Doug McKnight is the program director for the Bahamas and Honduras. Having spent over 5 years at Yellow Dog, Doug has fished around the world and thankfully we’re still lucky enough to call him one of our own on the Yellow Dog team. Along with an accomplished angler, he's also and expert fly tier. His office desk is adorned with a vice ans strewn with materials - even as the interview was being conducted Doug was placing his just-finished flies into baggies that were on their way to Cuba. Fortunately, in the rare slow moment at Yellow Dog, Doug had enough time to sit down and chat.
Why Fishing? What got you into it?
I grew up hunting and fishing with my dad and grandad in Pennsylvania. From an early age, I was fishing my grandad’s pond (keep in mind there was a high fee for fishing that pond like mowing an acre of grass or chopping a chord of firewood) it came with a price! But I just remember being terrible at it when I was younger, and probably by the time I was driving age I had really got into fly fishing and tying my own flies and what not. I was lucky enough to have had a fly shop take me under their wing and that’s where I really grew as an angler. And once I hit 18 and was out of school, that’s when I really got into it.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I don’t know, and I still don’t know. I just know I want to fish!
When you’re not fishing, what’re you doing?
When not fishing I like spending time with my family and working in the yard like gardening, mowing, or splitting firewood. But the bottom line is that I love being outside, especially in Montana where there are only a few months of beautiful (non-winter) weather. It’d be criminal not to take advantage of the good weather. I love floating and fishing the Yellowstone, but even if the fishing’s not good, I just love being on the river and maybe walking gravel bars with my kids and finding neat rocks.
What do you think about these fly fishing social media celebrities?
They’re both great and bad. To start off strong immediately with self-aggrandizement and self-promotion seems fake. A little more modesty would be nice, they could do a little more listening than talking. But if they don’t learn quickly, there is certainly people who have no problem voicing their opinions and who are willing to chime in. I guess everyone needs to start somewhere…
If you could go anywhere, where would it be?
I always answer, the next trip I’m headed on! In this case, the next trip is one to Andros in the Bahamas. But maybe the “one trip” would be to the Florida Keys with a buddy to fish for laid up tarpon in the Everglades. Florida is tough and not the cheapest, but when you develop a good relationship with your guide, you’ll spend all your money on a place like that! Pursuing tarpon in stained water while they grab small flies is pretty awesome.
What’s your favorite band?
The Dead. Hands down.
What’s your biggest client fail?
Well this isn’t really a client fail but more of my mistake. I have a well-to-do client who has a $15,000 drift boat and he insisted on us using it that day. I prefer to use my own boat, but I went along with it. Also keep in mind this is the one and only drift boat he’s ever owned. I’m sure every guide has one of these clients, but he’s the one where you just don’t seem to get the fish, ever. Anyway, his boat and trailer were on my truck and it was my turn to put the boat in. I backed up to the water, but this is one of those put-ins where you can’t see the boat once it gets a little steep. But all of a sudden, I see in the rearview, the trailer hanging by nothing but the safety chains. I got out and went to look, and what happened was that the spare trailer tire – where on most trailers is stored horizontally, but on this trailer, was stored vertically - had hit the lip on the ramp and popped the trailer off the ball. What made it worst was that when it popped off the ball it also popped the winch strap off the boat! And this was where I really messed up. I didn’t attach the safety chains for the boat! So there it was, my client’s $15,000 drift boat just balancing on the trailer, and with only the slightest breeze would be in the water and long gone in the Yellowstone. Obviously, that would not be a great start to the day – watching your boat drift off downstream. The morale of the story is to always attach the boat safety chains. It doesn’t matter where or how far you’re going, always attach them.
What’s your favorite drink?
Cold American style beer! Actually, I like all the Bahamian and Belizean beers as well. So, it doesn’t have to be American.
If you could choose one actor to portray you, who would it be?
For sure Denis Leary.
What’s your favorite hatch, take, or story?
That’s hard to pin down, but my favorite hatch would probably be the Mother’s Day caddisfly hatch on the Yellowstone. It’s a short window and you really only have one day before it blows out. You look at the graphs and just see a wall of water coming down from Yellowstone. But in that short time there are mats of bugs on the banks and in the eddies, and the water’s dirty as hell with only about 6” visibility. But during that time, you have shots at fish over 20" shots at behemoths - there are good fish chowing down.
I remember one overcast evening fish the Mother’s Day hatch, I was creeping up a fast bank and of course fish were rising to all the caddis. But probably 20’ feet away it literally looked as if a 50 lb sandbag was tossed in the water! It was definitely a fish - a monster had taken a smaller fish rising for caddis. I moved up and tried dries and streamers through that water but that alligator brown was gone. In fact, a lot of the old timers would say they only fish streamers during the hatch for this very reason!
If you ever have the chance to stop in the office be sure to swing by Doug’s office and say hello. He’s a wealth of knowledge and has some great stories to boot.
Be sure to contact Doug with any questions about the Bahamas, or Honduras, or Montana, or fly patterns – maybe we should just say contact Doug with any questions about fishing, because he’ll know the answers.
Yellow Dog touts more talent and experience in its office than any other booking agency. Period. You can probably tell we like to brag about it.