Freetime: Tobie McKown, The United Group
As a lifelong hunter and lover of the outdoors, it was only natural for Tobie McKown to try fly fishing 12 years ago. However, Tobie, president and CEO of The United Group in Monroe, La., soon learned that fly fishing was different from his other recreational pursuits.
“There’s a certain amount of solitude associated with fly fishing,” says Tobie. “When you’re wading, you are by yourself. When you’re drift boat fishing, you’re with just one or two other people.”
Izaak Walton, a 17th century author who wrote “The Compleat Angler,” called fly fishing “the contemplative man’s recreation.” Tobie agrees with this sentiment and also finds the entire process therapeutic.
“It started a healing process for me after my late wife Liz passed away,” he says. “The scenery, the serenity, the challenge; fly fishing has a calming effect on me.”
There are a lot of dynamics in fly fishing and all kinds of different skill sets required. There is wade fishing and drift boat fishing. Fresh water fishing and salt water fishing. Cool weather locales and tropical weather locales. Tobie embraces them all.
“I was fishing in Montana this spring, and on May 24, I woke up to four inches of snow,” says Tobie. “Ten days later, I was saltwater fishing in Florida where we got caught by Tropical Storm Andrea.”
Casting a fly rod comes naturally to some people, but Tobie says he’s still learning.
“I ask different people to show me their techniques, and know that I never want to be an expert,” he says. “I like to think of myself as a beginner…somebody who is like a sponge and learning all the time.”
An engaging part of the sport is fly tying. Fishermen use deer hair, pheasant feathers, rooster tails and other natural or synthetic materials as lures. Many consider tying the flies to be an art.
Just as important as the tools and technique, fly fishing involves dressing for the weather and wearing protective clothing such as wading boots and polarized glasses.
“The rain and the cold really don’t matter,” Tobie says. “There’s never a bad weather day. I just think of it as a bad clothing day.”
Fly fishing is actually Tobie’s second free time passion; photography is his first. He incorporates the two and is an avid photographer while he fishes.
Having learned from past experiences, Tobie now has a waterproof camera.
“When I got the waterproof camera, I thought, ‘Even if it is waterproof, what happens if I drop it?’ So I hook it onto my vest.”
Tobie has even been able to get some great shots of the fish still in the water.