Ben Wolfe of Wolfe Outfitters guides in Michigan for a range of freshwater species on a number of Michigan’s famed fly fishing waters. Wolfe recently sat down to take on some questions for the Venturing Angler:
1. Why do you guide where you do?
Northern Michigan has some of the best fishing in the world, for many different species on a large variety of types of water. River, inland lake, or on Lake Michigan, we have a multitude of opportunities for anglers targeting a large variety of species using many angling techniques.
2. What is your favorite fish specie?
My favorite species is the one that is tugging at the end of the line. I’m really not a purist when it comes to which species I like to target, since there is a lot of fun to be had with all of them. It’s hard to choose just one, given the choices in fresh water or in salt water. I absolutely love my fresh water species but if I were forced to choose just one I would probably say tarpon on fly.
3. What is your favorite thing about guiding?
I love to be able to share my customer’s special day with them. Many of our customers book up to a year in advance, and their day is one that they have been looking forward to for a long time, whether it is a father and son trip, or a mother and daughter trip, or whatever the occasion, I get to play a small role in making their guide trip a memorable one.
4. What is the most memorable trip you’ve guided and why?
The most memorable trip that comes to mind is a mother, daughter trip on the Manistee River, where the thirteen year old daughter hooked and landed her first king salmon. The conditions that day were challenging , meaning that it was chilly and pouring rain all morning. We had just lost another big fish and were feeling a little down, when the daughter, Natalie, hooked into a big salmon, which then proceeded to go on a series of powerful runs and jumps. During the ensuing battle the fish became tangled in three different logs. Natalie was a trooper in the pouring rain as I feverishly tried to untangle the line from the snags without losing her prize. After twenty minuets of frantic boat maneuvers, line untangling and finger crossing we managed to free Natalie’s salmon from the underwater obstructions, bringing it to net. A cheer went up across the river from several other boats who, unbeknownst to me, had been watching the potential debacle. Making the moment even more special, as if almost a sign from above, the sun shone down just as the fish came into the net. Natalie’s fish weighed 25lbs 6oz, but it was the smile of both she and her mother that outweighed everything.
5. What is the funniest thing you’ve experienced while guiding?
The funniest experience has to be the two brothers that I had several years ago, that were very competitive with one another. After catching another big fish, the other brother politely asked his brother if he had remembered to take his cell phone out of his pocket. After an affirming “yes”, the brother then promptly pushed him into the water and then calmly turned to me and said “We can go now.” Indicating to me that we should leave his brother there flailing in the water.
There was another time when two older gentlemen pulled out a pink polka dot bikini and asked me to hook it to their line for some photographs. Thank goodness they didn’t ask me to put it on.
6. What makes your guide service great?
I think that one of the things that makes Wolfe Outfitters great are the guides that we have. Every guide that works for us is dedicated to making the customer experience the very best that it can be. We can’t control the weather, and we can’t control a wild animal wanting to eat. But we can control how we approach each guide trip, and how we handle ourselves on the water. Some days we catch more fish than other days, but if we work hard to make the customer’s experience as fantastic as they had hoped for, then I feel that we had a successful day.
7. If you had only one day off all year, where would you fish and what fish would you target?
Again, this is a tough line between freshwater and saltwater. Where we live in northern Michigan, there are so many awesome species to target. If I had to choose one species in freshwater, I think I would say that I would target coho salmon out on Platte Bay, inside the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We are lucky in that we are the only permitted guide outfitter allowed to fish inside Sleeping Bear Dunes, and cohos are so feisty, I love their tenacity. They run, they jump, and they can be extremely aggressive—both on streamers and on gear.
8. What are your favorite three flies?
I absolutely love streamer fishing, so I would have to include a streamer into that mix. I tie my own, that doesn’t have a name. It’s a weighted tube fly that mimics a minnow or baitfish really well. I also love a zonker. I fell in love with the action of a beadhead flash zonker the first time I fished it, and they’ve been a staple in my fly box ever since. The third fly probably has to be a big Sneaky Pete. There’s just something so silly about this fly, yet it produces. I’ve destroyed a lot of Sneaky Pete’s on big bass and bluegills, not to mention the occasional trout that has somehow fallen for its charm.
9. What is the one piece of gear you couldn’t bear to leave at home?
To me, being able to see means everything. As a guide, I have to be able to spot things that customers may not, and so for that reason, I can’t live without my polarized glasses. I always use either amber or rose colored lenses, no matter the light conditions, to give me the best contrast into the water as possible. My personal favorite this year is the Hatch style sunglasses made by Costa del Mar.
10. Do you have any other passions?
I am a complete food and music junkie. I was a music major in college—violin and piano, and I was a French chef in New York City after going to culinary school. There are always tunes cranking while I’m cooking, and I can’t imagine life without good food or music. Eating, fishing and music. Sounds like a pretty great combination for all of the senses!
Disclosure: Wolfe Outfitters is in a professional relationship with the Fly Fishing Guide Directory, LLC and the Venturing Angler. Though potentially benefiting from this relationship, we do not post what we do not believe to be true. To read more, click here.