Jeff Feczko is a Renaissance man. He can repair outboards, has a USCG 100T captains license, is working on a pilots license, seafood cook extraordinaire, freediver, fishes for sustenance, award-winning fly tyer (IFTD best saltwater pattern 2022), and built like a miniature Roman sculpture, and the list goes on.
And then there are roosterfish. Jeff’s mom once said to him referring to roosterfish: “I think you have an internal sense for those things. I don’t think you just see them. You feel them.” On top of that, revered Montana guide, Dan “Rooster” Leavens, said of Jeff, “If you split Jeff’s head open with an ax, no doubt roosterfish would come spilling out.” We are excited to add Jeff to our ongoing blog series “Behind the Guides” presented by Costa Sunglasses. Check out the full interview with Jeff below.
Flylords: At what point in your life did fishing start to play a greater role?
Feczko: I’ve fished my entire life but the severity of the issue intensified around the age of 21 when travel became an easier reality.
Flylords: Where is home now and where in the world are you guiding over the course of a year? Where else have you guided?
Feczko: Home now is La Ribera, BCS where I spend my winter to early summer. I have a Mexican work permit as an independent fishing and dive guide and guide here. I then head to Bristol Bay, Alaska to guide with Intricate Bay Lodge in July. In late October I will guide with Los Locos Mag Bay of San Carlos, BCS. I’m planning to check out Colombia soon to explore filling up my slower winter months here in Baja with hosted travel to Columbia.
I started guiding Alaska in Southeast, Ketchikan & Sitka. Then it was Cook Inlet, Bristol Bay and out on the Alaska Peninsula. I spent a few years out in the Seychelles guiding for Alphonse fishing Co at St Francois, Astove & Cosmoledo.
Flylords: Where was your first guide job and how did that materialize?
Feczko: My first guide job was at Silver Salmon creek lodge with the help of the Sweetwater guide school in Livingston, MT. It was a cool experience, much heavier on bear viewing – wasn’t really what I was looking for. Shortly thereafter I got my USCG 100T captains license and started working in Southeast, which I fell in love with for quite a few years.
Flylords: When did you start getting into fly tying?
Feczko: I started tying flies around the age of 11 when I got my first fly rod. I’d basically just thief my Mom’s sewing equipment and make all sorts of hilarious panfish flies and poppers. I became much more proficient with it upon moving to Alaska when I was 22 – whooping up Clousers, bunny leeches, big bait fish etc.
Flylords: What should your ideal client’s expectations be for Baja?
Feczko: To learn! And enjoy becoming a better angler in the most beautiful, relaxing place in the world. It’s a very challenging fishery that requires you to be patient and persistent – helps a lot if you come with a good strong cast, line management skills, and the ability to stay calm under pressure. When targeting roosterfish from the beach – you are testing everything you’ve got.
Flylords: Favorite 3 fish to target and why.
Feczko: Roosterfish: They’re exotically beautiful, rare, strong, extremely selective, and will break you. In my opinion, a Rooster from the beach is the highest accomplishment in fishing.
Jack Crevalle: They are more often than not ferocious and will do exactly what you want. They’ll take just about anything you put in front of them and will do their best to make sure you don’t get it back. To me they are a symbol of strength and resilience, plus they won’t break your heart if you lose one. There is nothing like seeing a pack of 100 or more 20#+ Jacks charging a teaser.
Pargo or Yellowtail: Both are very difficult to catch on fly without added encouragement (chum) They’re both incredibly strong and if structure is present, they will find it if you let them. Easily up there with my favorite fish to eat. Vertical jigging is extremely fun and effective for them.
Flylords: Living in Baja just based on geography alone puts you in a position to have a predominantly fish diet. Do you fish for food? Freedive?
Feczko: Absolutely. My diet is predominantly fish, shellfish, vegetables, and fruit. I usually fish the first light with my surfcasting rigs for food or I suit up and go shoot them with my spear gun :).
There was about a 3 week period this spring where I ate sashimi basically every night.
Flylords: Why Baja?
Feczko: Baja is filled with mystery and still is the wild, wild west. There are still plenty of spots to be discovered and there is a serious element of risk in finding them, which is exciting to me. The topographical diversity and fish species is unparalleled – for example in Mag Bay, we have multiple options of fishing the surf, rocks, mangroves, and or blue water.
The people, culture, language, food, and climate are just as impressive and rewarding. It’s easily my favorite place in all of my travels.
Flylords: Hardest aspects of guiding in Baja?
Feczko: Shrinking access, pressure, and the overall difficulty of the attaining target species.
Flylords: Many American Ex-Pat fly fishing guides in Baja haven’t had the friendliest reputations. What sets you apart?
Feczko: I just mind my own business! I just want to provide people with positive experiences. Life is much more enjoyable when people are respectful to each other – in my opinion, it’s an easy choice to make. We’re all out here doing similar things, with similar goals. Why not coexist peacefully?
Flylords: What question do you want someone to ask you? What’s your response?
Feczko: Why is it that over the past 6 years you’ve gotten more into fishing conventional? Well, it’s frickin rapidly effective and efficient. Certain conditions really call for the spin casting rig. If I’m hungry I’m fishing gear or a spear. It’s not as easy as people seem to think. Can you accurately and consistently throw a 12’ surf rod 150 yds in front of a fast-moving fish? Can you hold your breath for a minute or more at depth and wait for the right moment to make the shot? All super fun and makes you a better fisherman.
Flylords: You seem to be keenly promoting through your own day-to-day life that the entire experience is far greater than the sum of just catching fish. Through freediving, fly tying, crazy good cooking using local ingredients, etc. Is this mindset something that’s new to you?
Feczko: It really is all about the experience and I’ve been on that program for a while – before I started working with fish, I cooked in restaurants – totally makes me happy to cook and it’s even better when it’s something you’ve caught/hunted. I get similar satisfaction from catching fish with flies I tie. I try not to get too tunnel vision with fish goals, when you do it usually works against you.
Flylords: Favorite pair of Costa’s and why?
Feczko: I love the Blackout Fantail, they fit my face well and block a ton of sun. I prefer the Green Mirror Lens because it creates an amazing contrast with the water/substrate color here.
Thank you to Feczko for taking the time for the interview, be sure to check him out on Instagram at @tothegills.
Interview and photos by Nick Price, check out more of Nick’s work out here www.nickpricephotography.com.