Anyone who has fished the autumn false albacore and red drum runs off Cape Lookout, North Carolina, during the last 15 years has likely come across Kary Via and his center console, Natural Fly. Via seems to have a knack for being where the fish are biting, which earned him the nickname “Wizard” from local guide Capt. Brian Horsley. He also is known as “Natty” on the VHF, a shortened version of his boat’s name.
A Garner, North Carolina, resident, Via is a dyed-in-the-wool fish nut who scours the waters around Cape Lookout for several weeks each year aboard his 20-foot May-Craft when he is not running his commercial insulation business. The 53-year-old grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, and took to fishing before he could ride a bike. “My dad was a pier fisherman down at Wrightsville Beach,” he says. “I grew up on Johnnie Mercers Fishing Pier. My dad had a small jonboat, and his thing was drifting for flounder in the local inlets. We did a lot of that together.”
In the mid-1990s, Via picked up his first fly rod. “One of my suppliers had a fly rod lying in his office one afternoon, and I just got to playing with it,” he recalls. “I never did any fly-fishing for trout in the mountain streams, which is the way most people get started around here. It wasn’t long before I’d bought my own fly rod and hooked up in salt water. That’s where the addiction began.”
Via’s pursuits eventually brought him outside the inlets, where he and his father fished from the jonboat when conditions were right. “I kept trying to get farther and farther outside of the inlet, where the albies were biting,” he says, “but that led to some really stupid decisions and rookie mistakes that could have easily ended in disaster. I knew it was time for a bigger boat.”
Via looked for something he could take not just outside the inlets, but also to the Atlantic waters on the east side of the Cape Lookout Shoals, where the fishing can be better, including big schools of big red drum. But when wind and tide collide there, it produces a challenging stretch of standing waves, whitewater and spindrift. “There are obviously days when you just can’t get across the shoals, no matter what type of boat you have,” Via says. “But I wanted a boat capable of safely crossing them, even when it was dicey.”
He had heard good things about the May-Craft 20 and in 2002 bought a new model with a 150-hp Yamaha 2-stroke. He recently repowered with a 150-hp Suzuki after racking up about 4,000 hours on the Yamaha. “The boat cruises in the mid-20-mph range but can get up to the low 40s if I need to,” he says. “It’s a great engine — quiet, smooth and fuel-efficient.”
Via says Natural Fly has been great for fishing with his 77-year-old father and 21-year-old son, Jake, who both seem as addicted to fishing as he is. In addition to the fall albie and red drum season, Via fishes offshore wrecks for kings and amberjacks in late summer, and Spanish mackerel and sharks in early fall. “The boat handles a chop really well and has an all-around nice ride,” he says. “I’ve been in some really nasty stuff with my father, but the boat has always gotten us back safely. The deck plan is no-nonsense, and I can just hose it down at the end of a day and be ready to go for the next morning in no time.”
Though Via loves his 19-year-old May-Craft, he has been eyeing a Pair Marine 21, which is built in Washington, North Carolina. “I keep hoping Jake can buy [Natural Fly] so I can get a new one, but he’s not quite there yet,” Via says, laughing. “And that’s OK. I love the May-Craft and can see myself fishing her for years to come.”