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Like many avid anglers, James began fishing at a very early age. Thanks to his father and grandfathers, James was able to fish several North Alabama ponds, Guntersville Lake, and the Gulf of Mexico on a regular basis. His fly-fishing experience began at age twelve catching bass and bluegills at local farm ponds and lakes. In his early twenties, he became interested in fishing for the large spawning bass in Central Florida lakes and the St. Johns River. For eight years he spend at least a month a year doing such in addition to fishing other lakes and the Gulf of Mexico as often as he could.
In 1976, he started fishing the BASS pro circuit, along with a lot of other regional and local bass tournaments, and did so until 1980. These tournaments took him from his home in Mobile, Alabama, to such places as Arizona, New York, and Florida competing against many of the pros that helped found the professional bass circuit.
In 1980, James found that he was spending far more time saltwater fishing than bass fishing and stopped competing in the bass tournament circuit to start the first ever syndicated TV series on saltwater fishing called the "Gulf Coast Angler". After a successful first year and several added stations, he changed the program name to "Fishing with James Marsh" and expanded the locations to include the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean. At a that time when there were not any cable TV stations (only three networks and a few independent stations) his syndicated show was able to obtain very high TV ratings at over twenty-five major markets that represented about half of the nation. For example, in the Tampa, Florida market, running at prime time, 7:00 P.M. Sunday nights, his ratings exceeded that of the three other competing programs with the exception of Sixty Minutes. The ratings of several of his programs in markets airing on weekend schedules exceeded that of NBA (basketball) programs.
In 1985, he founded a new business called "Fins N Tales". Fins N Tales produced Bass Video Magazine and Saltwater Video Magazine that provided quarterly videos to it's subscribers. His new venture and its concept, two fishing video magazines, was sold to his partner, Ted Thomas, in 1987. At that time, about the same time that more households had VCRs than not, James began producing instructional videos on fishing. At the end of the first year, he sold one-half interest in his programs to Michael Bennett and licensed Bennett Marine Video, of Marina Del Ray, California (now the Worlds Largest Distributor of boating, fishing and other marine related videos) as exclusive distributor. This same joint venture now has forty-six instructional videos and DVD programs on fishing, over thirtyboating programs, and numerous other outdoor related programs such as instructional GPS videos. Many of these programs are available from companies such as Cabelas, Bass Pro Shops, REI and West Marine. He currently continues to produce non fly-fishing programs for his joint venture with Bennett Marine Video.
In 1992, James begin fishing the SKA professional "Kingfish" circuit, as well as the SAA or "Saltwater Anglers Association" circuit. He competed in these tournament circuits in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico from North Carolina to Texas until 1998. During this time he was sponsored by Ranger Boat Company and was on their promotional staff for their new line of saltwater boats. He tested and helped improve the 25 foot model doing such things as crossing the Gulf of Mexico with twin outboards for power.
During the 1980s and 1990s, James wrote numerous magazine articles for several national publications including Marlin Magazine, Sportfishing Magazine and others. He traveled extensively fishing in several countries. His saltwater fly-fishing experience during those years was primarily limited to sailfish and other offshore species such as dolphin. Most of the other offshore fishing for marlin, tuna, wahoo and such was done with conventional tackle. He has taken three sailfish in one day on the fly off the Mexican coast. Trips to Alaska provided huge rainbow trout, grayling and different species of salmon on the fly.
In 1998, James and his wife Angie, started fly-fishing extensively. He purchased every video, book, magazine and ask every question he thought he could get any angler to answer. Having produced instructional videos on fishing for many years, James was amazed at the low level of both the production quality and content of the videos that were available at that time.
In 1998, James decided to produce his own series of programs that would teach anyone what they needed to know from start to finish. He would have probably named it "The School of Fly Fishing" if similar names had not already been used so often by others. In effect, that is what he set out to do - teach anglers, including those that were just beginning, or those that had progressed to a level somewhere in between a beginner and an expert, what they needed to know in order for them to be able to catch trout as a result of their actually knowing what they were doing without having to rely on pure luck. That why he uses the line, "you can get your Ph.D in fly fishing right here".
Since 1998, Angie and James have fly-fished in forty-four states (James 49). They fly-fish, on camera, year round throughout the nation on a regular basis. As of November 12, 2006, the date this was written, they had already spent over two-hundred days fly-fishing during the first ten months of the year of 2006.
They have caught and made videos on just about every item of trout food that exist,including most all the important species of mayflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies. The production of these programs has and still is taking a lot of time, money and considerable effort. Unlike most fly-fishing videos, their videos are not shot in a day or two at one or two locations. Each one is digitally recorded at numerous location from coast to coast.
Hundreds of hours have been spent capturing, studying and shooting closeups of insects and other trout food. This quickly led to the "Perfect Fly" (see history). From 1998 until the present time, James has created "specific" fly imitations of hundreds of the things fish eat. He has over 180 specific mayfly imitations alone. Thirty years of saltwater fishing experience and hosting 46 instructional saltwater fishing videos provided James a huge knowledge of the food saltwater fish rely on. Designing flies to imitate this food came natural. Production of fly-fishing videos and creating new flies is Jame's profession, not a part time effort to promote another related job, product or business. Teaching others to fish has been a lifetime endeavor for James Marsh.