Ross Kessler

Years fly fishing?

47

Years guiding?

2, Many years ago

Who introduced you to fly fishing?

My father, a nonangler bought me my first rod at around five years old.  It wasn't often I'd get a chance to fish but when I did the anticipation would have me organizing my tackle box, collecting bait under the rocks in the backyard, and actually waking up when it was time to get up!  In my late teens while working at a ranch in Wyoming my boss was a fly angler who encouraged me to take up the sport.  He helped me pick out my first outfit - a no-name graphite rod, reel, line, leader, and ten flies for $60!  Every night the old Cowboy Wrangler, Oscar Thompson would give me directions to a new stream off the beaten path in the Beartooth Mountains.  These waterways provided fish as beautiful as nature intended.  In my twenties, I guided surf fishing trips on Nantucket for Paul Doyle, an old T&T pro-staffer.  His tutelage took me to the next level as a fly caster and angler. During my tenure with Paul, we fished day and night for bluefish, striped bass, Atlantic bonito, Spanish mackerel, and false albacore.  How did I have so much energy back then! 

Can you tell us a little about your home waters and the fish you pursue there?

I currently live on the Southcoast of Massachusetts on Buzzards Bay.  Saltwater fly fishing dominates my fishing here.  In addition to fly fishing spring and early summer also offers many bottom fishing opportunities for tautog, fluke, and seabass.  Around the middle of April migrating schoolie striped bass make their appearance deep in the bay's many estuaries kicking of the season. At the end of April, the first bluefish are typically caught.  By early May the bay will be alive with blitzing bass and diving terns.  Bigger migratory bass dominates my efforts from then until mid-July.  Late July or early August bring the first hardtails or mackerel species dominated by Atlantic bonito, Spanish mackerel, and even the occasional king mackerel.  The first week of September signifies the beginning of Albie, or false albacore season. In October the species begin to dwindle and disappear in the mirror image of how they arrived.

What's the height of the season for you? What time of year is your personal favorite?

There's no way I can pick just one favorite.  There are so many great things that fishing on my home waters and other waters has to offer.  In my twenties and early thirties, it was all about me and what I could catch.  I still love a day alone on my boat or lost on a trout stream.  But, days with friends whether the fishing is red hot or slow can be equally as rewarding.  Don't get me wrong the red hot days are preferred! The many heights of the season include the arrivals of the many species I get on my home waters, encounters with wildlife that appear on a day out fishing, the smell of a trout stream in summer, A day shared with an old friend, the beauty of sunrise during the spring migration, and the fall sky at sunset during the fall migration. These all qualify equally as favorites and nourish my soul. 

What are your favorite travel destinations? What's on the bucket list?

I spent my late teens and early twenties in Montana. This is where I learned to fly fish high in the Beartooth Mountains for small Yellowstone cutthroat trout that were as pretty as the mountain environment that they occupy.  I typically get back there for a week or two most summers and get lost on many of the lesser-known waterways there.   In my mid-thirties I made my first trip to the Bahamas and bonefish instantly became my next crush.  I typically make it down there every year and a half and stalk bones solo in the family islands. 

What you like most about Thomas and Thomas rods? Which rods do you fish?

When I began fishing, T&T was producing the Horizon series.  This rod was a game changer. I've been fortunate to fish with a number of T&T Professionals and have cast many of the current rods with a number of lines. These days the Exocett and Zone dominate my salt water fishing.  

What's your current go-to fly?

Shhhh! that's a secret!  Seriously though, hard-bodied shiners, clousers, mushmouths, simrams, McVay's Gotcha', blue princes, copper Johns, & many dries.  This will sound like sacrilege but for trout, a San Juan worm is probably the best searching and dirty water fly ever tied. 

My favorite thing about guiding is?

Many of my programs feature immersive experiences with local communities, and I absolutely love watching people from opposite parts of the world come together and share some laughter or an opportunity to learn. For me, the experiences around the fishing and catching is what makes our sport and traveling to fish new areas that much richer. 

From an angler's point of view, what do you see as the main value of going on a guided trip?

 Local knowledge. No matter how well you know your home water when time is limited and decisions have to be made nobody knows a piece of water better than the people that spend the most time there. 

What's your ideal lunch when on the water? What do you actually pack?

 The Casado. In Spanish it literally means married and is a plate piled high with rice, beans, veggies, salad, plantains, and the meat of your choice. A generous portion of every food group in one sitting and as much a tradition as a rite of passage around these parts. 

Other than fly tackle, what piece of gear do you find indispensable?

Two things.  The hemocut is an indispensable tool from bonefishing to trout fishing.  I like the medium heavy ones that William Joseph made and are now being marketed by another company.  The other are my Costa C-mates, or in English, sunglasses with built-in readers.  In my real life, I'm a marine biologist and I started using the reader part of C-mates to find otoliths or ear bones in fish (for age and growth) while performing field tasks during resource assessment trips.  I'm now at the age where 5x and size 16s won't happen without the help of magnification.

My favorite thing about guiding is?

Technically I'm not a guide.  However, when I was young we fished very little and certainly did not have a boat.  I do have one now and I love taking friends out.  Friends who can fish like Lefty or Flip or those who have never touched a rod.  Sometimes it's about the fish and sometimes the boat is just a great platform to get away from our hectic existence.

From an angler's point of view, what do you see as being the main value of going on a guided trip?

Guiding is a responsibility that requires a many faceted expertise. The client is paying for professional experience -  The most important aspects of a guided trip begins with providing a safe, fun, and competent experience - in that order.  All waterways experience times of good and bad fishing days.  The guide should have a skill set into making the slow days better, the good days take care of themselves.  Making a positive experience out of a slow day can be accomplished by teasing out one more fish or teaching the client a new skill.  Additionally, a guide should have knowledge of their chosen waters.  Every place where land meets water possesses a fascinating geological history, physical and biological oceanography,  avian presence, and marine mammals.  being able to identify many of those features enriches the client experience.

What fly fishing blogs/magazines do you read regularly?

I take a lot of children and new anglers on the water both spin and fly fishing.  From the moment we meet until the end of the trip I try to involve my anglers into the whys and whats of every part of the day.  This begins with how to be a courteous boater at the boat ramp and why time of day, tide, and time of year affects the fishery.  As a biologist, I share how water temperature, dissolved oxygen, and metabolic needs of fish play a part in our activities.  The next aspect of providing an enriching and enjoyable experience is to match the skill set of the angler to the day.  Schoolie striped bass in the back of an estuary will typically provide a great day for a newbie, heck I still love the back bay experience.  Showing the angler some experiences outside of their skill set can also open a window into what is possible with time and practice.

What fly fishing blogs/magazines do you read regularly?

Time on the water is valuable.  Lunch on my boat, Seaward, is typically done while fishing.  I typically pack foods that can be eaten with one hand- sandwiches cut in half, granola type bars, etc.  I also keep the center console clean so that the food can be put down when a fishing opportunity arises.  Some days things slow down, for instance at slack tide I'll sit for a while to eat and regroup. Hydration is another topic.  I like to always have some water or hydrating liquid going.  Being upright and focused all day can dehydrate which causes headaches and makes focus difficult.  

What fly fishing blogs/magazines do you read regularly?

As a marine biologist who works in a regulatory agency, I like to read a lot of the local fishing club newsletters. For instance, The Rhode Island Salt Water Angler's Association quarterly newsletter captures the perspective of local anglers, guides, fisheries issues, cooking, management, and biology.  I also love the writings of Nick Lyons, and John Gierach or anyone who captures the many aspects of fly fishing combined with a healthy dose of self deprecation. 

When I'm not fishing you'll find me:

Thinking about fishing.... In all seriousness, I am a member of our local Lions Club and am involved with that.  As age took its inevitable toll on my body in my mid-30s I began doing yoga, lifting some weights, and running for cardio.  On the year I turned fifty I ran the New Jersey Marathon.  I even hit my target time, to the minute!  Activities like these allow me to pursue my passions that require physical exertion.

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