Jeff Johnson of First Cast Outfitters is fortunate to guide the salty coast of Texas as well as the cool rivers of Montana. Johnson recently sat down to take on some questions for the Venturing Angler:
Why do you guide where you do?
I spend half my year on the Missouri River in Montana. It is the best damn trout stream I have ever seen, and that includes internationally. I absolutely love fishing there. So to be able to make a living, on my favorite water, it’s a dream come true.
At the end of my trout season in Montana, I head south to Rockport, Texas in search of warmer weather … and a few redfish. I had fished the Lower Laguna Madre area for many years with friends and always had a great time. So the move up the coast a few miles to Rockport was a no brainer. It’s a great town with excellent water in every direction. The fishing throughout the winter is great for redfish, trout, drum and even a chance at a tarpon or two during the right times. So I guess now people can officially call me a “Winter Texan.”
What is your favorite fish specie?
I grew up a trout fisherman on the Yakima River and that will always be at my roots. But I do enjoy catching all types of fish. I think it keeps me excited about being on the water as much as I am. At the end of my trout season, I am excited to chase redfish. At the end of the winter, getting back on the Mo in Montana always feels like coming home.
What is your favorite thing about guiding?
Everyone that knows a fishing guide knows that we do it for the money and the ladies! Because both are so prevalent in the town of 37 that I live in. Ha.
I did the suit and tie gig for 8 solid years in the city. I was a sales/marketing guy and always worked with people. Now that I am back in the boat, I am around people all the time as well. I enjoy it. Meeting people, getting to know them over the years and teaching them a little bit about fish, fishing, my home waters and sharing my passion for the sport. Helping and coaching someone into a fish that they otherwise wouldn’t have caught, is better than catching it myself any day.
What is the most memorable trip you’ve guided and why?
I’m pretty sure that every guide has their very own “first day guiding” story. And they can range all over the board. Some had epic fishing. Some had a celebrity client. Some got skunked. And so on and so on. But after all the years I have guided, and all the trips I have done, nothing will every come close to my first guide day ever. Coworkers of mine still love the story and ask me to tell it each year. Most of them were even witness to some of the excitement. But others can barely believe it. I’m talking record high water, saving a potential drowning victim, kick boats tethered together, full waders, spinning rods, almost sinking my boat, a broken fly rod, a cut fly line, one single trout … oh, and don’t forget the one legged man.
It was a pretty epic day and certainly one that I will never forget, no matter how hard I try.
What is the funniest thing you’ve experienced while guiding?
No matter how bad a client’s cast may look, I still believe that I am the funniest thing happening in my boat at any given time. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. I view guiding as the perfect stage to roll out my own little improve comedy show. And I KNOW that I am amazing. Haha.
But aside from that … I had a client in my jetboat last year and we were motoring around in some backwaters sight fishing for carp. We were passed by another older couple in the main river and exchanged waives. I pulled into a little slough, made a quick little lap and motored right back out no more than 2 minutes later. To my surprise, when I popped out of the slough with motor roaring, there they were. Engine was killed and the man was hanging his bare butt over the edge of the boat taking care of what I assumed to be an “emergency situation”. (I have a somewhat blurry photo of this I will share. Ha.) When they saw my boat pop out again, he pulled his pants back up and pinned his motor, disappearing upstream.
Easily the funniest thing I saw last season.
What makes your guide service great?
If you asked me personally, my answer would be my clients. They are the ones that make my service great. They come back year after year and share their experience with me on the water. I am thankful for that.
But if there was something I would want to share with others or newcomers …
I think I offer a great deal of variety for each client and every ability. I guide on as many as 10 rivers each summer, multiple different lakes or reservoirs that are excellent pike fisheries and of course the Coastal Bend of Texas. I pride myself on being a well rounded fishing guide on many different bodies of water. This allows me to keep it fresh for clients each and every year. Pushing their abilities as anglers and showing them new experiences on the water.
If you had only one day off all year, where would you fish and what fish would you target?
You would find me on the James River, near Buchanan, Virginia still searching for that 50 inch musky on a fly.
What are your favorite three flies?
Many years ago, when a friend first showed me the Missouri River in Montana, I had to change my caddis game a bit. These fish were far too smart/picky/annoying to eat the flies I had been used to throwing on a typical Montana freestone river. I started tying and fishing a Henryville Caddis. To this day it is still one of my favorite trout flies to tie and fish.
A rusty spinner would be another go to fly that you will always find in my flybox, fly patch, boat patch or bill of my hat.
And lately I have really enjoyed being creative with ridiculously large pike and musky flies. Its kind of nice tying something that big and crazy, when you are typically tying a bunch of size 20 stuff for trout. You can be creative, colorful and the bigger the better.
What is the one piece of gear you couldn’t bear to leave at home?
This sounds like a perfect opportunity to plug my sponsors!!!
Clackacraft Driftboats, Under Armour Fishing, Smith Optics, Echo Fly Rods, Airflo Lines, K2 Coolers, Sundance Boats (my skiff) and Stiffy Push Poles
If there was one other thing that would make me hit the brakes and turn the truck around in the morning, it would have to be the camera.
Do you have any other passions?
I’ve always been an outdoorsy guy; snowboarding, fishing, surfing, etc. I think now days, when I’m not on the water guiding, I most look forward to being on the water with my girlfriend Tanya and exploring. She is my biggest supporter, guinea pig, test client and is always up for trying something crazy, for some fish she has never heard of, in some place she would never otherwise go.
To check out more from Jeff Johnson and First Cast Outfitters, please click here.
And to check out the Montana side of First Cast Outfitters, please click here.
Disclosure: First Cast 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.