TEN QUESTIONS WITH YELLOW DOG’S JIM KLUG

This week’s featured team member is Yellow Dog’s Founder and Director of Operations, Jim Klug. Jim is constantly on the road, fishing locations many anglers only dream about. He also is the Executive Producer for Confluence Films, and his photographs and articles can frequently be found in many magazines and publications.

What’s the story behind Yellow Dog? What’s the evolution behind the company?

I basically grew up in the fly fishing industry, working as a young kid in retail fly shops, graduating to guiding, and eventually ending up a National Sales Manager for Scientific Anglers. The position with SA was a good one, but it had me based in St. Paul Minnesota, working in 3M Corporate Headquarters (at that time 3M owned SA). Ironically, the path that I had chose through fly fishing had delivered me to the cubicles and offices of a Fortune-50 company in a city where I did not want to be living! It was right about that time when I started thinking about other options in fly fishing and other possible career moves. The actual idea for starting Yellow Dog probably began during conversations that I had with my good friend Logan Gentry, who at the time owned a lodge in Belize. During those years I was spending as much time as possible down there. I would bring friends and friends of friends - many who would then have their friends or family call me for information and recommendations on fishing down there. That lead to more referrals and more people - most of whom I was sending to Logan’s lodge, El Pescador. Before long, Logan sat me down, showed me the numbers that my “referrals” had been generating, and told me that I should think seriously about starting an actual booking company.  At first, I had zero interest, as it seemed to me that there were a million small-time “booking agents” trying to play in the game.  After I began looking into it in more detail, however, I realized that while there were a lot of people trying to be successful as booking agents, there were not a lot that were really doing it right. I saw an opening and subsequently started Yellow Dog. I left my job at Scientific Anglers and jumped into the booking business with both feet. Of course – about two months after that – the planes hit the Trade Center buildings in New York and the Pentagon in DC and everyone stopped traveling anywhere for the next year.  That definitely made things interesting in the beginning.

Where did the name for Yellow Dog come from?  

When I was naming the company, I wanted something that would really stand out: a name that people would remember. Most of the booking company names out there had names that were pretty similar, and when I would ask people who they had booked through in the past, often-times they had a hard time remembering.  Back when I was guiding in Colorado and New Mexico, I had a great yellow lab that would often accompany my clients and I on the river. When people would return to fish again, they could not always remember my name, but always remembered that they “had fished with the guy with the yellow dog.”  When it came time for selecting a name for the new company, that kind of stuck with me.

You’ve had the opportunity to travel the world, rod in hand. What’s your favorite location so far?

That is a tough one to pin down!  I could probably do a “Top Ten” list, but picking one favorite destination would be tough.  Belize is obviously a favorite, as I have spent so much time there over the years. Its also the place where Yellow Dog was first created. I would also have to add Argentina, the Seychelles, India and Alaska to the list. There are so many incredible destinations out there it is hard to pick a single favorite.

Balancing fishing and photography. Can it be done?

Only if you’re Brian O’Keefe! I would have to say that for most anglers and photographers, it is hard to always be great at both. The only way to consistently capture great shots is to put the rods away and be ready with the camera. Conversely, if you’re holding a camera and always looking through a viewfinder, then you are going to miss a lot of opportunities to fish well and catch great fish. For me, I have always found it best to focus on one or the other. If you would have told me 10 or 15 years ago that I would be spending a lot more time photographing on the water than fishing, I would have told you you were crazy. These days, however, I definitely spend a lot more time with a camera in my hand, and honestly I enjoy it just as much. I will say that a lot of that enjoyment comes from traveling with and fishing with great anglers. If they are fishing well and you are there to shoot is all happening, it makes a huge difference in the quality of your photos.

What’s been your most interesting experience as a photographer?

I would have to say that the most interesting destination for me has always been India. The entire country is basically a photographer’s dream, and everywhere you look there are amazing photo opportunities. When I am traveling in India I always feel like I have literally stepped into the pages of a National Geographic magazine. 

Yellow Dog has been at the forefront of strong fishing travel photography. How important do you feel good assets are to the business?

Unique, original photography is easily one of the most important assets that a travel company can have. You can write as much as you want about a destination or a fishery, but nothing compares to great imagery. The old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” is definitely true when it comes to travel! At Yellow Dog we place a huge amount of value in the quality, selection and the originality of our shots. I am always amazed by how many booking companies use the same shallow stock selection that is provided by the lodges. If you check out all of the different booking agent’s pages for say El Pescador Lodge in Belize or Casa Blanca Lodge in the Yucatan, you will see that many are using the same half-dozen images that were taken by the lodge years ago. When I see that it immediately tells me that that agent has either never even been to the lodge to check things out on their own, or they didn’t bother to research, check out and photograph the details. A ton of original, up-to-date and diverse images are a sign that an agent is on the ground, up to speed and doing their homework at the lodges and destinations.

What’s the one fly you always make sure is in your box?

If its freshwater, then I always have a selection of Kelly Galloup’s streamers. Usually the Sex Dungeon in a variety of colors. From Iceland to Kamchatka to Chile I have always had great results with that streamer! 

Favorite species, and why?

For saltwater, I would have to say permit. They are completely addictive. Large bonefish are definitely a close second, however! For freshwater, the most existing would have to be the Golden Dorado. That said, any wild trout caught in a beautiful setting is still hard to beat. Every time I am lucky enough to bring a large, wild trout to hand, it always reminds me why I love fishing.

You can only bring five items on a trip. What makes the cut?

A camera, obviously.  And a sat phone if I’m anywhere exotic or off the grid. I would also add a great pair of sunglasses, music and a great book.  That pretty much covers the bases!

Walk us through a day in the life of Jim Klug.

I usually wake up around 5:00 AM and sneak downstairs to do an hour of emails and work before the kids wake up. It also gives me an hour to mainline as much coffee as I can possibly consume. Busy morning with the kids and walking or riding bikes to school. I try to sneak an hour in at the gym a few days a week, and then I head into the office. When I am in town and not traveling, my days usually consist of a lot of phone time, meetings and conference calls. Aside from a lot of time spent talking with clients and working on trip leads, there are also numerous industry and conservation calls and meetings that never seem to end! I try and make it home in time for family dinner and putting the kids to bed. I then get a couple of hours with my wife - if I’m lucky. That’s pretty much the “home” schedule. When on the road and traveling, every day is obviously different. Usually when shooting in the field it involves a lot of early mornings and late nights. Great light at sunrise, and plenty of late nights with clients and guides.

So what’s next—what’s on the docket for 2016?

Its going to be a busy year for sure! We have a new Confluence Films movie coming out in April. We have four new programs that we’ve just added to the Yellow Dog line-up, and we just moved back in to our office building after a major renovation and expansion project. I have a new book project that I am starting this fall, and it looks like the coming year will be every bit as busy with travel and exploring new destinations as it was last year (and the year before that, and the year before that …)  My family is also moving into a new house in the near future, and I am starting to realize that moving with three young kids is a lot like relocating a Toys-R-Us store. The one thing I am really trying to focus on, however, is my family.  I am really looking forward to ski season and my kids’ races this winter. My goal is to make it to every single race and event throughout the winter season. To me, that is a huge priority for 2016!