After deciding to feature light tackle and fly guide extraordinaire Kevin Josenhans as this month’s “Top Hook,” a no-brainer by the way, I tried recalling the first time we met. Most certainly it was somewhere in the very late 1990s or early 2000s, perhaps at a fishing show, or maybe on either Pocomoke or Tangier Sound. Or it could have been at Fox Island Lodge. In the years since I’ve come to know him as a friend, someone who is not only generous with his knowledge of Bay fishing, but the consummate professional.
Josenhans has been guiding anglers since 1993 and has earned his well-deserved reputation as one of the Chesapeake’s premier fly fishing guides. He’s one of the handful of fishing guides who follow the fish year-round, spending nearly 200 days on the water—chain pickerel and white and yellow perch on the sweet water of Pocomoke and Nanticoke rivers in the cold months; spring rockfishing on the Susquehanna Flats; red drum fishing on the shoals off Cape Charles; and speckled trout in the marsh guts and on the grass flats of Tangier Sound, his home turf.
There are few certainties in life, but one of them is this: If you fish with Kevin, he’ll do his best to put you on fish while sharing his love for Tangier Sound, a veritable fishing oasis with lush underwater grasses, pristine marshes and colorful characters. At the very least you’ll have a great time.
What are your three favorite gamefish to catch and why?
1) Redfish—Hard fighting, once you find them, they readily take lures and flies, making sight-fishing possible. They grow big and will test tackle. They offer a challenge, which is one thing that makes fishing fun for me. Figuring out where they are and what offering they want on any given day.
2) Striped Bass—Widespread in bays and tributaries. Available in all levels of the water column. Topwater during low light conditions can’t be beat. Hard fighting, but not the stamina of redfish. Good eating when fresh.
3) False Albacore—One of my favorite fish on a fly rod. They’re fast, change direction in the blink of an eye, and never give up. I like them better than bonefish. I do like the sight fishing for bones but I believe the albie is stronger and faster.
What’s the best and most challenging part about being a pro guide?
The best is seeing (the) clients’ smiles when they are having a good time. When they are happy, I feel I’ve done my job for the day. It’s a satisfying feeling.
The most challenging is miscalculating what the client expected to get out of the day. It’s not always catching a boatload of fish. What might be a poor fishing day to the guide isn’t necessarily so to the client. Don’t ruin their fun by acting bummed.
What is your first fly fishing memory?
I’ll never forget my first saltwater fly fishing experience. I was catching three- to five-pound stripers on what seemed like every cast at Poplar Island, casting blue jointed Rebel plugs around downed trees and logs during the pre-dike days. I had an old fiberglass fly rod and a brand new Lefty’s Deceiver I wanted to try. I picked up the rod, made a series of false casts, and let her rip toward an underwater log. The water was crystal clear—after one strip a nice rockfish darted out from the log, grabbed the fly, and promptly made a mad dash back to whence he came. My leader parted on a barnacle. That was the only fly I had in the boat, and it was several years before I made my second cast in the salt.
What’s the biggest myth or misconception about fly fishing, and the most common mistake anglers make when fighting big fish on fly?
The biggest myth (I hear) is “It’s more work.” It’s only work if you aren’t utilizing proper casting techniques. The most common mistake is to allow slack in the line when the fish changes direction.
What are a few major changes you’ve seen to sport fishing in the last 20 years?
No one uses right-hand retrieve on fly reels anymore. Used to be gold standard. Now even reel companies are shipping with left-hand retrieve. Lefty (Kreh) needs to update his books. (Joke)
GPS has increased fishing time and accuracy. And (the increase of) “cell phone sonar” and a buddy network. If given a choice, most weekend anglers would choose their phone over their fish-finders.
by Captain Chris D. Dollar