Lord of the flies

Tom Peppas

Among Northern California’s many beautiful natural wonders are its rivers and creeks. When it comes to fly fishing the region, Paradise resident and renowned fly fishing guide Tom Peppas knows the best spots for casting. The 64-year-old sportsman has been featured in 40 magazines and is sought out each May through November by celebrities and the well-heeled looking for the perfect fly-fishing experience. Go to www.ShastaTrout.com to read more about Peppas. Reach him at 521-9820.

Who are some of the notable clients you’ve hosted?

Too many to list, but some are past Super Bowl head coach of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, George Seifert; the guy who makes all of Carlos Santana’s guitars, Paul Reid Smith of PRS Guitars; and John Franzia, co-founder of Charles Shaw wines, known as “Two Buck Chuck.”

Why are you in such high demand?

It’s mostly because of my long experience. I’ve been a guide for 35 years and a fly fisher for 50. I’m very good at knowing where fish live and what they eat. I make custom fishing flies that are shaped like the bugs that fish eat in specific waters at specific times. I even go underwater with a mask to track the habits of fish.

What do you like best about being a guide?

I really love people, and I make sure to keep my enthusiasm up by only working 50 days per season. Consequently, I don’t have to promote myself or have a website. I also love the water. It’s so peaceful and energizing. I don’t treat fly fishing as a job, but as a passion. I have as much or more fun than my clients do.

Where are your favorite fishing spots?

Mostly rivers between Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen, such as the Pit, McCloud and Fall rivers as well as Hat Creek.

How did you get to be so good?

I started when I was only 13 and was a natural. I was also lucky enough to be taught early on by Val Atkinson, who’s in the California Fly Fishing Hall of Fame, and the late Mike Fong, a world-famous fly fisher. Usually the sport is very hard to master, but those two gave me a good push.

How do you feel about the fish you catch?

I completely respect them. I never let my clients keep the fish. It’s always catch and release. This makes my clients more respectful and appreciative of these natural resources. It’s all about the sport and camaraderie of fishing, then having a great dinner at a restaurant with a nice bottle of wine afterward.