Serious about having fun
It has been said that if you enjoy what you do, you will never work a day in your life.
That statement is certainly true at Elk Springs Resort’s new Orvis Fly Shop in Monterville.
The Elk Springs website invites you to “Experience West Virginia’s finest with the people who know her best.”
A visit to the Fly Shop will put you in the midst of everything you need for a day - or a lifetime - of fly fishing. And you will find the atmosphere is charged as guides Dave Brietmeier, Patrick Skeen and Joe Lewis talk about the joy of and their love for the world of fly fishing.
“I work with my friends,” said Brietmeier. “I work for my friends in my favorite place in the world. And I have never ventured off the Elk.”
Brietmeier has been fly fishing for 22 years, 16 of those as a guide. Prior to his arrival at Elk Springs, he worked with Elk Mountain Outfitters and the Elk River Trout Ranch.
Patrick Skeen, formerly of Scott Depot, has been interested in fishing since he was a toddler.
His dad got excited when Skeen picked up his first pole and asked if he could go fishing in the creek.
“Am I gonna catch a shark?” he remembers asking.
Skeen’s father ran the Orvis Store in Spring Hill. Following in his footsteps, Skeen ran his own shop for several years.
“My dad gave me a fly-fishing kit when I was nine or ten-years-old. I practiced in the driveway and shredded the fly line.”
Skeen accompanied his dad when he taught fly fishing at the Cheat Mountain Club in Durbin.
“When I was in seventh grade, I started to help teach,” Skeen said. “I met Joe at the school. He was helping to teach there, too.”
Joe is Joe Lewis, of Barboursville, who came on board this year as a guide for the resort.
Lewis has been a guide for 23 years and has managed shops, as well. He worked in Montana for a while, was affiliated with Mountain State Outfitters and has had his own business - On the Fly.
“Every person has a different objective,” Lewis said. “Some just want to learn the basics, while others need help to polish their skills.”
The conversation with these guys really takes off when they talk of the fertile waters of the Elk and “the hatch.”
The knowledge of entomology plays an important role in a fly-fisherman’s success or frustration. And the life-cycles of the mayfly are a world unto their own.
Skeen talks of those stages with ease and in great detail – the nymph, the dun and the spinner.
A hatch takes place once a year – in May or June, the sulphur season. At Elk Springs it is quite an event as the top of the water is covered with flies, as well as everything that is standing still – rocks, lights, cars and buildings.
“You can see a hatch come off about six in the evening,” Skeen said. “With similar weather conditions, you will see the same event the same time next year. You’ll see the babies of the ones from last year. Some rivers are very fertile, but not to the scale you get here.”
“That’s what makes this a great place,” Lewis added.
The guys said that some waters may have only a couple dozen hatches, but it is limestone that makes the Elk so fertile.
“For West Virginia, it’s kind of rare,” Lewis said. “There is good water quality – a good pH.”
Brietmeier said “the beauty of the Elk is that is it spring-fed, allowing for fishing year-round.”
“The peak season is mid-April to the fourth of July,” Skeen offered.
Continuing with their tag-team approach to fishing and conversation, Lewis added that “once the heat of the summer is over, fall fishing is great.”
“Ah, that’s my favorite time,” Skeen said.
Lewis said there was a misconception about fly-fishing.
“People think fly-fishing is hard,” he said. “It’s not. It’s just different. It is the archery of fishing. You are constantly making adjustments. It is never boring.”
“Handling a fly rod has nothing to do with how strong you are,” Lewis continued. “The harder you try, the worse you’ll do. If you try to force it, it works against you.”
Fly-fishing is a hobby for a lifetime.
“Older people can continue to fly-fish,” Skeen said. “You can be 85-years-old and still be playing in the creek.”
Another misconception is that fly-fishing is an expensive hobby.
“You can show up in a T-shirt and jeans,” Skeen said. “We can outfit you with clothes, waders, rod and reel.”
Everything is for rent at The Fly Shop, and it’s all for sale, as well.
“Fly-fishing has the reputation of being expensive,” Brietmeier said. “But it doesn’t have to be.”
For a few hundred dollars you can get what you need.
“Fly-fishing equipment lasts longer than spinner rods.” Lewis said. “Rods have a twenty-five year warranty. If it snaps in ten to fifteen years, most companies will replace them. Some come with a lifetime warranty.”
Just as the guys have found a favorite river in the Elk, they have found a favorite corner in The Fly Shop.
“If you’re going to spend money right out of the gate, I’d invest in a good set of waders,” Skeen said. “A good rod is important, but the wrong waders - or no waders - makes you uncomfortable.”
The development of Gortex has made wading in 40 degree water a comfortable experience. The breathable membrane allows moisture and condensation to be drawn away from the body. The Fly Shop has waders in everyone’s price range – from $99 to nearly $500.
Longtime fishermen can appreciate the improvement in this area. The old rubber waders were hot in the summer and cold in the winter.
“Kids have to be comfortable,” Lewis said, “or fifteen minutes into it, they’re going to be ready to go home.”
The guides at Elk Springs have been pleased with the number of young people who have signed up the past few years for fly-fishing school.
Lewis recalled a comment made by one of the resort’s clients:
“When my kids wanted to learn to drive, I sent them to Driver’s Ed. Now my son wants to learn to fly fish. So I brought him here to learn.”
The son took the class.
The dad spent the day in a cabin at the resort.
Another gentleman said that his wife wanted to learn to fly-fish, and “this class will be cheaper than a divorce.”
The Elk River and Elk Springs Resort have a story that is unique.
The Elk River “comes forth from limestone caverns deep below the Allegheny Mountains,” and the resort has been established to make the most of what nature has to offer in a peaceful, out-of- the-way place.
Its website puts it best:
“We live and breathe Elk River, and we have everything you need for a day on the river or a lifetime in the sport of fly fishing.”
And just like the river on the evening of a “hatch” – when it comes to experience and knowledge of the sport – Brietmeier, Skeen and Lewis are “all over it!”
Call them today to begin your lifetime of fly fishing, and visit them at The Fly Shop at Elk Springs Resort for a most informative and invigorating conversation about the world of fly fishing.
They can be reached 365 days a year at 304-339-2FLY.
Jaynell Graham may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org