Eric and I first fished together Election Day this year, May 8. I was a nervous wreck as a I always am election day. It was my first Day of meeting Eric. We had PM'd each other many times talking muskies and planning trips that never came together until that Tuesday. He came to Huntington and rode with me from there and we drove an hour to Cave Run. Craig was spot on when he said Eric was not shy but quiet and reserved. It seemed that when he spoke it was well thought out. I was impressed by his fishing skills, he hadn't been musky fishing that long but had seemed to master it. We had a very windy May morning to fish out the the famous "flats" where we pounded the weed beds with every lure in the boat. All the sudden BOOM Eric had a fish on, a fat 33" in the net. He caught her on a grim reaper spinnerbait. I remember feeling relieved that he had caught one since he had driven all the way from Clay that morning. It was a good day on the water and off getting to know a fine man.
I didn't know what he did for a living and we shared a laugh when I told him I was a Magistrate and he replied, "Well Judge, I am Trooper". It seemed to fit him well being a trooper and we as citizens of this state were fortunate to have him watching out for us and upholding the laws of our great state. He and I stayed in touch and and fished the elk a couple of times. Ive been fishing twice since hearing the news about Eric and have thought about him, a smile comes to my face as I'm typing this because I have faith he is in a better place. We live in a strange world where the good die young and bad things happen to good people, I'm sure i will struggle to understand this for the rest of my life. I remember watching a Musky DVD once and the guy was talking about when he died he didn't want pearly gates, he wanting a musky lake. That makes me think of Eric, ill bet he has found his Elk river in the sky and is burning a black cowgirl right now. I will come say goodbye to you tomorrow Eric, RIP.
Mike Woelfel, "muskymike" Huntington, WV
The first time I met Eric in person....
As you guys know I spend most of my time on the water chasing muskies. A couple years ago I had the go ahead from my wife to spend Saturday on the water. My buddy that normally fishes with me calls me Friday evening and says he just got called out to work and wouldn't be able to go. I still wanted to go but didn't have anyone as a backup plus it was getting late. I figured what the heck and posted here on WVAngler that I wanted to go and my back seat was open. Within 20 minutes of posting Eric and I were on the phone making plans. At this point Eric had never fished for Kanawha river muskies. We decided on the upper Kanawha and planned to meet the next morning.
4am Saturday morning I pull into the South Charleston Bob Evans and Eric was already there. He jumps out of his truck and says "hi Jeff I'm Eric" he grabs his rods tosses them in my boat and off we go. We talk a bit going up the road about muskies and how we had high hopes for the day. The first few hours on the water were fairly quite but as the day went on we spoke of baseball and his time at WV state. We also talked about him getting ready to attend the Trooper academy. Mostly though he couldn't get over fishing the big river making the super long casts or working a dropoff or some off shore structure. He just couldn't get over how different it was then fishing the Elk. By the end of the day we had raised a few fish and even though we never boated one we had became buddies.
This spring I had posted some photos of some lures that I had made. Eric quickly posted back looking for something specific. He had a hunch about a color but couldn't find what he wanted anywhere so he asked if I could custom make the color. I said sure. A couple weeks later I sent him a photo of what I had come up with and he loved it. We were having a hard time getting together with our schedules and just kept putting it off. We both figured we had all the time in the world and there was no hurry. I wish that were true. Eric never got to test his custom color on the Elk muskies. I don't fish the Elk much but I just might this fall to see if he was on to something with this color.
Jeff Cantley "spinnerbayt", South Charleston, WV
I learned a valuable lesson about spending time with people when you get the chance from Eric's death. Eric and I texted or talked about every day. A few weeks ago we were both having a bad day and he asked me to meet him at Pies and Pints in Charleston for some beer, pizza and talking about our women problems! lol
I was tired, depressed, and just didn't feel like driving to Charleston. I told him we would another time. Well of course another time didn't happen and never will. Make time for those you care about. You never know when your time or theirs is up.
Eric and I were texting the day he was shot about fishing this past weekend. I will always treasure that text. Last one I got from him said, the Elk looks great.
Scott Smith "muskiecrazy" Hurricane, WV
What I am about to write is one of the toughest entry's to the Brookie Report. Back in late August, a chilling text chimed in about a shooting involving two West Virginia State Troopers near the Wallback exit on I-79. My first initial fear was that a fellow angler and friend was involved. That night, many of us didn't sleep, constantly checking our phones and social media for any updates available. Hours later it was confirmed that in fact, our brother Eric Workman was involved in the tragedy. Eric fought a few days longer, and then on a Friday afternoon he joined God and the angels in the heavens above.
Eric Workman was one of the top musky fisherman in the state. Musky fishing is addictive I have learned. It's an indescribable adrenaline rush that leaves your knees buckling when you see the wake of the musky chasing your fly, not to mention your heartbeat racing while holding the toothy predator. Eric was addicted to catching musky. Many say it's the fish of 10,000 casts, but it was almost if Eric laughed at that figure... decreasing the ratio to just hundreds probably. Zach Adkins told me that Eric came to the point of not fishing for any other species (other than steelhead runs in the fall).
This summer when the trout streams were low and clear and battling warm temperatures with minimal flow, Zach and I began musky fishing. On WVAngler.com, a few of the guys such as Nathan Rees and Craig Miller were constantly posting pictures with gigantic flies hanging out of the predator's mouth, all tangled in their razor-sharp teeth. I said to myself, "This I gotta try!" I soon found out it was much harder than it looked. My first time out, I was with Grant Harsh last summer and unexpectedly I had a 36" musky inhale my fly. I battled it to the boat, and like a rookie, I tried putting the fish on the reel as I would with most other large fish (the big salmon species that I'm used too). The musky laughed at me and spit the fly as I gave him too much time to win the battle. In the next couple of days, I saw Grant catch one on the fly and we raised probably 8 more muskies but they never committed. This is when the seed was planted. I love a challenge and at this time, it was on my list. So a year later, this summer Zach and I started fishing for muskies more and more. I would rarely raise one on the fly, and also watch Zach catch a few on his baitcaster....
....Yeah, I was discouraged. It was around a few months back in July that I remember talking to Eric last. Zach was driving and I was texting Eric on the way home about my frustrations. He explained to me it isn't easy trying to catch one on a fly and I can easily wear myself out doing so. I asked "Eric, should I just put the fly rod down and try to catch one on the baitcaster?" Of course he said yes and that Zach would take care of me with the gear and what to do. So I kept trying... and nothing. I just kept raising more musky but they wouldn't take the lure. I even tried fly fishing for them again and no luck. The day that it was announced Eric would rest with God, my boss told me "Get your ass out of the office and make him proud." I went to the stream and had an amazing day moving five different muskies, one of them was a baby and struck my spinner, but he missed, and I also fought a pretty big musky that of course got off the hook. I was jumping up and down in excitement yet full of frustration as I was so close to catching one. I knew Eric was looking down, entertaining me and probably laughing at me at this point, calling me a rookie!
A few weeks later, Curtis Fleming (host of Fly Rod Chronicles) called the WVAngler guys and friends wanting to dedicate a show in honor of Eric's life. Everything came together smoothly and I had a good feeling about it. So many people contributed to the weekend filming. Graceland at D&E provided lodging for the crew and Eric's family, Texas Roadhouse provided amazing dinners, and top 20 billboard country artists "Taylor Made" provided the entertainment. It was an amazing weekend to say the least. All we needed was musky to be caught on film in honor of Eric. If there was going to be a time to catch my first musky, this was it.
Wednesday evening, Nathan Rees and I took his drift boat out and basically did a warm-up session. Nate is the man when it comes to musky on the fly. I consider he and Craig Miller to be the godfathers of casting flies for toothies in West Virginia. After getting some tips and fine tuning what I had already learned over the past year, we called it a night and headed out the next day with the camera ready. We took turns casting and rowing, enjoying the great weather and sharing memories of Eric. I came upon a log jam that just looked "musky-ish"... I had a perfect cast, the giant meaty fly sunk low and I began stripping the line violently back in. As there were logs everywhere I was trying to watch for any type of movement to dart out. "Musky... Musky.... Nate.... Musky...." One came out of the depths and then it froze. Nate questioned me if it really was a musky. I second guessed myself because it had been a slow day thinking maybe it is just a log and "am I seeing something??" So I gave the fly line a fierce rip and then saw the musky quickly follow...
"MUSKY! MUSKY! MUSKY!" Nate finally saw what I had and we went spastic. I stripped the line in so fast, my fly was at the boat right next to the oars. At this point I didn't even flinch and I ripped the fly out of the water. Nate screamed "NOOOO!!!!" ...as I probably should have kept the fly in the water and started to figure 8. The only explanation I could think of why I did that was early in the summer, Zach and I crept up on a musky "sunning" in the open water. He said "Paine, cast that fly right on top of the musky." I followed "Seriously?? I don't want to spook it man!" He said "trust me...." Well, he was right and that musky immediately tuned in and followed the fly. So that's exactly what I did all in one motion. When I stripped the fly to the boat and saw the ore, I ripped the fly up and slapped it as hard as I could back in the water in a split second. After one giant strip of the fly line, the "baby bass fly" darted and the musky INHALED it!!!!! It was unreal!! The beast started thrashing on top of the water and this time I wasn't about to put that baby on the reel! Nate netted the fish within secondas and the celebration began. I think everyone within a mile radius could hear me. "I DID IT!!!! I CAUGHT A MUSKY!! THIS ONE IS FOR YOU ERIC!!" I think Nate was just as ecstatic as I was. We were both shaking and my knees were buckling holding this 40" fish up for photos.
Myself holding that 40" on the fly! This one was for you Eric!
As I'm holding the toothy fish, I started laughing... I said "Eric, I proved you wrong brother, I got my first one on a fly!" I guess he figured I had put enough time and frustration in to get one. Nate and I continued to scream, laugh, and I think a few tears in happiness may have snuck out. About 15 minutes later I remember total silence. Nate and I looked at each other and words couldn't describe what we were feeling. We broke into laughter and relived the catch. After Nate rose a few more musky but no takes, we headed back to Graceland and it was all smiles and high-fives from there on out. This was definitely my most memorable catch ever.
The next day Zach and I headed out in his John boat and it was unreal. We both hooked into musky and lost them on the fly within 45 minutes of fishing. By the end of the day, we moved a total of 13 muskies! Zach ended up catching one on a crankbait as we hit some deeper water. That's what Eric would have wanted him to do anyways rather than continue to wear ourselves out casting flies that weren't getting down enough. The next day we floated along side to Nathan and Zach "Woolybugger" Pittman. It was a colder, rainy day and we didn't even move a fish. However, Nathan finally got one to take in the afternoon and was able to get the action on film.
Zach Adkins with a Musky for Eric
Nathan Rees with a Musky on the Fly for Eric
What a weekend, what an experience, and what memories were created... We presented his parents the honorable WVAngler of the Year Award for 2013, listened to them speak and his baseball coach tell some stories, and shared the brotherhood of what WVAngler is all about. It truly is a family and I would do anything for these group of guys.
Presenting Eric's parents the WVAngler of the Year Award - 2013
The WVAngler Crew with Curtis Fleming
Eric, Rest in Peace brother. May God bless your soul. Keep watch on us anglers and let us carry out your passion. Thanks for everything and you'll never be forgotten. This was truly a celebration and in honor of you. As Zach said best, "Fish on brother, Fish on..."
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
Thanks to everyone involved for making last weekend a success and celebrating the life of Eric Workman. For those interested, the show is projected to appear in late January on the Outdoor Channel.
Jonathan "Brookie" Paine
I know that a handful of you have met and/or fished with Eric over the last several years, while a much larger majority on the WVAngler.com board only know him with from his numerous muskie and buck pictures, typically accompanied by few, if any words. I’d like to share some of my experiences with Eric now so that the people who didn’t have the pleasure of meeting him can catch a glimpse of just how special of a person he was, and how much different our world will be without Eric Workman. The following will also hopefully help me grieve and slowly come to terms with the loss of a friend.
Eric loved to hunt. This was well known. His recent tri-fecta of big bucks in a short span of one season was really and truly unbelievable. Surprised yet again, the pictures of the large bucks he sent this year were enough to convince me that his previous season could actually be topped. No short feat for anyone who has seen that season’s racked and mounted trio of whitetail bucks hanging on Eric’s wall.
Eric also loved to fish, particularly for muskies, and he did this well. He learned how to muskie fish the old fashioned way: through trial and error and repetitive time on the water. He always had an open mind to new methods, lure selection, and fish location. The muskies on the Elk River were dialed in on Eric, and Eric was dialed in on the Elk River muskies. More times than not, Eric would put at least one fish in the boat. Anything less, and even though his goal may not have been achieved, he never complained or whined, like several of the other fisherman that I know. He didn’t have to complain. He knew he’d get them next time.
Friends always joked about the Elk River muskies resting easy when Eric was working or away from the water. Yesterday, one of our mutual friends stated that as much as the Elk River muskies must have feared Eric’s presence, the fish must have known that he was much more of a friend to them than an enemy. Eric released all of his fish. He took extra care of them, and as far as I know, never lost one to fishing mortality. In addition, he helped record catches, and in turn presented that information over to the WVDNR fisheries biologists studying population growth, dynamics, and movement. He was provided with a scanning device by the WVDNR, which permitted him to scan the fish’s vital information via a computer chip implanted in the fish. With as many muskies as Eric had caught and recorded, I can only imagine how important that information must have been, and how greatly appreciated it was received.
He rarely ate while we were fishing. Even if it was an all day event, the most I could convince him to eat was two slices of bread, some meat, and a slice of cheese. Crackers as a side snack, and we both carried on one afternoon about how we familiarly knew what “nabs” were, and how they so closely reminded us of our fathers. We’d go without water, until the point of near heat stroke, just to get one more cast in…. We had fished one day in the blaring heat, and Eric didn’t have a hat. Said he didn’t really need one, and didn’t really like to wear one while fishing. Well, I had an extra one in the bag, and by mid-day and near 90 degree heat, you better believe that hat was on his head. Over the course of the next couple of months, Eric began wearing hats again, which was easily noticed in his most recent muskie catches posted on WVAngler.com We joked about it some, and I would write “nice hat” in the comment section on his muskie posts, while he would say something like, “nice shirt” on mine.
I’ve fished with a lot of people over the years, and I can say that Eric was the most thorough and accurate caster I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing a boat. Eric showed me the importance of multiple casts and angles. Pitching repetitive casts to the same structure yields mixed results. Adding and playing the angles to that structure can make all the difference in the world between a musky strike and a musky nap. A lot of times it’s the little things that make the difference, and you could see that in Eric’s success as an outdoorsman, as well as an individual.
Eric enjoyed fishing with my golden retreiver Logan Robusto and I. He wanted a dog, but he wanted to wait until the right time. When the time was right, Eric got a puppy. Along comes Jade, his fishing partner and travelling companion, who also happens to be a fairly wiry wiemerimer, not considered to be the easiest of breeds. Sweet as can be, but a handful at times. Eric’s patient and level demeanor really was a great match for Jade. He loved his dog, and I bet Jade is staring at the door right now wondering when Eric is coming home.
I wouldn’t necessarily call Eric shy, but more of a quiet individual who listened intently and took it all in. He was fairly tightlipped about his honey holes, as one should be when it comes to the big toothy, but once you had gained his trust, he was more than open about fishing locations and techniques. He was a stand-up guy.
People you meet come and go, but when I met Eric, and the more time that I spent with him, I knew that I had made a friend for life. I could see us chucking muskie baits and flies on the Elk while we were in our 70’s. Even today, I have a tough time putting how I feel into words. I had the utmost respect for Eric. Heck, even if he was a school custodian, I would have had respect for the guy. That’s how I felt about him. I will deeply miss Eric, and know that his potential was never given the chance to be fully obtained. I know a lot of others will miss him as well. Eric is in a better place now, and I’d like to think that he and my recently deceased golden retriever Logan are planning their next muskie trip right now in the great gig in the sky. RIP my friend.
Craig "millatime" Miller