Most people know Cameron Mortenson as the helmsman of The Fiberglass Manifesto. Through it Cameron shares with the world all that is stylish and artistic in the world of fly fishing. He has taken fiberglass rods and made them cool again, or rather, shown us that we were the ones that had strayed, forgotten our roots and disrespected our elders. Cameron seems to have a knack for finding obscure equipment, and builders and manufacturers who are making high-quality gear, and shining a light on them. Whether or not you are a “Glass Geek”, your world as a fly angler is that much better for stopping by his site.
I have a personal connection with Mr. Mortenson- he discovered this blog within two weeks of my starting it, contacted me personally, gave me much needed props, and badly needed advice. We’re good friends, we talk every week, and he mocks and goads me when I’m screwing up or not posting enough. I say all this as a public thank you.
It was an obvious choice, therefore, to interview the Guru of Glass. Without further fanfare, I give you Cameron Mortenson, the King of The Fiberglass Manifesto.
We're giving away one of the new Comrade motif t-shirts and two TFM decals, so be sure and enter at the bottom of this post.
FR: Your Website seems to be growing a lot with the events you attend and the sponsors you’ve gotten- what do you see as TFM’s role in fly fishing?
CM: From the start I didn’t have any expectation that my blog would be any different than any other blogs out there, I didn’t have a burning desire to follow a lot of readership to my website. My focus from the beginning was to highlight the work that was being done by the small shops, companies that still offered glass. About two years into it I decided that I really needed to work hard to network with all the companies. If I heard a rumor I followed up on it, I really try to do my homework. If you back up six years, seven years, back when I started fishing glass again, I was looking for information- I wanted information on the $20 Eagle Claw that I had, information about the other fly rods that I was picking up. The Fiberglass Fly Rodders forum was huge for that, it was really the learning ground, the foundation for everything I’ve been able to do with TFM. As far as a role, I would say that would be to provide a resource. Websites, awareness and putting out new builds and highlighting the work that rod shops do. Some of the big companies have fiberglass rods, (but) they have their own marketing, their own advertisements. There’s a lot of these small rod shops that are doing some really phenomenal things within fiberglass. TFM is a good resource for them to have their builds shown off. It’s interesting to be able to help them out.
FR: Nice, so any particular achievements that you’re proud of through the blog?
CM: When I talk to builders who did not think that they could build rods full time or even make enough money for them to make it worthwhile for them to do. Several builders through the exposure on TFM , through the exposure on Fiberglass Fly Rodders, and then just from getting their rods into peoples hands, they’ve gone from just a few orders, to dozens of orders the next year. I know one builder that’s built almost a hundred rods in the last year, almost all of those have been fiberglass. Typically a rod will go up for sale on his website and it’ll sell as quickly as 15 minutes later. Things don’t sit around long and sometimes these guys will buy one rod from a maker and call up and say “I want the two weight that you offer and I also want this this and this..." they’re ordering multiple rods. It’s really neat to funnel people to the correct builder that is the best match to their budget, to what they’re looking for.
FR: So you’ll actually help people find a rod builder?
CM: Oh yeah, all the time. I ask people what’s your budget, because not everyone drops $600 on a fly rod and you don’t need to. If somebody says what their budget is, what line weight they’re looking for, what length, and how soon they need a fly rod then I can break it down for them, say "these are the options".
FR: So you’re kind of like a glass fly rod match maker, as a small part of your…
CM: ...a small part of that. It’s really really fun to converse with somebody and several months later get an email back and they’re so stoked about the fly rod and it’s exceeded their expectations.
FR: What do you think is the appeal of fiberglass?
CM: In the fly rod industry, the graphite side of it, everything has gotten faster and faster every year, it’s almost like rod companies are one-upping each other on fast action rods. Truth be told, it’s very seldom that you need to air out an entire fly line. Typically most people fish within thirty to fifty feet. If you can lay down thirty feet of line you can catch fish- you don’t necessarily need a fast-action rod to do that. Fast action rods are great for casting long distances, tight loops etc., but you can achieve those same distances with fiberglass. In my opinion they’re a heck of a lot more fun to fish because you can feel a big fish head shake all the way down into the cork, you have the whole length of the rod that you can use for leverage, because a medium action rod, you’re going to get that full rod bend, it’s not going to just be the tip section. You’ve got tippet protection if you fish light tippets. Our tailwater fisheries , anywhere you fish midges, tricos—it’s seldom that I break fish off because of tippet. You can feel the rod load when you cast which is good, fiberglass is great in close for roll casting, you can pick streams apart with a glass rod.
FR: Sweet. Is Glass a fad or is it here to stay?
CM: Oh I think it’s definitely seen a resurgence over the last few years, but I think that’s the flip side of everything going faster and faster. I think that as graphite comes more to the center again, which it looks like it’s doing, you’ll probably see fiberglass and graphite meet again. I think fiberglass will always be a niche, it will never have the marketplace that it had before, but it really opens the door for a lot of small shop artisans to do really neat things, and fiberglass is becoming special like bamboo. In some ways it’s more obtainable because a very high-end glass rod is going to run you $600.
FR: Do you think that TFM has played a role in that resurgence?
CM: I believe it has, I mean I don’t want to get too cocky and say "I’m the reason that glass is back." The Fiberglass Fly Rodders forum when I started had less than 300 members, and now we’ve got to be approaching 2000 members. That’s not from TFM, it may be a small part, but I thinks it’s every angler who fishes glass, showing it to their friends …
FR: I think you’ve put a cool face on it though, with the shirts and the….
CM: I really think it’s the builders. I could beat this drum about fiberglass fly rods but if the rods didn’t cast well, if the rods didn’t look nice, if they didn’t fit applications where people fish, if it didn’t make sense, if they were too expensive, if they don’t sell, I mean I could write ten blog post a day and it would just go nowhere.
FR: You crank out a lot of blog posts every week, how do you balance all that?
CM: I always try to put content together that is interesting, I wish I had more time do more legitimate writing on TFM, but with a full work schedule and a family it doesn’t always allow me to do that. I know people enjoy having a daily read whether it’s a new rod build, a new video or tip them off to a new reel maker, whatever it is, it’s neat to be able to put that content out there.
FR: TFM seems to be driven by a strong sense of style from the retro designs to the new Comrade motif—where does that come from?
CM: You know, as far as the T-shirts, when ….
FR: Well it’s more than the T-shirts—I guess I should include the types of reels, the beautiful rods, your whole site seems to revolve around a whole philosophy on style.
FR: You’ve been on several cool looking fishing trips over the last year, so what was your favorite?
CM: The Michigan trip last summer was just outrageously cool. It’s not common for me to get days in a row to fish. That only happens maybe once or twice a year. I criss-crossed Michigan for the next five days meeting up with a lot of people I’d met online. I started out with one of the guys from Fiberglass Fly Rodders, and fished around Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti and caught carp on mulberries, and then drove directly up and had dinner with Koz and hit a small stream with him, caught brook trout. Twenty minutes later I jumped in the boat with you and Philly and we did the night float swinging mice patterns until 5 AM and was in and out of consciousness on that….
CM: …I went to Adam’s house, caught a couple hours of sleep, got up, ate breakfast and then we hit the Jordan River for brook trout, and then packed up the car, drove up to the UP and spent the rest of the weekend at Frenchman’s Pond which was nothing short of a spiritual experience. I caught a brook trout there. Then I came back down and fished Bay View, caught smallies in the rocks at Bay View, then the final day flew over to Beaver Island and caught fish with Steve from Indigo Guide Service and caught unbelievable smallmouth on the flats. (the) Michigan trip, I had no expectations if I was going to catch a carp, I didn’t know if I was going to catch a fish at night, didn’t know if I was going to catch a smallmouth, didn’t know if I was going to catch a brook trout at Frenchman’s pond. All the pieces came together, and I caught some really special fish in some really special places, with some really special friends that I’ve made through the course of writing TFM.
FR: Any situations you can think of where you couldn’t or shouldn’t use glass?
|handled by glass|
FR: (laughing) after all the T-shirts….
CM: after everything..
FR- Cameron- thanks for doing the interview, appreciate it. I’ll wear my new shirt with pride.
Okay, that wraps up our interview. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed grilling him. Keep up with all that is cool at Cameron's site http://thefiberglassmanifesto.blogspot.com/
Now here's your chance to win one of his newly designed Comrade motif shirts and two decals. Enter. Win. Do it now. Contest ends Wednesday March 21 at midnight, with the winner announced the next day.