Jim Richmond has been a close friend for many years and he was one of Chuck Kraft's best friends. Jim is making bugs for Eastern Trophies and we couldn't be happier. Jim was taught by Chuck how to make topwater bugs and we couldn't be happier to have him working with ETFF. See more about Jim below.
I grew up in central Illinois and in the summer of 1953 my father took our family to his home place, Hinton WV situated at the confluence of the New and Greenbriar Rivers, I was 6 years old. Dad didn't fish but his mother and father did and they took me out on Bluestone Lake, a New River impoundment, and I caught my first fish ever, nice bluegills caught with bobber and worm rigs. Dad didn't fish at all and as much as we begged he didn't take us out. When I turned 11 I got a paper routh and a bicycle and ventured out after my deliveries to a local lake. It was mostly private but a kid can get away with a little trespassing. I found a Crappie spot and caught my first fish on artificial doll fly jigs. I joined the USAF in 1966, a year after high school graduation, and ended up on a Titan II missile launch crew in Little Rock Arkansas. The base lake has a good largemouth population and i fished it as much as I could.. After my 4 years military I started to college, spent a year at a junior college in Illinois and then transferred to Utah State University. I did some trout and bass fishing in northern Utah and southern Idaho and in my senior year I got a summer job in Jackson Hole WY doing stream habitat surveys for the Forest Service fishery biologist .My coworker and I worked hundreds of streams in northwest Wyoming. It was a volunteer job and we only got a $6 day per diem pay so we lived on Potatoes and onions and trout all summer.
After graduation I was hired by the San Francisco District of the US Army Corps of Engineers. I stayed there a year and transferred to the Huntington WV District. I operated a field office in central WV for 15 years and worked with state and federal biologists on permit reviews. On a site visit along New River with two biologists, we decided to do a camping float trip on the New. One of the guys worked weekends with a rafting company and was able to borrow a raft for our 4 day trip. After that successful trip the biologist from The US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bill Tolin, and I bought a used raft from the company that loaned us the raft and we started using it on a regular basis.. After two years of doing private trips we decided to start a guide service, the following year, 1987, Bill and I started our guide service. Bill dropped out after a year or so for personal reasons and I continued on my own.
I met Chuck Kraft at an outdoor show In Fishersville VA in the spring of 1988. We talked a bit about rafts as he was interested but didn;t think a raft would work on the James because it was "too shallow and too ledgy!" He probably figured out pretty fast that I didn't know much , I had just started guiding the New River the previous year, 1987. I went to the same show the next year and talked a lot more to Chuck and invited him to come to the New and fish out of a raft, he made several trips and decided to try out a raft on Craig Creek. That trip went well so he set a day a few weeks later to do a James River float, Wingina to Howardsville. We rowed circles around places he could take his John boat, within a month he had a raft. He borrowed one of my rowing frames to copy dimensions and had a frame built over that winter. During that time and for the next several years Chuck taught me and some of my guides (I had a 4 boat guide service at the time and had 7 or 8 boys guiding for me) how to catch more and bigger bass.
Around 1991 Chuck brought the editor of Smallmouth magazine, Tom Rodgers, and we did 3 or 4 floats in the WV section of the New. The last day the river rose and became unfishable so we returned to our headquarters and fished a pond nearby. We had stocked the pond with hybrid bluegills and channel cats and the owner of the pond used to keep a trash can of floating fish food. He fed the bluegills in the evening for stress relief. I took Chuck to the pond and threw out some fish food. The blue gills immediately hit the surface as usual and within a few minutes the channel cats, they had grown fat on that fish food and weighed 2 to 3 pounds, showed up and began sucking the fish food. Chuck said watch this, he went to his pickup and brought back a fly rod rigged with a size 8 CK Nymph. Every time a catfish rose to the surface Chuck put the CK in front one of the cats and the fight was on. I asked Chuck if he had any more of those flies, he asked if I had a fly rod and I said I did. I went back to our headquarters and brought my white true temper yard sale bargain from my college days. I began flailing the rod just down the bank and Chuck yelled whoever taught you to fly fish. I said I taught myself. He replied you didn't teach yourself much!! He told me to come to the James and he would give me a fly casting lesson. I refer to that day as my Paris Island introduction to fly casting, Marine bootcamp couldn't have been much worse.