Angling is in Toby Wyatt’s blood.
At 39, the Clarkston-based guide handles a fishing rod with the grace of an artist swishing a paint brush.
His grandfather was a fishing guide. His father followed suit, operating Snake River Jake’s guide service in the Lewiston-Clarkston area where the young Wyatt cut his teeth on running jet sleds, oaring drift boats and catching boatloads of fish.
“I’ve been guiding 22 years and I’m just getting my business to the point where I could take time off in prime steelheading season to go hunting,” he said Monday while fishing the Grande Ronde River. “I got my first elk last fall.”
Reel Time Fishing guide service has four regular guides, another four that fill in at peak season, plus a shopkeeper in Clarkston and a mechanic who keeps all the boats running.
Wyatt is licensed to follow the best fishing as it comes and goes in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
“I used to spend July in Alaska guiding for king salmon, but my kids are growing up and my wife laid down the law,” he said. “It’s a lot easier on my family when I’m around. So I take the month off.”
In August, he sets up shop at the mouth of the Columbia River for the Buoy 10 salmon season. In September, he relocates to the Hanford Reach for fall chinook and steelhead.
He returns home in October to target the Snake-Clearwater steelhead fisheries through December.
From January through March he focuses on steelhead in the Clearwater, where he has guide permits for three sections of the river.
He takes April off before jumping onto whatever the ocean provides for a Snake-Clearwater spring chinook season in May.
“Last year, we had a great spring chinook run,” he said, noting that fishing guides are like farmers at the mercy of what nature delivers. “I came out of the season with some financial padding. I took two vacations last year.
“This year’s spring chinook run was weak and the season short. Income was lean and I’m putting off planning even a single vacation. That’s the way it goes.”
A breath later he looked to the sky, made another cast and said, “I’m very lucky to live with this incredible bounty and variety of fishing around me, with salmon, steelhead, bass and even massive sturgeon.
“Thank you God!” he added, as he set the hook on another smallmouth bass.