Curtis Fleming killed an elk scoring 404, what may be the biggest bull ever shot on outdoor TV. (Courtesy FRC)
Curtis Fleming is proud of several crowns he earned this season on “Fly Rod Chronicles,” and smiled through the embarrassment of wearing another.
The West Virginia fly fisherman caught a world record shark and killed what might be the largest elk ever taken on TV, but his angling bet with the Miss America entrant from his state ended with him donning some of her pageant wear.
“Miss West Virginia, Caitlin Gates, and I had a deal,” Fleming admitted. “If I caught the biggest fish of the day, she would have to wear Fly Rod Chronicles attire, and if she caught biggest, I would have to wear her sash and crown around camp.
“You will see me in a sash and crown. She caught the biggest smallmouth.”
Gates and Fleming fished the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers around Harpers Ferry, imparting some history on their state as it celebrated its 150th birthday.
“We were right where John Brown’s raid was,” Fleming said. “It’s kind of like a history lesson; we talked about the Civil War and what it was like in 1863, and we’re floating the same river where there was bloodshed.”
Fleming’s bloodline followed as his wife, Shelly, and daughters were featured on several shows. They all floated the famous Snake River in Idaho but had some serious success out of Jupiter, Fla., where he hooked into a huge shark.
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“I caught the unofficial world record sand bar shark on a fly rod,” he said. “When I say unofficial, to make it official you have to kill the shark. But that sand bar shark is illegal to kill. That was my goal to catch a world record shark.”
Fleming said everybody was high fiving when he hooked the behemoth on a 10-weight fly rod with 20-pound tippet, but the lengthening battle cooled the enthusiasm.
“About an hour later, ‘Who in the hell’s idea was this?’ Two hours later, ‘This is the dumbest thing we’ve ever done.’ It took us 3 and half hours to land this,” Fleming said. “We took girth, length and came up with a weight. This thing weighed over 200 pounds.”
On the same outing, his daughter Autumn, a high school sophomore, landed a giant bull shark. Then during the same trip, Laken, his daughter who’s a freshman at West Virginia University, harvested an alligator with a .223.
“We spun all that into the show we’re calling the Toothy Critters show,” Fleming said. “That’s kind of a neat story. Last year Laken’s best friend was killed in a car accident. Hunter, he loved to hunt and fish, and my daughter never wanted to hunt until he passed away. And this is the first hunt she wanted to do, and she did it in his memory.”
Giving shows a definitive storyline has been a goal of the Fly Rod Chronicles team this season. Fleming said he invited some criticism of his show and took the constructive advice, which was basically to tell a story within every show, complete with climax.
“I’ve really taken their words and we’ve increased our production values and really pride ourselves in making a 30-minute story,” he said.
Those stories are boosted when you have record sharks or the likes of Miss West Virginia – “That won’t hurt our viewership” – or when an elk hunt ends with what might be the largest bull ever taken on camera.
“We went to New Mexico for some cast and blast,” Fleming said. “We’re fly fishermen but we like to hunt, so we put some hunting in there to cross over.”
Last year at The Lodge and Ranch at Chama Land & Cattle Company, Fleming took a nice 7&7 elk that scored 374. He wanted a larger one. He got it.
“It may be the biggest bull ever shot on outdoor TV,” he said. “It was 404 inches. All the research we have done, we have not found a larger bull harvested on outdoor TV.
“It’s going to be a pretty spectacular show – that elk and fishing high mountain streams at 10,000 feet.”
Fleming said he put into perspective for the hunting guide trying to match his kill by catching a big fish: “For me to get a bull like this, me being a fisherman and you being a hunter, you need to catch Jonah the whale.”
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