Tidewater on the Fly: Fly fishing in Hampton Roads

Way Beyond the Point

Fly fishing from a cobia’s viewpoint (Photos Courtesy Of Crittenden Studios)

Fishing doesn’t speak to everybody, just like every recreational activity,” says Captain Wayne MacMasters. “If it does speak to you, it’s really an awesome hobby, just an incredible way to decompress and get away from the busyness of our day-to-day lives.”

Captain Wayne MacMasters and a redfish

MacMasters is the driving force of Tidewater on the Fly, which is home to guided fly-fishing tours throughout Hampton Roads. Outside of the organization, he is a physical therapist. MacMasters says he started Tidewater Physical Therapy in 1986, which eventually became Pivot Physical Therapy in 2016 after he sold the company. He received his Virginia captain’s license in the Spring of 2021.

“My dad was a fisherman,” MacMasters recalls. Together, with the young MacMasters taught by his father at his cabin, they would fish Maryland’s Chester River on the Chesapeake Bay. “Fishing comes honestly to me.”

A trip with friends to Colorado in 2008, which included fishing on the Arkansas River, helped MacMasters to remember how much he really loved fly fishing. Since then, he remained deeply involved in the activity and expressed a passion to get into guiding. He noticed, “Nobody here in Hampton Roads was providing guide services in fly fishing. For me, it was sort of an unmet demand — or unmet need.” In 2021, MacMasters said he noticed the change from fishing for fun to professional-level success that allowed him to share his passion with others.

Fortuitously, the path he was about to embark down would give him exactly what he wanted and what Hampton Roads was missing. Now, anglers can choose from three types of fishing outings when booking with him: Bay/Ocean, Inshore/Flats and a custom adventure. Surprisingly, fly fishing isn’t limited to one specific type of outing or location, which MacMasters says proves Hampton Roads is full of good spots. Each option will present a potential catch of the day, given that different fish will frequent their respective areas in specific seasons.

Tidewater on the Fly uses two specific boats throughout different seasons. According to its website, the Boston Whaler Outrage 320 “Outrageous” is excellent for bay and ocean fishing, where you might encounter “cobia, red drum, stripers, black drum, blues or Spanish mackerel.” The Triton 220 LTS can transport anglers to the inshore and flats, where they can catch speckled trout, stripers and redfish.

On his boat outings, MacMasters offers wade fishing opportunities where possible. Depending on the location and conditions, anglers can stand on the shore to fish sometimes, but “in our environment here in Hampton Roads, most of our fishing is done from a boat,” he says. If anglers would like, they can choose to spend all day on the water or schedule a shorter fishing session of a couple of hours.

MacMasters emphasizes how anglers don’t have to seek out faraway locations to enjoy fly fishing. “Fly fishing can be done in all kinds of environments, including all of our rivers and bay systems here in Hampton Roads,” he says.

MacMasters says he ties all his own flies and enjoys the hypnotizing process of casting, stating that it “almost becomes part of the activity.” He emphasizes the benefits of sight fishing, which offers him the chance to peek at the creatures he’ll potentially catch through the water. Usually, he follows catch-and-release practices, which he believes shows “stronger commitment to environmental responsibility and responsible harvesting.”

Throughout his career as a captain, MacMasters of course has some stories to share. Catching cobia gives anglers a run for their money when fly fishing, and MacMasters describes it as an advanced process. But in the summer of 2022, he and his 17-year-old mate, Baylor Rink, “had eight consecutive fly anglers catch cobia on the fly.” Documented on MacMasters’s Instagram account (@tidewater_on_the_fly), angler Cathy Kahlberg recently caught a speckled trout, using a four-pound tippet and measuring 25.75 inches, which he says is a pending IGFA World Record.

MacMasters lost his close friend and fantastic fly fisherman, David Murphy, during that same summer. “We were out on the bay at the time, and when I got news that David had passed, I had an angler on the boat. We had not caught a cobia. We stopped the boat, had a quick moment where we just toasted my friend. Right away, this cobia swam right up to the boat. We all looked at each other, like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that just happened.”

Tidewater on the Fly shares the benefits and fun of fly fishing with Hampton Roads residents, with its impact reaching further within as well. “The coolest thing about my job is I’m with people when they’re at their happiest a lot of times,” MacMasters says. “That’s been a wonderful experience for me, just seeing the pure joy that people have when it all comes together.” 

Tidewater on the Fly
Contact: Wayne MacMasters
Email: wayne@tidewateronthefly.com
Phone: 757-775-7034
Website: tidewateronthefly.com

About Anna Dorl 33 Articles
Anna Dorl grew up all over the United States as a military brat, and she now calls Virginia home. She is a graduate of Christopher Newport University with a degree in communication studies, with minors in writing and film studies. Since graduation, she’s worked in journalism and education. When she’s not writing, Anna can be found hanging out with her dog, Stella, and watching spooky movies.