Jack Shirk

Owner/Guide

Hi there, my name is Jack. Fly fishing and time on the water is what I’m passionate about, however, my wife might call it an obsession. I started TCTF to follow that passion and build a guide service that challenges the status quo of what a true professional fly fishing guide can be. Check out my bio below if you’d like to learn a bit more about my life & angling journey. I look forward to the opportunity of sharing my passion with you and helping you achieve your angling goals, whatever they might be! 

Jack Shirk - Angling Bio

My angling career started while growing up in West Central Pennsylvania. Fishing, specifically trout fishing, runs through my blood and has always been a family tradition. I can remember my Dad and I’s annual fishing trip to northern PA on the opening day of trout season every spring. This was where my love for fishing was cultivated.

Around the age of 14, is when I went off the deep end and became obsessed with fishing. I had found the sport of bass fishing and was using it as an outlet for my other passion at the time, baseball. It wasn’t long before I had half of my room turned into a tackle room and had saved up enough to buy a small bass boat. Any time I wasn’t on a baseball field honing my skills, I was on a lake with my buddies, trying to catch big ones.  I have extremely fond memories of that time of my life and still have life long friendships that were made. I can remember fishing all day with my buddies, and then we’d all jump in the car and go play our baseball game, somehow finding a way to perform after baking in the sun all day and not eating anything. Ha, good times!

I fished my way all through high school and, of course, played baseball as well. Baseball had most of my time at this age, and I was fortunate to earn myself a Division 1 baseball scholarship to play at Marist College in New York. Even while I was playing baseball in college, I found time to find a few honey holes near campus, which ended up coming in handy when I suffered a season-ending injury after starting the first 6 games of my freshman year. I eventually found myself at a school close to home playing baseball, Pitt-Johnstown. This is where my fishing career took a big leap, thanks to a good friend.

One of my good friends on the team invited me to go fly fishing. It was a tradition in his family that was passed down from his grandpa and father to him. I had never been fly fishing, but my grandfather had left me a fly rod and I figured what better chance to give it a go. In short, that was a defining moment for me thanks to one of my best pals that changed my life and angling direction. It didn’t take long before we were both totally hooked on fly fishing and tying flies in dorm rooms. I wish we would have taken more pictures back then, as it’d be pretty cool to look back at some of those pivotal moments.

In short, we both jumped down the rabbit hole and before I knew it, I landed out west on the front range of Colorado, in part for fly fishing and in part to work for my brother, who had recently started his own company based out of Denver. Those two things were the perfect storm, and after spending my junior year summer in Colorado, I quickly moved back out full-time after graduation. In terms of fishing, this is when things began to really pick up.

I was fishing a lot. Every moment I could. Leaving work and traveling all across the state and experiencing every river I could, learning everything I could. A few sets of tires and boots later I was starting to figure out the Colorado fly fishing game. I was spending most of my time fishing tailwaters and chasing the biggest fish these ecosystems had to offer. Rivers like the South Platte, the Taylor, the Yampa, and the Blue were where I spent most of my time. Of course, l also frequented Colorado’s best freestone streams, like the Colorado and the Eagle. This was a period of crazy growth for my angling skills. I was consuming every piece of knowledge I could and immediately testing its validity on the water, quickly forging my own style and methodologies.

The next catalyst was fishing with some of the industry’s best and learning as much as I could from them. This all started thanks to a good friend setting up a guide trip with Pat Dorsey. Pat’s knowledge of bugs, his river system, and his tactics was something that was truly eye-opening and painted a clear picture of what it meant to be a true, professional guide and master of your craft. I knew at that moment if I were ever to make fishing my career, this was the example I would follow and emulate. Even as a seasoned angler, I continued booking guide trips with experts in their regions and learning as much as I could.

Still in Colorado, I continued to hone my tailwater skills but also began to explore more opportunities the region had to offer, including float fishing and Stillwater (lake) fly fishing. I began to gravitate towards high-elevation lakes and chasing giant rainbow and cutthroat trout. Stillwater fly fishing is a totally different game, but I truly enjoyed it as it shared a lot of similarities with the bass fishing I had done growing up. It requires a different skill set and different methods of thinking, and an added bonus is that the fish are generally bigger. It was also around this time that I did a short stint managing a large fly shop in Colorado Springs, Angler’s Covey. This experience really helped me understand the industry and see it from a different perspective, the good and the bad. I was also to make a lot of great friendships and connections that I still have today.

After leaving Angler’s Covey, I stayed in Colorado for another two years, bouncing around the Front Range. As mentioned, I had gotten heavily into float fishing, which sparked an interest, or obsession, with streamer fishing and targeting large fish with large flies.

It wasn’t long after my wife and I decided to leave Colorado and move to Tennessee. Leaving Colorado after nearly 5 years was not easy, but moving to Tennessee offered world-class opportunities to pursue giant brown trout and presented new, inviting challenges. Now, as I write this, I’ve been in TN for over two years and am blown away. The tailwaters here provide ample opportunities to deploy a plethora of tactics to chase everything from brown trout, smallmouth bass, carp, musky, and more. Streamer fishing is still at the core of my obsession, but I’ve also gone totally off the rails for saltwater fly fishing. I am proud of my success on our rivers here in TN, but I will continue learning every day.

Overall, if you’ve made it this far, I appreciate you taking the time to read this. My biggest goal in fly fishing is versatility; I think it is the ultimate measure of an angler or guide. Can you catch different species in multiple environments at different times of the year, leveraging a variety of tactics? That is what I chase in my angling and guiding.

If you’re interested in fishing together, I’d love to share this passion with you and deliver as much knowledge as I possibly can. If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

All the best,

Jack