more meaningful people.
Tom: Or people that really appreciate it. That's the thing about being a guide, is that you're just constantly helping people to realize these goals and dreams and visions that they've had for, maybe, it's they just sit there at their job and just think about, "Man, I would go there one day and I would catch this fish," and then it happens and then you just see it.
Frank: It's best. I love that. I love watching that light bulb go on and just--
Tom: Well, that's awesome. We're about to wrap this up anyway, so I got a couple questions. First of all, what's your favorite fish?
Frank: It's still a roosterfish, Tom.
Tom: The way of catching them like you did that Sea of Cortez thing, on the way of catching is also your favorite?
Frank: Yes. You know what Tom? That is a fish and a scenario that was made for you, my friend, except you're a right-hander.
Tom: Well, that makes a difference.
Frank: It's a left-hand fishery.
Tom: Why, because the wind blows that way all the time?
Frank: When it's passed, yes.
Tom: Can I backhand it?
Frank: I don't know. I don't eat it.
Tom: I did that running after the fish before in Christmas Island.
Tom: There was a big GTs and I was fishing with Milena and just idyllic situation and an iconic guide and he puts me in this situation and I was training for a marathon at the time. I was in really good shape and he's like, "Well, they're going down there." I was like, "Let me out." I just ran down in front and threw it out there and the freaking GTs, big as you comes right up to the rod tip and turns and soaks me. Then I run down the beach again and get in front of it again, and throw it out there again and then I run down there again. I never hooked him but it was just so awesome. I must've ran two and a half miles to try and get in front of this fish and they can swim a lot faster than [laughs] you think.
Frank: Yes. GTs cruise at an average, real fast.
Tom: Really fast, and they look like they're not even moving but you start running and trying to [inaudible 01:20:42].
Frank: Yes, and they fly.
Tom: You need to be faster than me but I would love that. The whole Baja situation and that whole thing just looks amazing to me and then the dirt bag camping and all that. It just looks awesome.
Frank: It's a wonderful place. It's a wonderful culture. There's a lot of our favorite parts of another country there.
Tom: We didn't even get to talk about Dubai and the queenfish.
Frank: Dubai and queenfish were great. Queenfish are wonderful. They are very much related to permit and roosterfish. It's more of a jack mackerel. They've got the scutes from top and bottom. Going back, you've probably caught a few leather jackets here and there.
Tom: Yes. They look like a 20-pound leather jacket.
Frank: That's what they are.
Tom: Except they don't have that nasty-ass fin that faces forward-
Frank: Sure they do.
Tom: -and gets you every time. They do?
Frank: Sure, they do. Yes.
Tom: Because I didn't notice that. I have caught queenfish.
Frank: The scary one on them is it's downward.
Tom: The anal fin, right?
Frank: It'll mess you up.
Tom: Yes. That one is bad but I didn't notice the ones coming out the top but I did catch those in Australia. I had a really good experience with queenfish and I thought they were amazing.
Frank: They're a few different kinds. The ones in Dubai. The talang queenfish.
Tom: That's the one I caught.
Frank: In Australia?
Frank: There you go.
Tom: What's the other one.
Frank: There's four or five different ones that range in size from the moderate size ones that you catch in Christmas Island that are three or four pounds to the big talang's. Then there's five or six others in between. They're some that are on the West side of Baja.
Tom: Wow. That's a widespread fish like a jack.
Frank: Yes. They're not a bazillion of them in most places but Dubai and the Gulf, the Arabian Sea, is really where there are a ton of them.
Tom: My great experience with the queenfish. We were in Australia and I had never caught one before. We go to this river mouth and we're catching them on fly, on spin, on top, on bottom, on jig, on everything we had in the tackle box. I'm picking this fish up and I'm going, "Wow, that seems like a really big one of these, whatever it is". The guys' like, "That's a queenfish." I'm like, "Well, I don't know how big they grow but this seems like a big one." You just feel the body of it. You look and you're like, "That looks like a full-grown fish".
We catch them all the way up until lunch and we go back to the mothership and there's a IGFA record book there and we had weighed a couple. Fitz Coker is with me and Dodie Valentin. I go through there and I'm like, "Fitz, everything we're catching is a world record. Every single one." We can go up and down the line class and Dodie Valentine decided that she wanted to try it because like I said, "We caught one every fly we had, every lure." We caught them on baitcasters, on spinning rods, on everything.
We were bored with it and we're going to move on to do something else. Anything else. I said, "Why don't we tie up a couple of liters and we'll try it." The bog grip was IGFA certified. We went there and she caught two and my only two world records I've ever caught were talang queenfish.
Frank: Is that right?
Tom: I'll show you the certificate in there.
Frank: How big were they? How big were the ones you [inaudible 01:24:07]?
Tom: We'll have to look at the certificate. It was a pretty good size, like 14 pounds or something. Both of the records have been beaten now, but anyway, I was right. I was like, "This seems like a really big one." They were huge in that place and Dodie Valentine, that was her first world record and then she liked it so much that they went back to the Keys and she's set over a hundred records now starting on that.
Frank: Starting with a queenfish.
Tom: Starting with that queenfish.
Frank: Is that right? Well, wow.
Tom: Yes, and it was super fun. Real quick. We're going to talk about that another time. We're going to have to have you back and do the Dubai thing because I'm super interested in Dubai. It's just a freaky place and it seems like-
Frank: Yes. It is.
Tom: -Las Vegas times a hundred.
Frank: Five McClaren's at every stop [unintelligible 01:24:52]-
Frank: -you don't even count the Porsche turbos.
Tom: Then the fishes-
Frank: I count Lamborghinis.
Tom: -and [unintelligible 01:24:58].
Tom: The fishing is--
Frank: The fishing isn't safe. To tell you the truth, it's the tip of the iceberg. It's really interesting in that all of the development that they've done in the building of the islands. Actually, they moved an entire coral reef. They created all of these-
Tom: That is amazing.
Frank: -different things environmentally conscientious technologies that have actually enhanced the fish carrying ability in the area. The film that we did, actually, we go out with some of the traditional fishermen in an Arabian dhow. This wonderful 80-year-old captain, set fish traps and I went in and wrestled about a 40-pound cobia out of the fish trap. [Laughs] Yes, it was cool. In the cobia, they're the same.
Tom: Yes. That's what was in Australia too.
Tom: We caught all these different fish and there were some that were, we caught one that was similar like the barramundi is similar to a snout-
Frank: Snout, yes.
Tom: -and that they had this tarpon like fish and then they had the permit which is close but not the same. They had all these fish that were similar, but the cobia was the only one that was exactly the same.
Frank: It is the same.
Tom: It was the same fish.
Frank: I saw a friendly face.
Tom: Yes. Hey, it's [laughs] funny seeing you here.
Frank: You ate that jerk, thanks. [laughs]
Tom: Yes, same thing and [chuckles] we're going to eat you. Now we actually that will go because they had this other fish that they called a Spanish mackerel. It was more like a 35-pound siroe mackerel. Really, it is what it was. The siroe was the best of all the mackerel. You can have the Spanish and you can have a king in my opinion, but the siroe on our coast is really amazing.
They had these that were the size of kingfish but they had the meat of a siroe mackerel and they called them Spanish mackerel. That's what we ate most of the time. It was amazing. All right, really quick, three things you like to do outside of fishing.
Frank: Mountain bike, snowboard and search for edible mushrooms.
Tom: Haha. Really?
Frank: Yes. True.
Tom: It's really [unintelligible 01:26:54] mushrooms or?
Frank: No, not tripping mushrooms. Anything about Colorado is that we've got all these levies laying on the forest for us everywhere and I like to cook also and these mushrooms are absolutely as good, if you like mushrooms, there's good eating as the best steak you've ever had.
Tom: Are there several different kinds because I remember the South Fork. This guy brought this big puffball mushroom, and he cooked it like a steak-
Frank: Was it good?
Tom: -and it was amazing. It was so good. I still remember it.
Frank: We've got those.
Tom: Just like you said it, it tasted like a steak. We have the morels.
Frank: Got those.
Tom: The people that search for those morels that's like a cult. I can't get into it.
Frank: One of the things I love about those, I take me and my wife and my daughter woke up, and we are like, "Hey Mallory, let's go for a three-mile hike or a four-mile hike." She'll be like, "No. Hey, let's go hunt for mushrooms." I mean we're five miles into it. She's still leading. [laughs] It's an amazing way for the family to get out into the forest. I'm not starting to get drawn into some fishing things somewhere which trust me that becomes a theme. At some point--
Tom: It's really good when you cook-
Frank: Right, and I go--
Tom: -as a family.
Frank: Yes, I would love and I'm still learning about it. I don't venture off of the path of the known mushrooms. It's a wonderful advocation. I've got a lot to learn about it. It's been a wonderful thing to have picked up here in the last five or six years.
Tom: That's super cool. I love the cooking aspect because there's such a push now for everybody to know where their food comes from, to gather their own food. Kill your own food and I love it. It's awesome-
Frank: Me too.
Tom: -because most people don't know where their food comes from but the cooking aspect and doing that with your daughter, she'll have that. She might not admit to liking to cook and so she wants to eat but-
Frank: She loves to cook.
Tom: -she will, later. It's like the fishing thing. Get them started early and then they make go away from it but they tend to come back.
Frank: Do you want to know the best thing to sauté your mushrooms [unintelligible 01:29:06]?
Frank: It's a surprise. You know how you had a martini party, decades ago, and you've got that stupid bottle of Vermouth, dry Vermouth hanging out in your house. One time we ran out of red wine or sherry or stuff like that to sauté our mushrooms in. Of course, there's that green bottle of dry vermouth. Anyhow, we end up cooking mushrooms and it is so much better than anything you've ever cooked your mushrooms in. You need to know about it.
Tom: That's the place, does it flame up?
Frank: It does, it does. It got a very satisfying slightly greenish flame within the edges of purple and it's not too sweet. It's got a unique taste relative to wine. It's very complimentary to a lot of the neat flavors of mushrooms that I collect. Yes, it's just too tough.
Tom: When you're cooking the mushroom, what do you put up with?
Frank: Simple, simple. A good Irish butter and some good garlic or shallots. Typically, that's about it.
Tom: I don't like pepper with the meat or anything.
Frank: I will, but I will tend to cook the mushrooms separately. Then I'll put the mushrooms atop the meat or alongside that or some, just some regional potatoes where I live in Colorado has wonderful potatoes. Surprisingly good potatoes. They're so good by themselves. A lot of times you don't even need meat. That's the reality.
Tom: Yes. That was my experience with that one mushroom that I ate.
Frank: Puffball soup.
Tom: I don't typically like mushrooms.
Frank: Puffball soup.
Tom: I loved those.
Tom: They were so good.
Tom: So good. You put water on it, salt, pepper. Like here. Who would've thought you ate a steak?
Tom: It's amazing.
Tom: It's absolutely amazing.
Frank: Look. Well, come out and we'll go hunt mushrooms.
Tom: I'm for it.
Frank: Catch some cutthroats. It's not anything. Whenever you're looking for cutthroats in the high country, there are always mushrooms about.
Tom: That's the place, huh? Let's do it.
Frank: I have some stashes. Let's do it, man. [laughs] Well, thanks so much for coming. It's really good to see you again.
Tom: Thanks, Tom.
Frank: I look forward to get back and do some more fishing with you.
Frank: All right.
Tom: All right.
Tom: Hey, everybody. Thank you so much for listening to this show. I hope you got something out of that. Got just a little bit of news. We have started a weekly show that is designed to be up to the minute videos of what's happening this week mostly in the Florida Keys, but also in other places that we fish as well. We'll be putting that out every week. The best way to find that is just subscribe to the Youtube channel: youtube/saltwaterexperience.
Search 'Saltwater experience' on Youtube. Subscribe to that channel and you will get updates of when a new video is published. I've also figured out how to put a podcast on Youtube finally. A lot of people like to put that window behind other things they're working on and listen to the podcast while they are working. We now have that for you. There's a playlist called Podcast. There's a playlist called Weekly Show. You can go and see all the new videos that we're putting up there. Started a new email address, specifically for this show. That is email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. Those emails come directly to me. I'll see every single one of them.
If you have comments, suggestions, ways we can make the show better, and particularly, if you have suggestions of someone you would like to see me sit down with, in the hunting world, in the fishing world, in the outdoor sports world, or just a motivation inspirational character, or someone that can teach us all something, I'm very interested in your suggestions.
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[01:33:01] [END OF AUDIO]