Guide Jeremy Hunt of Flys and Guides in Branson has devoted the last eight years to luring anglers into the sport of fly fishing.
Although Hunt, originally from Tyler, TX, had been fishing with his father since he was 2, he did not try a fly rod until he was 20 -- and then he was hooked.
"Once I picked up a fly rod, I never went back to a conventional rod," he said.
As he traveled in customer service for Tommy Hilfiger stores, he took advantage of wherever he was to learn, whether cashing in on the steelhead run in Michigan or testing out deer-head poppers on farm ponds owned by his bosses.
"Wherever I was, I was soaking up the sport on my own," he said, admitting he has amassed about 120 books about fly fishing and 150 fly tying videos.
Eventually he began creating flies for Feather Craft's catalog and left the clothing retail world at 29 to pursue his passion back in the Ozarks.
Although he still ties about 30,000 flies annually (he can do 400 in a day), Hunt's drive to share his knowledge branched into guiding. "I wanted to make sure I was ready," he said. "I was certainly intimidated at first, but I felt like I had spent the time to study and learn the sport and be versatile."
His customer service background has paid off -- he's guided one to two trips a day for the last 75 days. And his clients have ranged from a businessman who flies in monthly from Kenya, to a Japanese gentleman and many young couples.
Hunt guides wading or from a drift boat on Lake Taneycomo, but also takes clients on six rivers, including the White River and Norfork Tailwater in Arkansas. He caters to each angler's abilities and desires, teaching them casting mechanics, safe wading techniques, basic fly selection and how to read the water -- all while putting them on to the fish.
"I go where the fishing is best," Hunt explained," so I am not going to have bad trip. Every time clients come with me, they have a different experience whether it's a different river or a different season."
Still his goal is not necessarily to create lifelong customers but to "mold people into fly fishing, to learn it correctly so they can launch out on their own. "
He is equipped with fly rods, line and flies for two adults at a time, or a couple with a child aged 10 or older. Clients do need to bring their own waders or rent them locally.
Hunt also loves teaching people fly tying, conducting classes at the Shepherd of the Hills hatchery two Saturdays a month, 2 - 4 p.m., November through April. He is also scheduled to teach a class on using hoppers on the White River at the annual North Arkansas Fly Fishers Federation conclave this fall.
The best part about guiding, he said, "is just meeting people and seeing them change, making sure people have a good time and are introduced to the sport in the right way. It is very gratifying to witness the transformation of a fledgling angler as they become more proficient with a fly rod. The bottom-line is: enjoyment is the primary objective of each outing."