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Fisherman’s 5 with Sean Johnson

The Fisherman’s 5 is a new series we are running here at Epic Waters, so keep your eye out for it in the upcoming weeks.  We will be asking folks who have been in the fishing industry for many years 5 questions to answer honestly.  Expect to hear from guides, marketing experts, casting champions, rod and reel builders and much more.  Our industry has changed a lot over the last decade and many of these people have been leading the way. 

Our first guest in the fisherman 5 is Sean Johnson who lives in Bend, Oregon and has been in the fishing industry for over 25 years.  

Sean and I guided together in Chile in the early 2000’s and after that he spent many years as head guide at Kulik Lodge in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Currently Sean specializes in helping companies with online strategy, content creation, & and social media marketing. Sean is still very active in the fishing industry and currently works and writes for Stillwater Fly Shop in Sunriver, .  If you have any questions or comments for Sean shoot us an email and we can get you connected. 

1.  We know it’s taboo to criticize or be negative in anyway to your guests who are the backbone of our industry, but even boy bands are known to complain and how bad do they have it? With that said, what is the one thing guests do that can “at times” frustrate you?

Frustrations as a guide come in many levels. Probably the largest one for myself is expectations. In all the fisheries I have guided many clients have expectations that are either too high for their fishing ability or they believe that because the paid for a trip they deserve huge fish just because they forked out a chunk of change. The first issue can be easily dealt with by an experienced guide and the second problem can be dealt with by either setting them straight right off the bat or by drinking lots of whiskey the evening after guiding said client.

2.  What is the biggest conservation threat you are most concerned about regarding the fisheries you are closet with?

Lack of water and angler education threatens my local fisheries. Hopefully the drought is over here because of the great snowfall we are having this winter. Education is the more difficult one. Central Oregon is experiencing huge growth not only in population, but in anglers. Literally, the fishing resources are being loved to death. Fortunately the waters around here are amazingly resilient but due to the increased pressure, catch and keep anglers and illegally introduced species we are suffering.

The one thing I do have to say about Alaska is that the Pebble Mine must be stopped because projects like it won’t end if they get a toe hold.

3.  You have travelled around the globe fishing a lot in your career, what is the best memory you have fishing outside of the lower 48?

I have two that come to mind. The first was a solo trip on Funnel Creek in Katmai. I was sent in to check it out because it hadn’t fished for a few years. The day was warm, clear and pristine. There was no other anglers within miles, something we had all envisioned when we first went there. That day stands out because of the 60+ bears that I fished around and the incredible sight fishing that I had for large Rainbows that day. I never saw another human until I crossed Moraine Creek.

My other memory is from Chile. Not so much about the fishing but about the overall experience. I trailed horses into out camps with supplies over trails reminiscent of some that Lewis and Clark probably traveled. There was one epic trip that took me into the mountains to check on some boats that were near some small ponds. The trip in took 5 hours for the horses because of chest deep mud. The promise of fishing these secluded ponds drove me all day. Unfortunately, when me and my local helper arrived the boats were leaky and unusable. Chile is more about the experience than the fishing but I would recommend it highly.

4.   What do you see as the biggest challenge in getting the younger generation interested in Fly fishing?

It isn’t difficult getting younger people interested in fly fishing. The difficulty arises in angler education and ethos. With the advent of smart phones and digital social media fly fishing has become a “look at me” sport. Self-promotion seems to be diluting the beauty and joy of fly fishing that I never envisioned when I took my old Shakespeare glass rod in hand over 40 years ago.

5.  If you have been in the industry as long as you have I can guarantee you have worked for some ‘interesting employers’. Without naming names what is something crazy you have seen from one of your employers over the years?

Derek is leading me into our fabled Chile experience here in 2001. Our owner got drunk religiously at dinner and would sabotage the guides by telling the clients that they would catch lots of big fish the next day. Then he would pull out his “Secret Fly” stash with great fanfare and dole them out one at a time like they were made of gold. The added joy of this gentleman was that he would drive his sled down river in front of our driftboats and throw Rapalas in the water we were to fish our clients. He would meet us at lunch and tell everyone how great the fishing had been.

My favorite employer of all time was also the one who probably should have had more of a filter. Blunt and direct understate his rapport with guests-new and those who had been coming for 20 years or more to the lodge. I will end this with the example of one of his favorite lines that he doled out to the nicest of people when they would attempt to be helpful around the float planes. “You are not helping when you are helping.”

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