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Total Outdoorsman: Learning On The Fly

All four of Boatwright's fly fishing outings have come in Total Outdoorsman Challenge

By: Steve Rogers,

Tom Boatwright has won two championships in the Field & Stream Total Outdoorsman Challenge, which is seen Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on the Outdoor Channel, and he hasn’t become a yearly contender in the series by limiting himself.

But his limitations have always been made quite clear during the fly fishing portions of the competition.

“I have been fly fishing four times in my entire life – the four times I’ve competed in the Total Outdoorsman Challenge,” said Boatwright, who won the TOC title in 2009 and 2011. “It’s just not something you get to do very often down here in south Alabama.”

Throughout his time in the series, Boatwright said he has made it a point to work toward improving his fly-fishing skills.

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“I’ve learned to look at it like any other kind of fishing,” he said. “The big ones are going to be hard to catch, and the little ones are going to be more aggressive. You just hope you can aggravate the bigger ones into biting.”

But the challenge of trying to improve on the fly has made Boatwright appreciate fly fishing, even to the point of considering trying to do some recreationally in the future.

“I learned early on that I was using the wrong line. Then I figured out you really have to sneak up on the fish. I was hiding behind trees and everything else,” he said. “But yeah, I would love to try it some more. If I ever get up north or somewhere you can do it, I would definitely look into it. A lot of fun. A real challenge.”

A 42-year-old carpenter from Perdido, Ala., Boatwright first learned of the Total Outdoorsman Challenge through a local bass club and immediately wanted to participate.

“If someone put a dollar on it, we were always willing to give it a try around here,” he said, laughing.

Aside from sometimes in the fly fishing, Boatwright said he has been able to perform well in the different aspects of the competition – archery, shooting, all-terrain vehicles and other disciplines of fishing.

“I haven’t been real good at any of them, but I’ve been pretty decent at all of them,” he said. “I’ve grown up fishing in every river, lake and mud hole I could find. Hunting was the same deal. If there was a season for it, we were hunting.”

In recent years, however, Boatwright said he has become more involved bow fishing for monster-sized alligator gar, chiefly in Alabama’s Mobile-Tensaw Delta. A 123-pounder he caught is the largest ever taken by bow in the state.

“I’ve always bow hunted for deer,” he said. “Did a lot of turkey hunting, some bass fishing. But we’ve started spending a lot of time with the bow fishing. We’ve caught some big ones, and those can turn into four- and five-man jobs, I promise.”

For video of the Total Outdoorsman Challenge, click here.

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