Fireside Chat: Rob Snowhite

If you want to learn to fly fish in front of the Jefferson Memorial, Rob Snowhite is your guy. The guru behind the Fly Fishing Consultant Podcast, Rob is the D.C. Metro Area’s only full-time fly fishing guide. We had the chance to catch Rob during break between fly fishing lessons to learn more about what he does and how Titan is an essential part of his winter fly fishing gear.

Who is Rob Snowhite?

I’m a forty-three year old stay-at-home dad living in Rutherford, VA. My job is to teach people how to catch fish they are going to throw back, because we don’t keep anything we catch. Some people find that strange, but it’s mainly because I don’t eat fish. That somehow boggles people’s minds.

I have developed a unique fly fishing guided program to teach people how to fish urban waters close to home. To my knowledge, there’s no one else out there that does what I do. As far as I know, I’m the first fly fishing guide that charges by the hour. I do this so people can enjoy the benefits of not having to spend hours driving to a fishing spot. I meet people on their way to work, their way home from work, on their lunch, anytime they have an hour or so they can spare to learn to fly fish. I believe you don’t have to spend eight hours with me to learn to fly fish. I think it’s better to learn how to fly fish in shorter, more frequent bursts.

I’m also the vice president and web developer of the Tidal Potomac Fly Rodders, as well as the webmaster for Northern Virginia Trout Unlimited.

“Urban waters close to home.” Tell us more about that.

The places we fish in the D.C Metro Area are not normal. Sometimes I take clients to fish right in front of the national monuments in D.C. You’d be surprised that you can catch a fish a few blocks from the White House if you know what you’re doing. When you take a lesson with me, there’s going to be shopping carts in the water, litter, graffiti on the overpasses. You’re going to get down there and it’s going to be dirty and gross. You never know what you’re going to find, but that’s where we live. That’s our fishery. I take people to these places because it helps them think about where their water comes from and the cleanliness of our areas.

What types of fish can you find there?

All kinds. Largemouth bass, Spotted bass, Striped bass, smallmouth bass, tilapia, red fish, gar, snakehead, gizzard shad, American shad, Hickory shad. I can keep going (laughs). There’s thirty plus types of fish. You never know what you have until you bring it up. You can catch a four-foot long fish right in the middle of the city.

Fly Fishing on a sidewalk in D.C.

When did you start such a unique fly fishing program?

I quit corporate life in. . .(pauses) 2010? Right before my daughter came along. My wife’s cousin was killed in the Afghan campaign, and I felt like I was wasting my life away sitting in a cubicle all day. I grew up in the outdoors and have always fished. I’ve worked in fly shops all over the country, and customers would always ask me to take them out fishing. I was like, “Alright. I’d do that.” I was also teaching high school at one time and teaching casting lessons on the weekends. After quitting corporate life, I started a Groupon offering fly-fishing classes by the hour and sold over one-thousand two hour trips off the bat. And it’s been like that ever since. I’ve been busy (laughs).

How is your life different than before? Less stress?

No (laughs). There’s still stress, but it’s a different level of stress. I’m constantly watching the weather, because the Potomac river where we fish has a four to five state watershed. If we get a flood, it can take two weeks before the Potomac is fishable again. I’m constantly in touch with what’s going on in the environment, so I can know if my clients will be able to have a good experience while also being safe. It’s important I pick the right spot to take my clients fishing based on their skill level. I also provide the majority of the gear for my clients. I tie flies, keep our boats in repair. Everything.

I imagine this is more of a labor of love than your previous job.

Right. I’m my own boss. And I get to see bald eagles every day. It’s crazy. The wildflowers. The birds, animals. I’m also healthier now. Some days I’m rowing a boat for five to six hours a day for three or four days in a row.

I get to spend more time with my daughter, too. Watching her grow up.

What’s one of the wildest places you’ve ever taken a client to fish?

To fish in this special place, you need a lot of things to go right, but it’s worth it. The water gauge needs to be at least ten feet. You need a westerly wind, a high tide, plus some strange moon. In the tidal basin near the famous cherry trees in D.C., you can fish on the sidewalk. We’re talking three to four-foot long fish swimming next to garbage cans on the sidewalk in front of the Jefferson Memorial, the U.S. Mint, and the Holocaust Museum. It’s absolutely crazy.

Fly Fishing near the Jefferson Memorial

My favorite spot, though, is near Chain Bridge. It’s right below the overpasses with only enough space for three people to stand. It’s completely covered in litter, but it’s near the historic bridges the Union guarded during the Civil War. It’s the place the Algonquin would fish for shad. It’s just a super historic place.

When you are not in D.C., where do you fish?

I have so many clients here I don’t really get to go other places to fish. But when I want to get out, I go to the Great Lakes in the winter. I have a bed built into my Xterra that I sleep in. It’ll be five degrees (Fahrenheit) somedays, but I love it. I don’t really go on fishing trips, but when I go places I take my fishing gear just in case. I always say on my podcast, “If you’re looking to hear about fly fishing in some exotic location or learn about an exotic species of fish, this podcast is not for you.” 

How did you start your podcast?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I wrote one article and submitted it to a magazine, but they were like, “Yeah, no.” I thought if I could just talk I wouldn’t have to comply with all the grammatical rules. So, what if I just talked about fly fishing? It was 2009 when I started. It was just me and the microphone, nervously recording. A year into it my wife and I were in Georgetown when a guy stopped us and asked if I was Rob Snowhite. My wife was very confused (laughs). A producer came along to help about a year and a half into it. Now he’s one of my closest friends. We go fishing every year on Lake Ontario. Now, the podcast is number nineteen on the Education podcast charts on Apple Podcasts. If you want to learn more about fish slime, how fish hear, or the digestive habits of a certain type of fish in the summer, there’s some bizarre stuff I’ll find out and report. And I think people like to learn about that type of stuff.

Would you consider yourself an ecologist of some sort?

My background is in biology, so I bring a lot of research into my podcasts you don’t get with other fishing podcasts or Youtube channels. I’m using my biology degree now more as a fishing guide than anything else I’ve done.

How do you use your Solo Stove?

We are quarantining with a couple other families, and we roast hot dogs on our Bonfire just about every other night. My neighbor got the Yukon, and when we visited them once my wife was like, “We’ve got to get one.” So, we got the Bonfire to replace our old, smoky fire pit that you had to shower after using because you smelled like so much smoke.

I use Titan most often in winter. Sometimes we fish when it’s fifteen degrees (Fahrenheit). Titan becomes a conversation piece with my clients. How it doesn’t make smoke, how the fire burns so hot.

People make fun of us, but we take pride in our meals when we go fishing in the winter. The Titan alone puts off enough heat that we can all gather around to warm our hands up and eat. I’ll pre-make a bunch of French and British soups and freeze them. We’ll then heat them up on the river bank and eat this delicious, hot soup while everyone else on the river is eating granola bars.

What’s next for Rob Snowhite?

I’ve always wanted to start a sandwich podcast. My podcasts now always talk about sandwiches.

Learn more about Rob Snowhite by checking out his podcast, Fly Fishing Consultant Podcast