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On the North Branch of the Potomac - with Curtis Fleming and Coach Bob Huggins

By Julie Perine on September 23, 2012

 

Somewhere around the time the West Virginia University basketball team faces the Texas Longhorns - or maybe the Baylor Bears - Coach Bob Huggins will be featured on the Outdoor Channel, a special guest of Bridgeport High School graduate Curtis Fleming's "Fly Rod Chronicles."

Filming of the episode is still in progress – and will include some Mountaineer hoops footage - but most of the shooting took place during a two-day fly fishing excursion right here in the Mountain State.

The cameras followed the adventure shared by four anglers: Fleming and his daughter Laken and Huggins and his daughter Jacque.

“It was a two-day float trip on north branch of the Potomac - a very cool river,” Fleming said.” It’s known for its trout fishing, but also for its bass fishing. We did our first-ever bass fishing on the fly rod.”

The trip was hosted by Harold Harsh of Spring Creek Outfitters. All those aboard reported first-time thrills and unique highlights.

Huggins cast a fly rod for the first time. Jacque, an avid outdoorswoman and angler, was thrilled to be part of Fleming’s series. Laken Fleming had her own agenda.

“First of all, it was a great experience for me to meet Coach Huggins. He’s my all-time favorite coach,” she said. “I’m a huge fan of WVU basketball.”

And she’s pretty hoops smart too, according to her dad.

“She knows more about college basketball than most men. While the WVU games are going on, she’s yelling at Turk (Deniz Kilicli) and Da’Sean (Butler) stuff like – why dribble up the side? If you want to break the press, you have to go through the middle,” Fleming said. “Let’s say she gets the game.”

Jacque Huggins is, likewise, well-versed on her outdoor adventure sports.

“She’s a huge outdoorsman. She loves to bow hunt and loves to fish,” Fleming said. “Here’s this blonde girl, which you don’t usually associate with hunting and fishing. You usually think of ugly guys with beards – and chewing tobacco.”

She said she had the time of her life.

“It was amazing, actually. I’ve been on charters, but never anything like this with guides. They were amazing and taught me so much and I really got into the fly fishing thing,” she said. “It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I caught some small-mouth bass and some pretty good-sized sunfish.”

It was an interesting group, which generated not only plenty of fish, but also plenty of diverse conversation.

“It was mainly Laken and me in the river raft, with Coach Huggins and his daughter in another,” Fleming said. “But then the coach and I ended up fishing in a raft together – and a lot of that TV will have to be bleeped out.”

There was a lot of basketball talk – within the group and otherwise, Fleming said.

“Every chance the coach got, he would sneak off to his cell phone and talk to his assistants about recruiting,” he said

Huggins said he shared one particular phone call.

“It was really neat because Da’Sean called when we were standing there, just getting ready to get in the water,” he said. “I handed the phone to Laken because he’s her big-time hero.”

Talking on the phone with Butler was definitely the best action Laken caught on the trip, she said.

The real angling competition was between the elder Fleming and Huggins.

“(Huggins) is the most competitive person in the world,” Fleming said. “The way you see him on TV – all animated. That’s the way he was on the river. He was fishing before I even got in the boat.”

There were mixed reports on the results of that two-man rivalry.

“I out-fished Fleming,” Huggins said. “I caught two more than him. And I have witnesses.”

Fishing – and fish stories – aside, the trip had a major relaxation factor, Huggins said.

“It let me kind of get away and not worry so much about the phone and people calling and all those kinds of things,” he said. “For me, it was a great release.”

It also had a serious note and one on which the dueling fishermen were in complete accord.

That was plans to benefit the Remember the Miners Campaign, a cause about which Huggins is quite passionate. It’s the nonprofit organization he started when 29 miners perished in the April 5, 2010, mine disaster in Montcoal.

“Here’s the side of Huggins people don’t know. When that happened, he was in the Final 4 and lost a big game to Duke,” Fleming said. “He left his players and flew back to West Virginia, grabbed everything from pizza to water, then he and (former Governor) Joe Manchin went down there and stayed with those miners and windows.”

It’s an experience which grabbed Huggins in a big way, he said.

“I think things like that happen and everyone feels terrible and then they go on about their lives,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that the people knew that the coal miners are the heart and soul of West Virginia and that we would remember what they did for us on a daily basis.”

Fleming, who has come on board with the charity, is a good fit.

“My father was an underground coal miner for 29 years and my grandfather died of black lung. And with both my grandfathers, my cousins and uncles being in the industry, I will be getting involved with Remember the Miners and it will be ongoing with FRC,” Fleming said.

The 2nd Annual Friends of Coal Bob Huggins Fish Fry, held Aug. 31 at the Morgantown Event Center with special guest Jerry West, raised some major funds to provide scholarships for children of deceased West Virginia miners through Remember the Miners. The event also raised money for the Norma Mae Huggins Cancer Research Cancer Research Endowment Fund, a foundation started by Huggins in honor of his mother, who nine years ago lost the battle with cancer. 

An impromptu decision, the guys even planned a second fishing trip, which was auctioned off and in itself, raised $15,000. Four individuals pledged $3,500 each to spend a day with Fleming and Huggins at Harman's North Fork Cottages. To be held this spring, the trip will be hosted by Todd Harman of Harman's North Fork Cottages.
 
Fleming and Huggins not only became newfound fishing partners and supporters of the same West Virginia charity, they also became fast friends.

“Curtis is really easy to be around. He’s got lot of energy and he’s an easy guy to talk to,” he said. “He’s a good guy.”

Fleming – whose aspirations of a college basketball career, were shattered right along with an Achilles tendon – teased Huggins about maybe being a walk-on.

“I said, ‘What do you think, Coach? Even though I’m 46 years old, could I still be on the team?’”

Huggins passed on the offer, but he might just cross over to competitive fishing. He said he’s qualified; that’s for sure.

“I’ve always kind of thought that when I was done with basketball, I might have a fishing show,” Huggins said. “I don’t know if I’m as funny as Curtis, but I might catch more fish.”

It’s still five months out, but Fleming knows that the "Fly Rod Chronicles" father-daughter show will be a slam dunk.

Other highlights will include an interview with WVU President James P. Clements, some behind-the-scenes locker room footage and game clips.

“The show will have a very good feel to it,” he said.

To learn more about Remember the Miners, click HERE.
 
Editor's Note: Pictured on the cover and top are left to right: Coach Bob Huggins, Jacque Huggins, Laken Fleming and Curtis Fleming. Below that, Laken and her dad show off a small-mouth bass; Huggins displays his relaxation technique and Huggins and Fleming give the Aug. 31 Fish Fry a big thumbs up.
 
Also on the trip were guides Harold Harsh, Danny and PJ, who put the anglers on the fish, packed rafts and provided stream-side shore lunches. Also along were Rebekka Redd, co-host and photographer and videographersand producers, Josh Wyckoff and Jarod McClure. The whole gang is pictured in the gallery below.

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