John Roggensack – Guide
How long have you been fishing?
Since I was 3.5 years old!
How long have you been fly fishing?
Since I was 9 or 10.
How long have you been guiding?
I’ve been putting people on fish for few years now.
Why and how did you get started in guiding?
I should preface this by saying there is nowhere else I would rather be than on, or in the water. Before I started guiding it wouldn’t have qualified as a “day of fishing” unless we were the first boat on the water, and the last vehicle to leave the takeout. I guess I was spending so much time on the water it only made sense to start guiding. It is also the only job (if you can really call it that) for which I am consistently excited about getting up at 4am to go to work! I also truly love the people on the water. The fisherman with their enthusiasm and as John Buchan put it, “the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable.” The guides you also get to spend time with on trips are great. You don’t have to hang around them for long to appreciate their eccentric personalities, their idiosyncrasies, fantastic water stories, and their unrivalled passion for the outdoors. It is inspirational to associate with such fine people.
Are you a fly tyer?
Dry Fly- Swishers’ Dancing Caddis size 18, not the size 16 – This fly has been responsible for so many hook-ups with obese and greedy browns… It has to be my favourite. Ahhhh, good times. You know he’s going to eat it, it’s just not fair. Parachute Adams – Mr. Versatile Para-hopper AKA “Yesterday’s Fly”- It is a love hate relationship…. I’ll leave it there. Nymph- Rubber leg anything. If it moves, I love it. Streamer- Gartside Leech, DNA Clouser
What do you row? Why?
I row a Hyde XL Hybrid. It is the Cadillac El Dorado of drift boats. It is big, roomy, and super comfy…
Favorite fishing technique?
Personally: I am a sucker for sipping trout, so if they are looking up…. It is going to be a dry fly. I like the hunt and the visual aspect. With Clients: I guess that depends on their ability and what the fish are doing. If the fish are looking up, it is great to see people catch trout on the dry. That is too much fun!
Do you prefer guiding experienced anglers or beginners?
They both have their perks. Beginners are fun because their energy and enthusiasm is infectious, and when they get a fish on, they freak right out and scream like a little kid. This will never get old for me. It is also fun to have someone that already knows how to cast…. Hmmm either way it is going to be a great day in a truly beautiful place.
Your strengths as a guide?
I row the same for clients as I do for my best friends. I work hard to get into fish, and if we miss that fish, I’ll walk the boat back up and we’ll do it again. We’ll catch that fish; look him in the eye, and before letting him go we will tell him to mend his ways before he ends up on someone’s BBQ. I also make an effort to take some good pictures so you can brag to your friends about all the Bower River Rockets you laid a lickin’ on. And if you fall out of the boat…
What do you do to add to the experience on a slow(er) day?
Usually I add lead or some other form or weight to whatever we are fishing, maybe lengthen your leader. And if that doesn’t do it I have been known to put the oars down and do a rather spastic, modern, splashy, tribal style dance in dedication to the fish gods – I’ve dubbed it the “BrownBow Tail Dance.” I would like to tell you this dance was passed down through the generations, and that its origins were from some ancient Mayan civilization, but it wasn’t and it has no real history. Most of the time the dance doesn’t work, but every once and a while the Gods are kind. We can also talk walk and wade tactics to get you into fish when they are more co-operative. I also know about 10 really, really, really long fishing jokes.
Favorite guide-related memory?
I took a father/son out on a trip. The dad was somewhat experienced and the son was brand new. The dad wanted to do his thing in the back of the boat while I got the boy casting and into fish. By noon, the son had landed about 3 to 1 and was wiping the floor on his dad. He took to fishing like a duck to water. The caddis was on a little later and we switched over to dries and got out of the boat and walked a bank in search of something significant. The dad said something like “I’ll show you how to do it” and proceeded to wrap himself around a tree on a back cast. While the dad was getting his line in order, his son got into the water and watched the fish for a couple minutes. He got a sense of what the fish was doing, got his distance sorted, and made one perfect cast. That kid hooked and landed a 21 inch brown all by himself. He got a great photo and he even kissed the fish. The boy chastised his old man for the rest of the day. I am pretty sure that this was the beginning of something beautiful.
Embarrassing anecdote (something that happened while guiding)?
Last year there was some great fishing in fast water. I had great luck at one spot several days in a row, where the water was moving too fast and deep to drop the anchor. I would jump out of the boat and hold the boat so people could have a few casts at Leroy Brown’s place (Leroy is a pig of a brown trout.) This was working great until one day when I was doing my ballerina jump, my left boot got stuck in the oar lock and I did the splits and got dragged downstream. Once I got loose, I walked the boat to the shore, took off my waders, and decided it was a good day for wet wading; I apologized profusely for my poor acrobatics, and then walked the boat back up so my clients could have a swing and see if Leroy was home. I now make an extra effort to make sure my feet clear the boat, and whenever I pass that hole, I tell everyone about the time I didn’t quite make it out of the boat. I am sure it will happen again… It is a great hole, and a Leroy photograph makes a most excellent desktop.
This is seasonal work…. What do you do in the off-season?
Well, I have two loves. The first is fishing… anywhere. The second is music. I play jazz saxophone professionally and have made it my living since I was in university. I play regularly with The Real Deal and Primetime Big Band in Calgary. During the school year I am an active clinician in schools, and at local festivals. I also have many private students who come over to the house and usually get to see what fly is being eaten on the river as my tying stuff is always scattered on my desk. The students are all sworn to secrecy as to what they see on and around my vise.
Given the opportunity who would you choose to fish with?
Or someone who has inspired you as an angler/tyer/teacher/guide. My Dad. It is fun to row him down the river and watch him catch fish. We usually have a pretty decent lunch on the boat as well (Chianti sausage, smoked Gouda…. You get the idea…. Refined river fare). I will forever owe him for getting me into fishing. When I was growing up (if you can consider me “grown up”), we spent lots of time in the summer exploring the trunk road and fishing almost every drainage from Grand Cache to Waterton. Maybe he’ll retire one day and get to fish more. Lefty Kreh. I have heard from reliable sources he is a stand up guy. I have watched his videos and read his books numerous times. He has one sexy loop. It would be awesome to watch him spank the bank, and hear some great stories from the master caster himself. Any of my fishing buddies. You all know who you are….