Mastering The Midwest ft. Capt. Austin Adduci
Read on to learn more about Chicago's number one fly-fishing guide!
Top Image Photo Cred: Brad Eaton
I know some of you may be thinking, 'A fly-fishing guide in Chicago?'.
Yep. And a seriously badass one.
I first met Capt. Austin Adduci last summer on Beaver Island, where he served as one of my guides for the week. As a guide myself, I always look forward to fishing with other guides (particularly when I'm the one being guided I'll add). I like watching other guides in action, seeing how they manage their days, work water, get excited/hide frustration, and with any luck I'll even walk away picking up a tip or too. As has been said a million times over with this sport- you're never done learning. And while all of the guides on Beaver Island were extremely accomplished, knowledgable, professional, hard working, "fishy" (the list goes on) when it comes to their craft, I think Austin and I hit it off because we both shared a common characteristic- we're casters. I know that may sound strange but let me explain. When fishing on Beaver Island there is a variety of ways you can go after the carp here from close combat, in the weeds (literally) fishing, to poling the flats looking for cruising fish to cast to. This style is very similar to poling a flat looking for permit or tarpon. Making long casts, calculating the wind, sink rate of your fly, speed of the cruising fish, etc is a game that I live to play. It's definitely not always the easiest way to catch carp on Beaver but when it comes together, it'll leave you with visions burned in your memory you'll never forget. I think Austin would agree.
Beaver Island isn't the only arrow in Austin's aqueous quiver either, as he also spents a great deal of time guiding in both Michigan and the greater Chicagoland area. Long story short, if you're ever in Chicago and looking to hit the water, give Austin a call. From floating down the Kankakee River in his drift boat, to spending a day out on Lake Michigan, you can rest easy knowing a great day is in store from the moment the trailer gets backed into the water.
Trouts: There’s really no other way to kick off these sorts of interviews, so how about you tell us a little about Capt. Austin Aducci. How did you get your start in fishing/fly-fishing and what kept you heading back to the water every chance possible?
AA: I am 38 years old and have lived in the greater metropolitan area of Chicago my entire life. I was a union carpenter for 17 years right out of high school. I am a husband to a wonderful wife that lets me pursue my dream and a father of three kids. My start in fishing was with my grandfather when I was a small child at ponds for bluegill. Nothing special, but as a child, it was awesome. As I grew up, fishing went away until high school when some of my buddies started fishing. I started going with them again to ponds for largemouth and bluegills. At that same time, I smoked. Marlboro had a promotion going on; smoke a pack and save the points on the pack. There was a catalog full of stuff that you could get with your saved points-- which included a fly rod/spinning rod combo. I got that with my saved points. I taught myself how to fly fish with that rod. It was from that “free” rod that it all evolved into where I am today. 30+ rods, two boats, and rooms full of gear. What kept me going back to the water in the early years was the want. The want to put the pieces together and catch fish. As a beginner, my first two fall seasons flyfishing for King Salmon on the creeks of Northwest Indiana went fishless. I had pure determination, that’s why I kept going back.
Trouts: You live in the suburbs of Chicago- not exactly the most well-known location for fly-fishing. Tell us what it was like when you started formulating the plan to start a guiding operation out of the Windy City?
AA: As stated, I was a carpenter. I knew that I didn’t want to hang drywall until I was 62. My plan was my dream. My parents used to take my sister and I to the Flordia Keys every year for spring break. I would sit on the pier at the hotel with a bag of frozen shrimp or squid for HOURS every day fishing ( not catching ). In that time, I would watch the guides on the flats poling their guys. Those guides were my rock stars. My Joe Namath. Being the determined person that I am, when I started my guide business I was told it wouldn’t work. I was told that we didn’t have the fisheries here at home to make a guide business work. My first season I ran 12 trips. Last season - just 7 years later- I ran just under 150. My roots in fly fishing were here at home and it was my home waters that I knew best. We don’t have trout streams or mountains, but we have wonderful fisheries in a major metropolitan area. The thing that I had going (and still do) is that there is nobody else doing the fly gig here. 8+ million people and I had a niche. Also, in 2009, when I started guiding, another factor that I believe helped me was the economy was awful. People weren’t traveling to fish. Instead, they started looking for what was near them and here I was.
Trouts: In a city the size of Chicago- which is undoubtedly full of people who love to fly-fish- you’ve got to be feeling pretty good about literally being their ‘go-to’ option to get on the water. What has been the biggest challenge in turning this into reality? What has been the most rewarding/surprising?
AA:. To explain what I was up against then, and still am today to some point, let me give you a example. When I started fishing Lake Michigan, I ran a Maverick flats boat, not a common boat around these parts at all. The southern end of the lake then had a wonderful spring fishery for carp, which I would pole for. Also, the south end of the lake has a huge salmon trolling community. I was asked on so many occasions “what’s that thing over your outboard for?” (referencing my poling platform) I started telling people it was a built in cutting board. The next response was always, “shit that’s a awesome idea!”. People here back then just didn’t believe fly fishing could be done on the Big Lake for the 7 different species. Local fly anglers spent their time and money traveling to Wisconsin or Michigan where fly fishing is more prevalent. So I pounded the pavement, per-say. I spoke to clubs, got affiliated with wonderful people and companies that believed in what I was doing and it all grew from there. The funny thing about any business is that people cry love to B.S. until they see proof of what you are selling. I was able to show proof. I think the most rewarding part of this is that I can sit back and smile because I proved people wrong and I didn’t give up on my dream.
Trouts: It would be tough to put a ‘number’ on the number of people who will read this who either live in Chicago or visit there from time to time. The short answer though is I’d imagine it’s A LOT. Let’s say someone wants to book a trip with you (which I highly recommend!) where can you take them fishing and what can they expect out of a day on the water?
AA: I offer two different fisheries here in the Chicagoland area. Between them, I offer the possibility to catch 7 different species depending on the time of year. Fishing Lake Michigan offers the most possibilities, but is a more technical style of fishing. Sinking lines. Fishing depths sometimes to 30 ft. It’s not for everyone. This is why after my first season guiding the lake I added fishing from a drift boat down the Kankakee River, just 60 miles south of the city. The Kankakee is a tremendous Smallmouth fishery and is something that most people can relate to better when drift boat, river, and fly fishing are involved. At one time, the Kankakee was even ranked in the top 30 smallmouth rivers in the Midwest. It too is very unique in itself. High dirty water in the spring, stripping streamers for big smallmouth. Opposed to late summer, when the water drops and clears. A more natural presentation with smaller flies is required along with a wicked top water bite. As for expectations, we’ll have fun and I’ll work my butt off to get them into fish.
Trouts: Tell us a little more about the Beaver Island gig. My trip there last year is what started our friendship and is a place I will continue to visit for the rest of my life. How did you get your start guiding here and what do you love most about this fishery?
AA: Long before I met Kevin Morlock and Steve Martinez (the other two guides on the island) I watched the FishPorn video that’s floating around the web about Beaver and thought holy sh!t what a cool place! 2016 will be my 6th season working the island and it happened like this. I was at a sports show, as were Kevin and Steve. We all crashed at a mutual friends house for the weekend. We ate, drank, and talked about how I fished Carp on the south end (of Lake Michigan) and how they fished them on the island. We finished the show and parted ways. That spring I got a call from Kevin. He said that Steve was heading to Alaska to guide that July and asked if I’d want to come up and work. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity. Six years later, I love it as both a place and as a fishery. I’ve never known of a place like the island. Growing up here all my life you have lock your screen door and need to watch your kids while they play in the front yard. Going from that to the island is the 100% complete opposite. I still remember my first night ever there Joan -Kevin’s wife- laughed at me when I asked if it was safe to leave the gear in my boat over night. Aside from the relaxed and friendly environment, the place is special for another big reason. The fishery is amazing! Crystal clear water. HUGE fish tailing. The fact that you have to bring your A game to catch them. There's no doubt I am a better guide from guiding the island. What more could you ask for in a place to fish?
Trouts: What is your favorite part about being a guide?
AA: People! What other job out there can you think of that lets you meet, get to know, become friends with, laugh with, watch their true emotion when a fish takes their fly? Someone can be having a crap time in life, but when they get on the boat and start casting, I can sit in the rowers seat and watch it leave them. I think that’s the best part of guiding- watching/helping people disconnect.
Trouts: Describe your perfect day on the water both A) guiding and B) fun fishing
AA: (a) Hmmm.. perfect guide day- good fun people that listen, good weather with no head wind, and lots of willing hungry fish. Sounds simple right? (b) Fun fishing, ha that’s funny! Whats that? I might get to fish personally about 8 days a year. So I guess the answer to that is every chance I get to fish is perfect.
Trouts: Favorite species to target on the fly?
AA: Without question Tarpon!!!! I’ve chased them for a lot of years now. To this day, every time I get a shot and come tight my knees still shake. To finish out my top favorite three, Carp would be next because you have to do everything right to catch them. Third would be Smallmouth, just because they’re badasses.
Trouts: Let’s switch subjects- when not on the water, preparing to be on the water, or tying flies- what are we most likely to find you doing?
AA: You would find me doing something with my kids. Three kids keep my wife and I going in different directions most nights. There's also a good chance you'll find me out walking the dogs and taking care of normal household stuff.
Trouts: If we were to jump in your truck right now, what tunes would we expect to hear? Any song/artist that always accompanies your journeys to the water?
AA: I’m a country boy living in the big city. There’s a Jamie Johnson CD player in the truck right now.
Interested in booking a trip with Austin? Head over to his website- Grab Your Fly Charters- by clicking HERE!