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Happy Payne’s Happy Place

Although Happy Payne (@thehappypayne on Instagram) was born in White Plains, New York, she grew up in Houston, Texas and settled in the Nashville area more than two decades ago.

Nashville is where she met her husband, photographer Adrian David Payne, who also happened to introduce Happy to fishing.

“I started fishing about 10 years ago,” she says. “And then about seven years ago, we bought a boat.”

Adrian is an avid fisherman.

“I figured he would fish, and I would just lay out on the back,” Happy says.

It didn’t quite work out as planned. Happy realized that she, too, preferred to fish.

“I have still never laid out on the boat,” she says. “I’m pretty fair-skinned, so it probably wasn’t such a good idea, anyway.”

Fishing is not the only thing that Happy and Adrian have in common.

“I’m a professional make-up artist — I do a lot of TV and music videos — and my husband is a photographer,” she says. “So, we get to work together a lot, and we like to do all the same stuff — which is really good, because we spend so much time together. Whenever we’re not working, we’re fishing.”

Their go-to fishery is Old Hickory Lake, an impoundment of the Cumberland River just outside of Nashville.

“Old Hickory is just a couple minutes from the house,” Happy says. “So, it’s really easy to grab the boat and get out on the lake.”

Although Tennessee is largemouth country, Happy isn’t set on a specific species.

“We catch largemouth, smallmouth, stripers and even catfish,” she says. “Although when we hook into a catfish, it’s accidental — we don’t target them.”

Happy is open to exploring all that Old Hickory Lake has to offer.

“We heard that there a few good places for walleye and sauger,” she says. “So, we’ve been bouncing Lindy rigs off the bottom trying to get them to bite.”

She hasn’t had had much luck yet.

“It must be pretty rocky on the bottom there,” Happy says. “I keep breaking off my line and haven’t caught a walleye.”

That doesn’t mean that Old Hickory hasn’t been good to Happy.

“One day, we were out and I caught a 43-pound striper,” she says. “That was the biggest fish I ever caught. And not too much later — on the same day — I reeled in a 47-pounder! So, it was a pretty good day on the lake.”

Happy is a strict catch-and-release reeler.

“I don’t even like fish,” she laughs. “But sometimes we’ll keep one for my husband.”

Although her schedule keeps her pretty busy, Happy is looking forward to expanding her fishing horizons.

“I’m wanting to try my hand at some tournament fishing,” she says. “And I would love to try fishing in different places and for some bigger species. I want to charter in Florida to go after tarpon and sharks.”

As long as she’s on a boat, though, it doesn’t matter what she’s chasing.

“I just love being out on the water,” Happy says. “It’s beautiful and relaxing. Plus, I’m a competitive person. I love to feel the bite and the tug on the line. Fishing feeds my competitive spirit and lets me get out on the water at the same time.”