Georgia: The Fly Guys

Text: Luke Swab • Photography: Luke Swab

“Bet you I’ve caught more fish in my life than you have.” These are the words I stupidly blurt out my first time 
meeting the one and only Bill Oyster, considered by many to be the best 
bamboo fly-rod 
maker in the world. Sad thing is, it’s probably true.

For the last 15 years I’ve run a commercial salmon fishing business in Alaska, and each season I catch more than 100,000 pounds of Sockeye. I capture them with nets by the hundreds, some days by the thousands. No releasing, no measuring. Each fish gets tossed like a Frisbee into the hold with no special attention or second thought. 

To compare what I do every day for a living in the summer with the exquisite delicacy of fly fishing is like a McDonald’s fry boy talking shop with Gordon Ramsey—a little insulting, to say the least. Now here I am, standing outside of Bill Oyster’s shop in the fly fishing capital of Blue Ridge, GA, receiving a personal lesson from the Sensei himself, and I stick my foot in my mouth. 

My comment was intended as a joke, but without the context of my day job it comes off as arrogant. That’s the last thing I want to convey. But the truth is, sport fishing has never really appealed to me. It’s not because I enjoy commercial fishing more—I don’t, as the people closest to me know—I just get bored easily. I knew coming down here it was going to challenge my attention span. Now, I’m beginning to wonder if this whole trip is a mistake. 

The Plan

The idea started when my longtime riding buddy, Cameron, proposed mixing things up for our annual spring adventure. Cameron doesn’t fish—commercial or sport—but his good friend Kyle Jones has a passion for fly fishing and an appreciation for motorcycles, so we convinced him to join us as the only halfway-experienced member of our group. 

I also invited my best friend, Nick Rader, with whom I share a riding history that feels as old as the Blue Ridge Mountains themselves but actually began in high school. It started when he and I discovered we both owned matching Kawasaki KLX300Rs, and grew steadily from there until 2011, when we spent five months riding motorcycles together through Africa. I called him up, and he agreed without hesitation. 

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the March/April 2019 back issue.