Editor's note: Anglers across the U.S. are buying fishing licenses in record numbers. Following is a story in our new series, Fishing America, representing a slice of American angling pursuits.
If you should meet Jim Victorine wading in a stream or floating in a tube in a lake the Sierras casting a fly, there would be three things that would immediately catch your attention:
• His gorgeous bamboo and graphite rods;
• The unique flies he is tossing out to eagerly awaiting trout and bass; and
• The longest handlebar mustache of any human on the planet.
When he was 11 some 57 years ago, Jim tied his first trout fly. Two years later, he made his first fly rod. And he's been doing it ever since. To anglers in California and around the U.S., he is "The Rod Doctor."
After a stint in the Army, Jim Victorine came home to the San Francisco area to work first in an epoxy company (where he also developed expertise in finishes for fly rods), and then for 29 years in a ceramics company, which made ceramics for the aerospace industry, including some of the space shuttles.
When the ceramics company moved from the Bay Area to Auburn in the foothills of the Sierras, Jim moved his family to be "closer to heaven," in the streams and lakes of the Sierras, and he's been there ever since.
On retirement from ceramics for space travelers, Jim launched full-time rod repairing and manufacturing and fly-tying at the Sierra Foothills Fly and Rod Shop in Loomis, which is known throughout the state and the U.S. as one of the best places to have repaired that favorite old rod that you slammed in the door.
As you might imagine, Jim makes all his own rods, but as for a reel, "It's a Pfleuger Medalist that I got when I was 16," he says with a chuckle.
He has fly-fished all across North America from coast to coast smallmouth and largemouth bass, trout, salmon and shad are his favorite targets. His biggest trout was a 25-inch rainbow, which he released.
A tireless advocate for conservation and for fly-fishing, he has written columns in several local papers as "The Rod Doctor," hosts a radio outdoors talk show, and has been an officer in Granite Bay Flycasters and Northern California Council Federation of Fly Fishers.
Jim's favorite fishing hole is Bucks Lake near Quincy, where he takes his grandkids. Jim normally releases all the fish he catches, but when he is with his grandkids, he says he likes to give them a trout breakfast to get them enjoying nature. At Bucks Lake that means the morning menu could be brown, rainbow, brook or kokanee which all naturally reproduce in the lake.
At sports expos around the state, when Jim sets up a demonstration of his fly tying skills, a standing room-only crowd quickly forms.
Over the years Jim has conjured up a number of his own special flies, including the Victorine Shad Special, Rusty Squirrel (steelhead and salmon), Lemon Drop Shad Fly, Tahoe Show Girl (lake trout), Salmon Redd and the Boogie Woogie.
Perhaps the most famous is the Rusty Squirrel, which he first developed in1974.
I asked him about his favorite fishing. He replied, "When I die and go to heaven, I hope there's a mountain lake filled with smallmouths."
To contact Victorine, write to Sierra Foothills Fly and Rod Shop, 4800 Hidden Oaks Lane, Loomis, CA 95650, or call (916) 652-0408.