Guide Profile: Fly Fishing West Virginia and Virginia with Jacob Ott

Jacob Ott fly fishing

Jacob Ott is a guide at the famous Greenbrier resort as well as the New and James Rivers in West Virginia and Virginia. A Sage Elite Pro, Ott recently took the time to interview with The Venturing Angler:

Why do you guide where you do?

I guide the Greenbrier, New, and James Rivers in West Virginia and Virginia. I love guiding these rivers because all three of them are full of smallmouth and musky, but each river has its own personality and challenges. These rivers give me and my clients a yearlong fishery from summertime smallmouth to fall-winter musky fishing, it’s accessible and close to home.

What is your favorite fish species?

My favorite fish is a tough one.  I love chasing smallmouth, especially in the summer with surface flies, but I love to feed flies to big musky in the winter. I’m also obsessed with steelhead on the west coast and trout that are willing to eat dries. I don’t know if I can pick just one. If you put a gun to my head, I’d probably pick whatever fish is catchable right now, wherever I happen to be. If it’ll eat a fly and it’ll pull on the line, I’m in!

Jacob Ott guide

What is your favorite thing about guiding?

I love everything about guiding – being outside, teaching the sport to others, sharing the outdoors with my clients, the boats, the rivers, the fish, the early mornings, the late nights tying flies for tomorrow’s trip, all of it. I’d rather be wearing waders and rowing the boat than anywhere else.

What is the most memorable trip you’ve guided and why?

This is an easy one. I have a very good client who fishes with me 10 or 12 days a year to chase everything our area has to offer from trout to musky. For a while he had a possibly unhealthy obsession with catching a musky on the fly. We fished together for about two solid seasons and in that time, he became the unluckiest angler I had. If there was a way to lose a fish it happened to him. We got bit off, broke off, flies just came out, didn’t see fish in prime water, missed hook sets, trout set on muskies, everything you can think of. Finally, on his 23rd trip, he had a solid eat, made a good hookset, and came tight to the fish. Shortly after the hookup the fish ran straight at the boat. My guy wasn’t keeping up with the fish and when the line went slack, he thought the fish had come off, so he threw his rod in the floor of the boat and let out a line of explatives like I’ve never heard. This (either the rod hitting the floor of the boat or the cursing, I’m not sure which), scared the fish back away from the boat and line started flying over the gunwale. My client instantly grabbed the line and fought the fish to the boat hand over hand. When it got close, I scooped it into the net while it was still pretty green, but it was in the net and it was his first. That fish was far from the biggest musky I’ve had a client catch but it is the most memorable one by far. This guy ended up catching another fish on our next trip and that cured him of musky fishing. Now we just have fun in the summer and chase smallmouth.

Jacob Ott

What is the funniest thing you’ve experienced while guiding?

I see lots of funny things on the water; it’s part of what makes guiding so awesome.  One of the best things that I get to see regularly is people’s reaction when they first see a musky follow a figure eight and eat right next to the boat. For a lot of anglers, it’s not something they are accustomed to. Since musky are kind of tough to stay attached to if you’re not fishing the right gear, a lot of anglers will get bit but break off the fish quickly and never realize it was a musky. It’s like they are a ghost to a lot of guys. Usually it goes something like this; one of my anglers in the boat will have a musky just appear under their fly right next to the boat, they’ll make a haphazard figure 8, and the fish is excited enough to eat, when it engulfs the fly they blow the hookset by either doing nothing or trying to set the hook like it’s a trout. Then they turn to me with this stunned look and big crazy eyes, and while their hands are shaking, they mutter “what just happened” or “Holy !@#$ they do exist!” It’s that first close encounter and the shock of it that makes musky fishing so much fun, even when they think they are prepared, almost no one is.

What makes your guide service great?

We are all about having a fun day out on the water. We tailor each day to what that specific client wants. Catching fish is the goal, but if we are not having fun while we are doing it, then why bother?

If you had only one day off all year, where would you fish and what fish would you target?

Only one day off, I’d have to say one of the Olympic Peninsula rivers, chasing native winter run steelhead. Let’s just say I’ve got some unfinished business with those fish.

Jacob Ott fishing

What are your favorite three flies?

Easy: 1. The chartreuse Sneaky Pete is easily my favorite smallmouth fly. It catches fish, and it’s fun to fish. It can take a beating and still get better with each fish.  2. Olive over white Double Bunny. If the bass aren’t eating on top they’ll eat a Double Bunny and so does just about everything else that swims in our rivers.  3. Any big musky fly. It doesn’t matter which pattern, all musky flies are cool.

What is the one piece of gear you couldn’t bear to leave at home?

My 6” Van Staal pliers, my wife surprised me with them one day when we didn’t have two nickels to rub together and they’ve been attached to me since that day.

Do you have any other passions?

Bird hunting, grouse and pheasants or waterfowl with my Draht Zeke.  If I’m not on the water chasing fish somewhere, Zeke and I are chasing birds.

To check out more from Jacob Ott, please click here.