Q&A with Jeff Mishler on Skagit Master

We cornered fly fishing film virtuoso Jeff Mishler to talk about his latest film, Skagit Master 2, and what he’s working on next.

Why Scott Howell?

Within the inner circle of PNW steelheaders responsible for instigation of the whole Skagit Cast/Line/Rod craze, it’s hard to ignore Scott Howell’s intensity and his contribution to this culture. Few have put so much on the line to chase steelhead as a lifestyle and career. When I met Scott in Russia, it was obvious this guy is hardcore. Though back then, I never imagined we would work together on a project like this. After I released Ed’s DVD, I think it was about a month before Scott and I started talking about Volume 2. On top of that, he really is one of the fishiest guys you’ll ever meet.

Looks like you’ve got some interesting stuff coming up for the next iterations, flies, Great Lakes and warm-water… What the heck is warm-water Skagit Master about?

Talk to Ed Ward about that. He’s been spending a lot of time chasing warm water critters in Texas, Illinois, Michigan, and I don’t know where else, with switch rods and short heads. Just imagine the places you could present a lead eyed Clouser. Toothy critter hidey holes without room for a back cast are a lot more common that classic steelhead water, and using a skagit head and short two hander opens up a new world. That’s what the warm-water volume will be about. Probably number 5 in the library.

What do you think the northwest audiences will think about those last two topics?

I’m not really too concerned about NW audiences. We represent a very small percentage of the total angling public. If you crack the BASS/NASCAR code on a fly fishing film, you not only sell a ton of DVDs, but you educate a segment of the population that you could not access before. I do all this to create an aspiration; if one kid is inspired to step away from the norm, take a chance with his life, meaning step away from his peers and the video games and social networks and discover autonomy by learning to fish, then I’m happy.

That was the intent of my column, The Bucket. I just want that one kid to see that steelhead fishing with a two handed rod is the coolest thing in the world. And by doing that, we get the ball rolling in the right direction. Oh, and Volume 4, featuring Midwest steelheading will show the rest of the world, that there are probably more hardcore steelheaders there, than here, because they after all, have way more steelhead than we do. We are lucky to live here, but I sure wish we saw the numbers of steelhead they see each season. I guarantee that the steelhead bums in Milwaukee have a trick or two up their sleeves. Whether they want to part with them, that’s left to be seen.

What would you say are the big differences between what people got in part 1 versus part 2 of Skagit Master?

Ed Ward gave you an elaborate expose on his style of casting. It was complicated to communicate. It is complicated to execute. Not everyone needs to cast like Ed. But there are fundamentals of his style, that if you execute them correctly, you will become a better caster. I think we learned a lot when producing Volume 1. Specifically, a tutorial has to be just that to be effective. I worked some lifestyle elements into the show, but really, Ed wanted the world to see on screen what he’s been preaching for a while. Unfortunately, we didn’t catch many fish.

Scott’s DVD however was a great opportunity to catch some steelhead while presenting some outrageous techniques. And we did. Scott breaks a lot of rules in this show. Think back to the old down and across mantra of “ after the mend, let the fly swing without any disturbance”. It wasn’t that long ago the conversations around campfires about presentation became heated debates about techniques meant slow the fly down to a crawl so the fish had plenty of time to look at it. The first time I told some buddies that I don’t worry too much about the belly in the fly line, that I just cast out there, straighten it out and just let it swim across the pool, there were some who thought I was an idiot. But look at Scott. He’s jerking and pumping the fly like a bass popper on crack and the fish are killing the fly. So much for the old school ways.

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