Ohio Guide Series: Ryan Ratliff

Updated: Dec 10, 2020

Next up in our Ohio guide series is Ryan Ratliff with Mad River Outfitters. Ryan has been fly fishing for almost 30 years and genuinely loves every aspect of fishing.

How long have you been fly fishing? How were you introduced to the sport?

I have been fly fishing for almost 30 years. When I was around 10 or 11 a family friend gave me a fly rod. I was very much involved in conventional fishing so he explained that he didn’t know anything about how to use it, but I would figure it out. My Grandfather would tell me stories of a few local legends that only fished for bass with fly rods. My dream was to one day get that good. I would watch the fly fishing shows on Saturday mornings instead of cartoons trying to learn anything I could. There were no fly shops growing up and extremely limited library resources. The books I could find at the library I would copy pages on casting fly tying and knots. For years I was self-taught/self struggling to figure everything out. I would rob my mom’s sewing basket for thread and scissors to tie flies. Every feather I found would be used to make my versions of flies.

A while later I happened to find an outdoor store a few towns away and bought a real bag of feathers and a fly fishing magazine. From that magazine I sent away for catalogs with color pictures of flies that I tried to tie. Fast forward through many years of struggling, I finally found Mad River Outfitters. Once I was able to drive, I would make the trip up to the shop to buy real supplies and ask many questions. While there, Brian and Jim Andrix helped me understand leaders and bass flies thus starting my true learning.

When did you start guiding and how did you get into it?

I have been taking and teaching people fishing for years. In high school I took many of my

friends and family fishing and showed them what to do. I helped lead many groups focusing on fishing of all types in and after college…well I guess this is what I am still doing all these years later. When I started working at the shop 6 years ago I was asked to start guiding for the shop…this would be my first official paid guiding gig. Teaching and leading has been such a big part of my life and Brian knew of this which is why he felt I was good enough to join the guiding team.

Where in Ohio do you guide? What species do you usually target with your clients?

I guide very seasonally for the shop…meaning every season is a new guiding focus. My home waters of the Hocking River drainage and the AEP ReCreation Lands/State Lands focus from May to October. October through April usually find me on the South East coast of Lake Erie. Also during this time, I am on all of the trout streams in Ohio. I have a diverse range of species and specialties. During warm weather I am mostly chasing Largemouth and Smallmouth bass, Panfish, and Carp. There will be a few specific outings to target trout also. Cooler weather brings Steelhead and trout as the focus.