THE COUNTRY PUNK
HOME WATER: SHENANDOAH RIVER, WV PRIMARY TARGET: SMALLMOUTH BASS
Sometimes it’s the smallest things that provide the biggest inspiration. If you’ve ever saved a fortune from a fortune cookie, you understand. More than 20 years ago, Travis Edens found a fortune worth saving in the back of a fishing magazine. All these years later, he doesn’t even remember the name of the periodical, but the short story on the back page has never left him.
“It was about a guide up in Canada that was this old, kind of gnarly local dude that just fished that area forever,” Edens recalls. “I wanted to be that guy where I lived. I wanted to become the wise old-timer that knew his water better than any other local.”
Edens, 47, was born and raised in the West Virginia panhandle near Harpers Ferry. His twinge of twang and country-boy ruggedness belie his love of the ’80sera punk bands he grew up seeing in Washington, D.C., the bustle of which lies just over an hour east of the rural Shenandoah Valley where Edens spends more than 200 days a year rowing his clients to heavy bronzebacks. He is one of only three full-time guides in the area, and that low number ties directly to Edens’ deep-rooted love of his home water.
“The Shenandoah gets overlooked because we’re so close to the Susquehanna and the New,” he says. “But its beauty and potential are incredible. If I had the chance to guide somewhere else for more money, I’m gonna sit right here. There’s so much more for me to learn.”
Edens has been learning the “’Doah” his entire life. Two decades ago, he was guiding it on the side while working in the nursery business. When the economy bottomed out in 2008, he decided he was done “working for the man” and began guiding full-time.
“When the bubble burst, I said, screw it, I’m taking the leap,” Edens says. “Stuff had gotten
bad, and it wasn’t going to get any better unless I did something about it for myself.”
Devoting yourself to a fishery might erase the 9-to-5 scheduling, but it comes with a new grind. Rafts need constant mending and cleaning. Lunches need to be made. The clock doesn’t stop when you’re off the water, and in between the trips that pay the bills, Edens still wants to be on the river. He prefers not to fish on a schedule. He gets closer to his goal of being the sage local when he can try new spots, fish a hole as long as he wants, and experiment with new lures and flies he’s not tying on for clients. At 47, he says he still needs more time to become that guy, but he’s getting there. He’s sure he’ll be rowing the Shenandoah when he’s 60, and still partaking in his favorite winter pastime: “Wishing it was summer.”
Edens shows off a hefty Shenandoah River bronzeback.