Fly Fishing and Rock ‘n’ Roll

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Former Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing guide Vince Scheuerman still cherishes time on the 
water as a way to balance the rigors of trying to “make it” in the music business.

photo courtesy Vince Scheuerman

[Editor’s note: I met Vince Scheuerman a few years ago through a mutual friend—a fly-fishing guide with the unlikely nickname “Cupcake”—whom we both had worked with at Hubbard’s Yellowstone Lodge, although at different times. I’ve been following Vince’s musical career ever since, and I asked him to write something about how his passions for music and fly fishing interact. Here’s what he came up with.]

“Don’t throw it back, Dad,” I cried with all the emotion I could muster. Tears followed, as he released a beautiful and sizable largemouth bass back into the Hillsborough River, a few miles from my childhood home in Tampa, Florida. Catch-and-release was something that I couldn’t quite get my five-year-old brain around. 

But those days on the river with my dad, where we were often kept company by swimming alligators, fostered a love for fishing that I will always have. That love of fishing was further cemented after we moved to Maryland, when I was seven, and would take yearly trips to the hallowed trout waters of the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. 

The other passion that I inherited from my dad was a love of music. Around the house, he and my mom would both play their acoustic guitars and sing together, mostly playing folky church songs in their long hair and bell bottoms. (I have the pictures as evidence.) And so, somehow these two loves—music and fishing—that I inherited as a youngster, have defined the path of my life thus far.

Go West, Young Man

Like most teenagers, I couldn’t wait to get out of town. And so as soon as I was given any chance at freedom—at age nineteen, following my first year of college at University of Maryland—I took it. A friend loaned me a book called The Outdoor Employment Guide, and I set about applying to anywhere in the country that 1.) had good fishing, and 2.) was far away from Gaithersburg, Maryland. 

I applied to three fishing lodges: one in the Florida Everglades, one in a remote location in Alaska, and an Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing outfit by the name of Hubbard’s Yellowstone Lodge in Montana’s Paradise Valley. 

My Grampa Scheuerman had given me a fly rod when I was 14 years old, and he had mentored me on the Beaverkill as I caught my first trout on a fly. So naturally, the fly-fishing lodge that was a stone’s throw from miles and miles of blue-ribbon trout water was my first choice. After a successful phone interview with the lodge manager, I pointed my Toyota Corolla west (with my acoustic guitar in the trunk), and headed out to Montana for the summer with one goal in mind—to catch a big trout. 

As luck would have it, I roomed in a rustic bunkhouse with seven or eight professional fly-fishing guides, and when I wasn’t looking over their shoulders, picking up tips on fly-tying, I was on one river or another, trying to perfect my dead drift. (Oh yeah, I had a job waiting tables in the dining room, so I did a little bit of that too.) That summer, I accomplished a few things: I developed a knack for consistently catching trout on a fly, I wrote my first couple of songs on my acoustic guitar, and I  was asked to return for a second summer at the lodge. So I returned the next year and accomplished one of my dreams when I earned my very own professional guide’s license and started taking clients out to catch their own fish.

On the Road

Life took some twists and turns during those college days, and the year after my second summer in Montana, I joined a band. It’s not that I was very good at guitar, but I think my buddies invited me into their band out of sheer kindness; plus, their guitar player had quit. And that’s all that it took for me to catch the music bug. 

I was studying mechanical engineering in school, but around my junior year, school wasn’t holding my interest nearly as well as the gigs we were playing. Although I finished out school and graduated, I had my heart set on pursuing a career in music. 

Shortly before graduation, I’d started a new band in which I was the singer and guitarist, and I threw everything I had into getting our music out there. We recorded our own demos, and immediately were booking shows in our hometown of DC. We soon expanded to playing regionally, then to touring up and down the East Coast, and even made it out to the Midwest. The band was called Army Of Me, and we seemed to be marching over all the barriers to entry in the music industry. With the nice grassroots buzz that we’d built, we signed with Atlantic Records in January of 2006. 

We recorded our debut CD, “Citizen,” shortly after the signing, and then spent the rest of the year touring. We finally released the album in April of 2007, and by the summer, MTV was playing our video! Another dream come true. But then, due to circumstances out of our control, we had to slow things down. Eventually, it became clear that although I’d keep playing music, it might not be with that band.

So, a bit more mature, and having suffered a few bumps and bruises along the way, I did some soul-searching because I wasn’t quite sure what was next. But I found that if you let it, life has a way of opening the doors that are meant to open at just the right time. 

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Vince with a Madison River brown trout, taken during his August 2010 trip to Ennis, Montana.

photo courtesy Vince Scheuerman

Rediscovering the Magic

And so 2010 was a significant year, as my two passions resurfaced. During the summer, after a week of meetings and a solo-acoustic gig in Los Angeles, I boarded a plane at LAX and headed for Bozeman, Montana. An old fishing buddy of mine picked me up, and we headed straight to Ennis, where we spent the week catching more than our share of big rainbows on the Madison River. 

I returned home from that trip re-energized, and headed into the studio with a brand new band that I’d recently formed with some long-time music friends. We’d decided to call our new band River James. The name is taken from the great James River of Virginia, which begins as an icy trickle in the state’s northwestern corner, but by the time it reaches the ocean at Hampton Roads, it’s a mile wide. Waters are ever in my consciousness, it seems. And with a forthcoming release and a concert tour lined up for this Spring, my friends and I are excited to take this River James to places near and far. 

So for me, these loves of music and fishing that have defined my life, now come closer than ever before, as the story continues. There’s a line from Norman Maclean’s book A River Runs Through It that I’ll resist quoting right now, but I think you might know what I’m getting at. . . .

[ You can check out more of Vince’s music at the River James website. Click below to hear the band’s song “Arlington.”]

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