Eugene Collins says he's not a guide. He then takes people out on the Rock River and puts them on fish. If you go to the smallmouth alliance Blowout you can bid on a guided trip with Gene. And this year, I know that I'm going to bid on every ticket that has his name on it.
So it's time for a personal disclosure. I love the Rock River. He too shares this passion. I have fished a lot of it and lot of the tributaries that feed into it. Most of my fishing has been south of Oregon but not quite to Dixon and then north of Byron up to where it comes out of Lake Koshkonong. For a few years there was a problem after a chemical spill killed a lot of fish. But the river has recovered and the fishing is back to where it was before the spill.
Eugene fishes a section that’s out of Dixon. He has fished most if not all of the Rock and this is the section that he knows best, be it for bass or walleye or even the giant cats that prowl the bottom. But like all good fishermen, if this section isn’t producing, he’ll move to where the fish are.
You can wade Rock but it's mostly a boat river. The good thing is, there are no fly-fishing guides on the rock except for Gene, who’s not a guide. But he'll guide you, of course he's not a guide so he'll fish which is why I think he says he's not a guide. But if he says, "I want to see you catch fish," he's not lying. So what he's doing is using casting gear and a kick ass sonar unit, to find fish and then he puts you on them. (Because he's not a guide. So he says.)
I'd been trying to fish with him for over a year and got an email from him asking, “Hey, you doing anything Sunday?” So I had no plans and it was going to be a nice fall day. I met him at one of the prettiest parks I’ve been to, Lowell Park in Dixon. There’s a nice scenic drive to the boat launch, good parking and for a November day we couldn't have had asked for better weather.
Good guides know a river, really good guides know more than where to fish. They notice things. It's one of the reasons I like fishing with Austin Adduci, he has stories about the river, the history, and so on. It’s why fishing with Eugene is more than just getting into a guy’s boat and going fishing. He knows where the eagles nest, where people write their names in the bluffs that line the river, and where the smallies and muskies can most likely be found.
While Eugene isn’t a fly fishing guide, he’s not bad with the long rod and certainly knows what flies work and is learning more every time he goes out. He doesn’t supply flies or tie them on, cuz he’s not a guide but he has an interesting selection of flies that I tried and one of them, a Craig Riendeau construction name the Sonic Boom worked well. I like Craig, and yes his flies catch fish, but tying them can be a pain. This one was like a roadrunner, a weighted woolly bugger with a spinner. It got the fly down deep where it needed to be. I think next time I’ll use a 7wt and a small sink tip to get a minnow or crayfish pattern down near the bottom, unless they’re feeding on top. I did use a crawfish pattern and minnow patterns and caught fish on both. Nothing of size mostly 10-13 inch fish but enough to keep me interested and busy.
Eugene’s boat handling and control are excellent. He uses a high powered trolling motor to position the boat and maintain a steady drift. His boat is quiet and the 50hp Evinrude that he affectionately calls Rudy, can run at top speed and you can carry on a conversation as you travel up or down river.
The boat layout is better suited for spin and casting gear but I didn’t have much trouble casting from the back of the boat or front of the boat. You might bring a line tamer but I didn’t catch Rudy or Gene, so that was a good thing. Most of your casts will be relatively short so you don’t need a lot of line laying on the deck.
At the end of the day, the fishing was okay. Eugene threw swim jigs, a mix of plastics as well as hard baits. I stuck with minnow patterns and crayfish. I think if I’d of gone with a sink tip there would have been more fish but that’s why there is a next time.
Gene is an excellent guide by the way, for someone who’s not a guide.
But I bet if you called him and asked him to guide you on the Rock, you’d have an excellent time fishing, you’d see some eagles, a lot of unique landscapes, and oh yeah, catch some fish as well. I don’t think he’ll be tying your flies on for you but he’ll have a selection. You might want the following: clousers, craft fur minnows, a short sink tip, and some crawfish patterns.
So can you book Gene for a guided trip?
Sure, drop him an email at email@example.com.
Stuart Van Dorn