Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Good Takes- Cameron Mortenson


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…

(laughter)

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.

CM:  Well, I’m a real visual person.  I did a lot of art growing up, I took college level classes when I was in fifth and sixth grade, had private art instruction and it’s…. (long pause) I no longer have time to paint and draw, but when I started fly fishing and fly tying-- there’s a very artistic side to fly fishing, which is probably why I’m so drawn to a lot of the work that the rod makers do, the fly tyers- I’m blown away by fly tyers, and even reel makers.  Every aspect of fly fishing has a sense of style to it.  So I’m drawn to things visually and those are the things I end up promoting on TFM because I figure if I get a kick out of it . . . a lot of times those things also function very well.   Form and function, being beautiful together is something quite interesting.  Putting pretty pictures on TFM makes the website look better too.   I try to be really picky about the images that I put on TFM.  It’s not uncommon for me to shoot on a week-long trip 2000, 2500 images, but I maybe only use 150 of them.  If we were still shooting film, we would be very poor.  If you shoot film I think you spend a lot more time at composition, you were making that click count, now you can blow through a dozen clicks from a few different angles and pick one of them out that works.

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….

We drowned him and deprived him of sleep, but he moused one out

FR: (laughing)

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
CM:   I’ve flushed all my graphite except one spey rod, out of the 30 or 40 or 50 fly rods that I have.  Those aren’t all my fly rods- a lot of them are long-term demos, rods that kind of rotate in and rotate back to the different rod companies and builders.  I know guys that are gonna do shark trips and bluefish and cobia all on glass.  Truth be told a lot of the saltwater rods have glass in them, they’re either a half or third fiberglass anyway.  Once you get into your conventional tackle, your tuna rods and stuff like that, that’s all glass.  Ted Williams and all those boys down in Key West forty years ago, they weren’t fishing graphite to tarpon, they were fishing glass- it gets it done.  It would probably look pretty funny if I had a graphite rod in my hand….
(laughter)

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.



34 comments:

  1. FR - good interview with TFM!!! I was so glad to meet him too!!!

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    1. Hey, it was great to meet you, and thanks for all your help this weekend.

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  2. Great interview! Cameron's the man...especially when it comes to glass.

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    1. Yeah- him and his gang even have me thinking about glass. Argh.

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  3. Really nice interview. It's nice to get to know Cameron a bit more through this. Thanks for sharing.

    Ben

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    1. Thanks Ben. I learned some thing I didn't know, that's for sure.

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  4. Cam can take a bow for helping me get started in glass, old reels and my blog. His common sense advice was invaluable. I'm proud to call him my friend from the "dirty South."

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    1. He does seem to have this thing for helping people.

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  5. TFM certainly increased my interest in glass. My next rod will be a glass 4wt.

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    1. I cast a bunch of Shane Gray's rods this weekend. I shouldn't have.

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  6. Great interview Jason. Since I was sitting in the chair when most of it was conducted, I can attest to it's accuracy. Right on. It was great meeting you, and a great show all around. Hopefully I can find some time this summer to sneak up there for some rodent slinging.

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    1. Despite the rather odd introduction it was great to meet you too. Come on up and lets fish! Thanks for the Poquito too.

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  7. Nice, now if only someone would check out my blog...lol

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    1. Checked it- it looks good so far. Keep posting, and remember it takes time to build a following and get your name out there. Don't give up.

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  8. very good interview~ we comment and remark all the time how the world wide webernet in conjunction with Fishbook has made a huge camaraderie of fellow anglers from thousands of miles away. Social media is NOT taking away our social ability or skills; it has in fact has broadened them and made the world smaller. Great to be in the game with many respectable and admirable anglers and writers such as Cameron and Jason. Keep up the great work JT!!
    Tight Lines,
    Koz

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    1. Koz- I think I met you through social media, despite living in the same locale. Let's fish soon.

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  9. great interview. Always fun to learn more about someone outside of their forum. Good stuff!

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    1. Sanders- it's always great to see your dog's face in the comment section here. I'll get over to check on what you've been doing soon. Go fishing will ya?

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  10. Thanks Jason and Cam for the great dialog. Good to hear about the humble beginnings for TFM and more importantly the true value of glass in the industry.

    I would like to get a 3 or 4 wt glass rod some day for all the small streams in my neck of the woods.

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    1. Thanks- I'm thinking the same for my small brook trout streams here.

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  11. Thanks for the good interview, Jason. Koz made a great point about how the interwebs really help create a community even though we're all spread out. And I love the stuff Cameron is doing, not just for glass, but for fly fishing generally AND for fashion!

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    1. I agree. With all the contact I've had with Cam, I still always wondered where his eye for design came from. Now I know.

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  12. Great interview. I finally had the chance to meet Cam here in Columbus. He is truly one of the good guys in the fly fishing world!

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    1. Cameron is a voice of reason, that's for sure. Glad you enjoyed the interview.

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  13. Loved the interview. I always look forward to his posts and enjoy the visual nature of his website.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it. Cameron is a good guy.

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  14. Cameron a great influencer in the growing digital social fly fishing network
    I'm the biggest fan from Germany. So send me TFM-Shirt, NOW !!! :D
    If not: at least a TFM Sticker ? :)
    Propz from Cologne, GER
    -woon-

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    1. It's good to hear of the international reach of T.F.M. I want to be Cameron when I grow up.

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  15. Awesome post. Cameron is the man!

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  16. Nice read and great blog overall. I love the name too.... nothing better than a wild southern Appalachian brook trout.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it. Those brookies you have there are on my list.

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  17. Fantastic interview. I really like your thoughts about the visual/art aspect of Fly fishing Cameron. From the flies to the rods, to the reels, to the overall gear, I think it inspires that inner artist appreciation in all of us.

    Great Questions Jason!

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    1. Thanks Rebecca. I never could figure out how he had such an eye for design- now we know.

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