Full video below, or read on for everything Spain Short has to share on Snake River and Teton Valley Lodge.
Jonathan: We’re live on Facebook thanks to everybody who’s tuning-in for our interview, this is Jonathan with Captain Experiences. I'm here with my good buddy, Spain Short of team Valley Lodge - what's up Spain!
Spain: What’s up, cool man! Let’s do it!
Jonathan: If I just looked down over here that's because I'm referencing all these questions I've got for you. Can we kick it off just by introducing yourself, name, where do you operate out of, that sort of thing.
Spain: I'm Spain Short, I grew up in Atlanta, been out here. This is going on my 8th summer out here. I've been guiding with Teton Valley Lodge for the last four years. So our operation is based in the South Fork of the Snake River, the Henry's Fork which is the North Fork of the Snake River and the Teton River. So that's kind of what we do. I'm sorry, that's Peter - my roommate.
Jonathan: Hey, what's up Peter! How's it going? Good to see you again - it's Jonathan!
Peter: Hi Jonathan it's good to see you again.
Jonathan: We’ll have to touch on our trip there last fall, that was a great time! So did you grow up fishing out there - North Georgia. What was it like?
Spain: I did not grow fishing out here, the first time that I came out here was with a group. There are 10 of us or maybe more. I’d never seen the place, I actually wasn't going to come but some of my friends from High School had decided that they were gonna go right before College to come out here and just live for the summer. I didn't have any plans and they had a buddy that dropped out - I think it was David Fireman or Rad Spencer called me up and he said “Hey we have an extra spot, if you want to join us”. We drove out here, never seen the place, didn’t know about the fisheries - I just came out here and kind of explored the area and here I am.
Jonathan: That's awesome! That's really cool. So who would you say introduced you to fishing?
Spain: My Mom is the one who introduced me to fishing, we grew up and our neighbor has a pond, it was like 5 minutes away from our house. Normally my Mom and I go there, my brother also comes sometimes. My Mom and I we're obsessed, she drove to the gas station just to buy some shiners and some live baits. You catch bass all the time, we’d go out there four to five times a week. My Mom kind of grew up - her dad was a big outdoorsman, big bird hunter, dabbled in fly fishing as well. Super good outdoorsman, he didn't have any son, he just had daughters. So my Mom just did everything that a son would do. So she grew up hunting and fishing, she's really cool.
Jonathan: That's fantastic! So can you walk us through the journey - from a guest just showing up one summer - to a guide.
Spain: It's a pretty wild story! Yeah, so I started fishing in Georgia, I got a guide position from a place called Black Hawk up in Clarkesville Georgia. I started guiding up there, walk and wade trip on private water. Big stocked fish, they have some wild fish, very little natural reproduction - but mainly big stocked fish. David Fireman’s Dad - Brad Fireman, got me hooked-up up there. He's a big client up there - took a lot of his clients from work up there, they'd always have a good time. He knew how obsessed I was on fishing so he got me started out there and then once I kind of had a few summers out in Jackson and working on fly shops, one of our guides transferred from a shop in Jackson to a guide outfitter in Teton Valley Lodge and Driggs - he called me and said they were looking for some younger guides to come in and revamp the place - bringing some younger dudes to new clientele and all of that. So I called up Bryan Berry, have you ever met him? Just knew his family had owned the lodge - this is their hundred and first year. So they've got a really huge history there so it's pretty intimidating to call him up. I was a dude that didn't have a rowboat, I really don't know how to fish. Though I called him up and I said “I want to come to guide you, do you have a boat?” and he was like “Nope, I don't have a boat. Do you have a row? Do you have a truck?”, I just said “No, I don’t have a row, I don’t have a truck”. I don't really have anything, our conversation lasts for about 5 to 10 minutes. I answered all the questions that I can and then he said “When can you come here? When can you start?” and I was like “What!?” then he just said “I don't see why not, it seems like you can talk to people.” So I met him May, 4 years ago. His guide staff spent pretty much every day with me on the water for three months, we trained every stretch of river you could never think of - learn as much as I can from some of their 40 years old veteran guides, some of their guides are younger but have a lot of experience. I was just pretty lucky honestly.
Jonathan: That's awesome, that story is so cool! It just goes to show that the very important part about guiding - it's all about being personable and interacting with people, making sure they have a good time. But in terms of that training what it was like? Is it some kind of set of curriculum, like you need to learn how to row first? Then work on how to improve people's cast? Or is it just like you spend 3 months in water and learn all the things that you can.
Spain: There's a guide school out there, you can learn a ton. Teton Valley Lodge guide school is a little different - the kind that throws hard knocks and you will learn pretty quickly if Bryan's gonna keep you on. There's a stretch of river called Bear Gulch, it's in the lower Henry's Fork but on it's the upper portion of where the brown trout and rainbow trout are living but it's a big boat slide, you’ve got to push your boat into the water. I think he sent me in there for 10 days in a row to start my training and it was pretty much hell, I have a huge scar on my back - I got run over by a boat on that slide and it's bleeding profusely and I was like “Bryan what should we do?”. It seems like I need 50 stitches. I'm in the middle of nowhere and Bryan said “I don't know man, I think I'll just keep fishing”. I think he felt bad for me in that aspect so he gave me the job - and that's kind of what training with the lodge is. You're rowing the South Fork at 25,000 CFS where mistakes are met with flipping a boat so you've got to be careful.
Jonathan: That's hilarious! Can you describe your trips out there? What are they like? Half-day or full-day that sort of stuff?
Spain: Every guide in Idaho has to work for an outfitter, there's no freelance guiding so it kind a keeps the pressure of the river. Every guide that is guiding has been checked off on that stretch of river that they're working on has passed all their safety first aid, CPR - something like that. It keeps things very streamlined, everything's very safe, the guide trips we offer are half-day and full-day trips. I think this year it's 595$ for a full day for two people - everything is included. So that they starts when the client wants to be picked up and you can call it quits when the sun goes down - for the lodge it's pretty much a long day. So yeah! We offer a full day and half-day trips, some walk and wade stuff if you want to do that.
Jonathan: So how many different stretches do you guys fish?
Spain: We fish the entire South Fork, the Snake, which goes from Palisades Dam all the way down to past Menan. We can go all the way down the Henry's Fork, we pretty much do everything - from Island Park all the way down to St. Anthony which is so many river miles, and then the Tetons. Teton is really cool, it offers anything - from dry fly Spring Creek fishing to massive rapids and the canyon. So everything in the Teton is really cool, you could fish a lifetime on this river and never fish the same stretch twice.
Jonathan: Wow! That's where we wanted to get to next… what it's like on fishing now as the spring rolls up. What can people be expecting to throw? What can they be expecting to catch? That sort of stuff.
Spain: Spring fishing here is pre-runoff, so it depends on how much snow we really get in the mountains - it kind of controls what's gonna be available to fish but pre-runoff fishing can be spectacular. The Henry’s Fork is kind of the gem of the springtime - fed by something called the Big Spring so it's spring water coming off but then it goes through a series of dams so the water settles in the springtime. It's actually an awesome springtime fishery - that's probably the first thing that is gonna fish great for us. The South Fork before run-off also fishes awesome - Springs when rainbows and cutthroat spawn so pre-spawn fishing on South Fork and on the Henry’s can be awesome. They shut the rivers down or the tributaries to the rivers down in June for spawning for a native cutthroat. That's really cool to see that they're doing all these efforts to protect the fish that are supposed to be here.
Jonathan: Very cool! Then the things heat back up from July to August into the fall. That's fantastic.
Spain: I've been fishing at Henry’s for probably a month now this winter already. So I started fishing in early March, it's kind a day-to-day if you get a really warm day - and not so cold at night, the fishing can be awesome. As you move into April - right now you can get some really good blue-winged and midge fishing. Then in May - this kind of first big wave for dry fly fishing as mother’s day caddis and then you get into stonefly stuff and that's probably the most fun time of the year for the Henry's Fork when Santa flies and golden stones are going on. Then once the Henry's stops firing, that's the time to be in the South Fork. It's kind of prime time - salmon flies over there and the water levels are receding and the PMD fishing is as good as it gets.
Jonathan: What would you say is unique about fishing in Henry's Fork?
Spain: Henry’s is the coolest river in the United States for sure, there's a lot of opportunities on that river - you can go out any day and have a chance of catching a 2-foot fish on a dry fly. It's as cool as it gets. What's the question again? I kind of sidetracked.
Jonathan: What's unique about fishing there?
Spain: Yeah one day you can go out there and get your ass kicked and not catch anything - the next day seems like the same conditions, every fish in the river is feeding. One day there's no fish there and the next day you return, there’s a thousand of fish you can drive flies. It's what keeps you coming back.
Spain: But it's also one of the hardest rivers to guide, if you catch it on a bad day you look like you don't know what you're doing.
Jonathan: What would you say that makes a trip with Spain Short different to other guides or anything else out there? What makes you unique?
Spain: I think connecting with my clients, having a good time in the boat. Because some days we're gonna catch so many fish and some other days fishing is really slow and you're not going to catch a ton of fish. So I always make sure that we're having a good time whether we’re catching a ton of fish or we’re catching a few of them.
Jonathan: Can you describe the lodge in a little bit more detail? What's the vibe for guests when they get there? Just what kind of all-around experience?
Spain: The largest and oldest outfitter. It's been around for 101 years. So it's a family owned business, Bryan and Joe Berry are the best owners and bosses that you could ever ask for. They give their guides everything you could need - I showed up and I didn't have a boat then Bryan builds a boat. He's like “You can use this one buddy”. If you're doing white water - I don't know about rafting but he’s building rafts this year I think. He's throwing 11 custom-made rafts out into the water this year. He has all these super pumas that you can take if you need flies - every guy at the lodge is tying flies all winter and we have a custom made selection of flies you can use. The lodge can hold 40 guests, and we have about 20 to 25 guides and staff so we've got a pretty big operation going on. All the permits you could ever want, we can throw so many people on the water and we still have our space that's a pretty incredible operation we have.
Jonathan: That's amazing! So what's it like to you when you put somebody on their first fish?
Spain: It's pretty cool! Honestly I like watching people catch fish more than I like catching fish now, not because I've got all the big fish I want to catch or whatever. Just really cool to see someone catch fish, as a guide and person rowing the boat you’re just as much catching the fish as they are, whether they realize it or not. So it's pretty cool - sometimes someone new to fly fishing can pick it up in a few hours and catch a lot of fish that same day. It's really cool.
Jonathan: That's awesome. So why do you love what you do? What gets you up in the morning?
Spain: Chance of a big fish on the dry fly for sure! That's what fly-fishing is about.
Jonathan: I'm not going to sugarcoat man!
Spain: That's what it is about man! Catching big fish on dry flies, it's as fun as it gets. You're out in the river, you're floating, if you’re on the Teton, you're probably going to see some bull moose. I think one of our guides saw 10 bull moose in one day, you'll always see wildlife. The South Fork of the Snake is the prettiest stretch of water of all time. You're in a 20 mile long canyon, once you're in there you don't have cell service for some of it. Just take in where you are and it's cool as it gets.
Jonathan: Is there any one individual memory if you had to choose your favorite?
Spain: Funniest memory I got… I don't know if Craig Walker is listening but yeah, he's my pledge brother in school. I gotta bash on him a little bit, we had a great day. Craig, his dad and I, we're on the boat and it's crazy fishing in Henry’s Fork. There's overcast rainy days - you always want that river. Every fish is feeding, they had never picked up a fight on a fly rod before so they didn't know what they're doing but that doesn't matter - we were catching fish. There are big fish feeding, Craig casts at fish for probably an hour, maybe more, this fish is huge. We didn't get the fish to eat and go drop Craig off - it was an awesome day, he caught some big fish. But so I called up my buddy Milan, I was like “ There's a big fish eating here”. Milan and I, we’re used to being guides in Henry’s, he drove 45 minutes back to the lodge, dropped his clients off, jumped in his truck, drove 45 minutes back up there, launched the boat and rode down to that area and we saw the two fish were still sitting there and it was pretty cool.
Jonathan: No way! That’s awesome! We're gonna have to see a pic on that. We’ll throw it up on our Facebook page or something. That’s hilarious! So why do you think guiding is important?
Spain: You can go out there and do it on your own, you can rent a ride, you can rent waders and you can go spend some time angling and maybe catch fish. But if you hire a professional whether it's through Teton Valley Lodge, whether it's through anyone. They're all professionals, they're all great outfitters, all of them have awesome guides. So if you hire one of them your day is going to be so much more relaxed, much better. You don't have to deal with any logistics, you don't have to deal with the boat shudder, you don't have to deal with lunch. Just bring your beer and relax, you're going to catch fish and everything is going to be taken care of and you don't have to deal with it on your own. You got someone that knows where the fish are gonna be, what flies need to be on and they know how to fish it.
Jonathan: That's awesome. Some guy named Sam Boyd just commented on facebook saying that he's mad that your favorite experience as a guide wasn't showing him around the river.
Spain: Some of those are as natural of anglers as it gets.
Jonathan: How do you feel about the future of fishing?
Spain: Future of fishing is changing for sure. For fly-fishing you think of older gentlemen, cigar, and dry flies. It’s changing, it's pretty sweet, there's a lot of more women in the industry which is awesome. It needs to happen, you have a lot more younger guides but are more friendly towards each other. A lot of older guides used to have some beef on the water with each other like they thought the river was theirs and they don't want to see anyone else. Now you've got a lot more younger guides on the rivers out here and once they are done guiding they're probably all at the same bar grabbing a beer. You're going to see them so you might as well be friends with everybody, so the sport is moving in the right direction for sure. You've got a lot more people getting into it, it's not just the older people with money, it's not that expensive, and you got a lot more women. It's going the right direction for sure, there's some stuff that needs to happen and it's moving correctly.
Jonathan: That's awesome, that's great to hear. So this is my favorite question to ask, if you have one more cast to throw in your life. What would it be and where would it be?
Spain: If I have one more cast it's probably on Skeena in British Columbia to steelhead - swinging flies. It's as good as it gets, it's pretty sweet when you catch one. You probably are not going on that cast but that's where it should be.
Jonathan: That’s awesome, that's also a great segue into some of your travels. You’ve been up to British Columbia for steelhead, you have been down south to Tierra del Fuego. Can you describe it to us, there's a lot of planning that goes into them. Can you walk us through?
Spain: There's trout fishing on, there's fishing for steelhead. On trout fishing, you can expect a catch - If you're fishing for sea-run fish and you catch a fish in a day then that's a good day. I guess 3 years ago I had the chance to go up to British Columbia for almost a month. I lived in the back of Howard’s van for almost 4 weeks. I went my first 10 days without a fish - I was in British Columbia and I didn't even feel a bite, I didn't know what I was doing but once I caught a fish - that first steelhead had changed everything. Two-handed casting, long cast - it’s cool as it gets.
Jonathan: Cool! That's amazing! You were living in Howard’s van for about one month, that’s awesome!
Spain: We did it again the following years as well, I think I went for two weeks and the year after that. Then recently I went down to Tierra del Fuego.
Jonathan: I remember being up there in Jackson Hole, everyone was around at that one house for dinner and I was kind just sitting and listening to you and I think it was Howard. I think it's just cool just to listen to you guys. How about the Tierra del Fuego, how did that come across? Were you guiding down there?
Spain: No I wasn't guiding, I just had an obsession with going down there. The fish are huge there - I believe it's around 80,000 sea-run browns going to the Rio Grande every year which is really an insane amount of fish. Your catch rate is going to be high, the fish were big, you’re throwing two-handed rods. I think it's 300 miles from Antarctica, it’s as far South as you can get. One of the gentlemen that was on the trip, his bag got put on a cruise ship to Antarctica. Luckily somehow we got it back. Down there the fishing is really cool, it's windy as can be but sometimes you can get days without wind.
Jonathan: How long were you down there?
Spain: We were down there for 10 days but I wish I could stay for the entire season and do three months down there. One of the head guides said I could come work down there but I don't think that's gonna go well. I went down to Kau Tapen which is the first lodge on the Rio Grande. The cool thing about Kau Tapen is they have the Grande in their backyard - famous sea-run river. Then they have the Rio Menendez which is the main tributary to Grande and it's kind of a size of a small spring creek. They caught a 26 pound sea-run fish in a river 15 feet wide. So that's pretty crazy.
Jonathan: That’s insane! Wow!
Spain: It's very tidal, so the lower you are in the river the higher the tides - it pushes big fish. Kau Tapen is a little way up the system, so you really need high water and tides to bring the fish in. I was with John Rex and we hit it perfectly, we pretty much caught fish in every session when we were out there. We caught fish up to 18 pounds - I couldn't ask for a better trip.
Jonathan: That's incredible! That's a trip of a lifetime truly.
Spain: We were there in the middle of January, their season is around January to March and a little bit of April. But they had to close this year because of the Corona stuff going on, their guests couldn't go down there. But early in the season you're getting really fresh fish from the ocean - later in the season those fish are more colored up, scientific classic looking brown trout in the fall if it's out here. So there's different times to be there, different reasons to be in each month - each month is different. So next year i will be going back in March, so I'm going to see a completely different fishery.
Jonathan: That will be awesome. We will look forward to seeing those pictures, we threw one up on Instagram and it's just an incredible fish and that was cool. So now we have a few rapid-fire questions so whatever comes first in your mind just spit it out. First, what is your favorite body of water to fish?
Jonathan: If you had to do something different what would it be?
Spain: I don't know man...I don't know if I could live not close to these rivers.
Jonathan: There you go, that's a good answer. What other hobbies do you enjoy outside of fishing?
Spain: I like bird hunting a lot, I got to go bird hunting out here. There's some awesome stuff to do. I play a little golf, I play a little tennis.
Jonathan: Do you have a nickname, if so how did you get it?
Spain: Yeah, Squain. I got it from - I think I was nearly ten. I was jumping off the high dive in front of the lifeguard and for some reason I thought it was cool to do, so I jumped into the water then they took me back and they found my parents and the lady who had my was like “What is your name son!?”. So I was like “My name is Spain” and she's like “Okay Squaaaaaiin!”. and that’s where “Squain” comes from.
Jonathan: That's awesome! I never heard that story. Do you have a favorite song or band right now?
Spain: I haven't been listening to any music recently, I might skip that and come back.
Jonathan: Okay you can skip it, no worries. How about your favorite movie?
Spain: I think I'm coming back for those two.
Jonathan: Sounds good… How about favorite food?
Spain: I've been eating a lot of Thai food recently, there's so many good Thai spots in Jackson.
Jonathan: Good answer, how about favorite drinks?
Spain: Probably beer.
Jonathan: Favorite sports team?
Spain: The Dawgs baby!
Jonathan: There you go... good answer! If you could have one superpower what would it be?
Spain: Probably to fly, so I could go and fish all over.
Jonathan: There you go, every guide somehow ties it back to fishing one way or another. I've heard x-ray so they can spot all the fish, being able to hold their breath forever. Stuff like that, that's hilarious! So next... What was your last Halloween costume?
Spain: Basketball outfit.
Jonathan: What do you want for Christmas?
Spain: Maybe a plane flight to Argentina, that would be great!
Jonathan: Can you name one of the seven dwarfs?
Spain: No, I don't think I can.
Jonathan: I'm not letting you skip this one. What will you do tonight?
Spain: I don’t know, I don’t have anything to do tonight.
Jonathan: Haha, I was nudging you to “Sleepy”
Spain: I really don’t know them man.
Jonathan: How many pull-ups can you do in a row?
Spain: I haven't done pull-ups probably since gym class, maybe 15.
Jonathan: Wow! That might be the high-water mark for archives on that one. Next, is LeBron James or Michael Jordan the best basketball player ever?
Spain: I really grew up watching Michael but I didn't get to watch him live.
Jonathan: I see... so, it’s LeBron. I will mark down there. Next, what's the biggest fish ever caught?
Spain: Sea-run fish, steelhead. I think I caught 38 inches of steelhead, that was my biggest.
Jonathan: Awesome well that's about it. We’ll let everybody post their questions if they have any but the last thing is do you want to give a shout out to the troops.
Spain: Shout out so all the guys that i worked with over here, pretty incredible cast, people come see us and fish with us. It's tough to travel but a lot of guys could really use it if you come fish and it’ll be a good time.
Jonathan: Awesome, cool man! That’s it, thank you very much. We really appreciate it.
Thank you for visiting us at Captain Experiences, and here's some pictures from Spain's extensive Snake River fishing trips.