A portrait of the angler as a young man
It started with a stick, old fishing line, misfit bobber, and a rusty hook cast indelicately into the Rio Grande Valley irrigation canals. You could say it was love at first bite. I feel pretty blessed. My memories of childhood are painted in the warm tones of dawn’s breaking and filled with scenes set in the South of Texas with my brother and I, lost for hours, scouting the banks of the canal’s murky water, just beyond the parched cotton fields. With corn kernels and bits of bacon in our pockets and hope in our hearts we stalked our prey. Catfish and bass were our game, but most times craw-fish was our take home. As I matured in my craft, so too did my gear. Those simple sticks eventually gave way to angler fishing, and finally to fly fishing. Through it all, flinging bugs has always thrilled me the most.
Passion, Practice and People
Veteran old-salty fishermen–those venerated poets of the streams and lakes–will tell you that the art of fly fishing is perfected by sharing experiences with other fishermen, good ol’ trial and error, and using the right tackle for the situation. Those words ring true for me. With my Oregon college buddies, Stephen and Marty, I would fish for steelhead and salmon on the Sandy River, the Clackamas and Deschutes. Other times we would head to Central Oregon to fish for fat rainbows. We continue to learn from one another even after 30+ years. These guys are my lifelong fly fishing brothers!
The conviction to protect and preserve
The years have passed by me like the current of the many streams I’ve fished. I’ve learned to place a high value on preserving that which is beautiful and protecting that which is fragile. This applies to both the environment and to my expensive gear. Naturally, as I purchased more gear, I felt the need to protect what I had. At the same time I wanted to remember the stories from the countless hours in my aquatic sanctuaries. Fishing is nothing without its stories. (In fact, even some of the true stories are interesting!)
How I learned to reel in a legend
In me was emerging a desire to create natural, amazing products so well constructed that fathers would pass them to sons along with hand drawn maps of secret fishing holes, sweet spots in the river and techniques so subtle, they could only be shown, not told. With beauty and performance as my North star, leather was the obvious choice of material. That settled, leather gear ideas began to swirl in my mind like so many leaves caught in an eddy. As fate would have it, that same year my friend, Dave Munson of Saddleback Leather approached me to design fly gear for some of his customers. (He admitted not knowing the difference between “reel” and “real” when it comes to fishing). I now had a new quarry that was both the most fickle and most rewarding of all:Backcast Outfitters products.
Late nights, tweezers and magnifying glasses
Like tying flies before a morning on the water, building this product line was equal parts meditative and (frequently) occasionally frustrating. It would have been easy to settle at “good enough.” A poorly dressed fly won’t fool a fish and a poorly constructed product won’t fool your discriminating tastes. The process required concentration and lots of testing. One by one, I started designing heirloom quality fly fishing products for discriminating anglers. If a great fly is defined by how closely it resembles the real thing, my designs needed to work in the real world and be made with the same attention to details as the most impressive fly.
The thrill of your first time
While I hate to ruin surprises, I have to tell you that on the day your Backcast product arrives, you won’t be able to stop running your fingers over the thick full grain and the beautiful stitching. Your friends and family will stare at you when you keep bringing the piece to your face to take in that classic leather scent. (The good news is that you won’t be able to see their funny looks because you will have a piece of leather in your face, so that’s good).
A love that grows over time
As you get to know the personality of your leather product, you’ll notice the markings and natural properties that give leather its heart and soul. But here is the really cool part: As great as those first few weeks are, it keeps getting better. The beauty of leather is that like the art of fly angling, it gives you more and more of itself with each passing year. As these products join you on the water your leather will mysteriously become more coveted. Each mark and well-worn shiny spot tells a story of love for–and commitment to–our craft as anglers. This gentle aging is called a “patina.” This patina is how leather writes the story of your adventures on itself because it is proud of you and cares about you. Does plastic patina? Nope. Why not? Because plastic doesn’t care about you. Now, go forth and be delighted for years to come with your Backcast Outfitters leather products.
Eric F. Rice,