Capt. Shafter Johnston of BlueWing Guide Service guides out of McClellanville, South Carolina as well as other destinations in the Southeast United States. Johnston recently sat down to take on some questions for the Venturing Angler:
Why do you guide where you do?
I guide out of McClellanville, South Carolina. I have had the opportunity to guide in the Florida Keys, Everglades, and Louisiana but I call this area home. This is a beautiful year-round fishery and it is a great place to live.
What is your favorite fish specie?
I love redfish but by far my favorite species is tarpon. There is nothing that is as awe inspiring as a jumping tarpon. Hearing a tarpon jumping and exploding on a greasy calm morning is the greatest thing in fishing.
What is your favorite thing about guiding?
I really enjoy the teamwork of guiding. Saltwater fly fishing in most cases take 2 people, an angler and a guide. I can guide almost anyone but every once in a while I get an angler that really clicks. Those days are what make guiding extremely exciting. It’s amazing what you can do with a good angler. Having someone on the bow that sees the geometry of casting and can really understand what it takes to feed a fish is a real pleasure. Not everyone has that ability yet though and it is still a ton of fun to fish with people who truly want to improve and get to that level. Above all there is nothing better than a passionate fisherman. Doing my part and instructing and setting up the boat for clients like this are my favorite part of guiding.
What is the most memorable trip you’ve guided and why?
It would be hard to pick the most memorable moment there are so many that stick in my mind. It’s almost always that last fish that makes a trip or getting it done on a really difficult day.
What is the funniest thing you’ve experienced while guiding?
I have seen some pretty hilarious stuff on the water but they should probably remain unwritten.
What makes your guide service great?
I feel like what makes my guide service great is my experience in other fisheries and the fishing operations that I have worked with and ran. I really work hard to not only get a client fish on the water but to elevate their angling ability. Every trip should be an opportunity for an angler to learn and advance their skills.
If you had only one day off all year, where would you fish and what fish would you target?
If I had only one day off a year to fish I would be in the Everglades in the spring when tarpon flood into whitewater bay and lay-up in quiet corners. I really enjoy fishing the ocean and the Backcountry of Islamorada but when it happens in the glades there is nothing like it.
What are your favorite three flies?
My number one is a black and purple tarpon fly with a foxfur head and rabbit strip tail. I have caught countless tarpon with it and I also use it in Louisiana for redfish. It looks incredibly alive in the water.
My number two is a fly that I’ve been using a lot over the last year. It is the Puglisi Campeche minnow. Everything that eats other fish will eat that fly.
My third is a shrimp fly a client Chuck Aikens ties. It is a great shrimp imitation and the redfish around here love it.
What is the one piece of gear you couldn’t bear to leave at home?
The piece of gear that I can’t leave home without is my pushpole. I think as a saltwater fly fishing guide it is my single greatest tool. It is as important for me as a guide to be an expert on the poling platform as it is for the angler to be an expert with a fly rod. Fly fishing in saltwater is a team sport. I really enjoy boats that are built for a specific purpose. A poling skiff is an incredible machine and I really enjoy running and working on them.
Do you have any other passions?
I love wingshooting. I love hunting ducks and quail because it’s all about the dogs. When I am off the water in the spring and summer I am working my Lab Mouse and my two German shorthair pointers Wing and Stash and come fall and winter I am in the field hunting ducks with my lab and quail with my pointers. I love traveling and learning new areas out west and watching my dogs work.
Disclosure: BlueWing Guide Service is in a professional relationship with the Fly Fishing Guide Directory 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.