Jason ‘JB’ Balogh wades along a deep eddy as the afternoon sun illuminates the mayfly hatch settling on the water. His line hums out over the pool, landing in an elegant arc and floating toward the willows by the river’s edge. Jason’s eyes never leave the drifting fly; his expression never deviates from an easy, open smile of anticipation.
The moment comes suddenly, as it always does: expectation and surprise merge as quickly as the flash of a golden tail breaking the taut liquid surface.
A flick of his wrist skyward maintains tension in the line as the tip of his rod arcs gently toward the fight. The fish struggles, stunned and angry, flickering glimpses of its bright belly. Jason, patient, calm and, alert, embodies the seemingly effortless precision of a master – and teacher – at work.
When Jason – or JB, as he is known – started his guiding service Fish The Fly in 2009, he says it was the perfect marriage of a lifestyle and a business opportunity. “I just went for it,” he says, explaining that after cutting his teeth running the fishing program at nearby Crescent-H Ranch he felt ready to branch out on his own. Fish the Fly now boasts ten guides and offers multiple trip options on a variety of local waterways. JB’s success, however, was hard won. “It took me a day and a half to catch my first fish!” he admits. “I spent a lot of time learning to row, and eventually bought my first drift boat, whom I named ‘The Eddy Betty’ after my grandmother.” An innate grace accompanies JB’s fishing style, and his passion for the water has clearly directed his professional life. “Fish the Fly exists because I am consumed by fly fishing, but also because I absolutely love being with people. My mission is to open people up and break down barriers, and there’s no better place to do that than when you’re out on the river with someone all day long.”
JB explains that many of his favorite moments guiding happen with kids and teenagers. “I just enjoy getting them to put down their phones!” Fortunately, the arresting glory of a day spent winding down the rivers of such a beautiful area makes this first task easy. With clients he has known for a long time, it’s about hopping out of the boat and really feeling what the water is doing — literally and figuratively: “Getting someone out there on the bank stalking a fish can really be taking it to the next level.”
Watching JB or any of his guides in their element, it’s not hard to notice the delicate balance of skill, patience, and intuition that creates a memorable day of fishing. These are the principles of the craft. A mixture that perfects itself over many years spent on the water. “Fishing is a spiritual thing for me. It’s about figuring out how the world works. It’s a connection with nature; you’re literally stepping into the nature, into the flow. As much as I love being there with others, I need those moments by myself, as well.” As for the perpetual excitement of that first hit on the line, JB says, “That’s the moment when other things cease to exist.”
JB and his guides at Fish The Fly specialize in fishing a variety of waterways within the greater Jackson Hole and Yellowstone ecosystem.
Book a trip fly fishing in Jackson Hole with JB or a guide from his team by clicking here.
Images © Taylor Glenn