Looking at Nathan Leavitt, you’d never guess the guy is obsessed with fly-fishing. The 29-year-old has long hair, wears T-shirts and skinny jeans with flat-brim baseball cap—a far cry from the stereotypical fly fisherman who wears the traditional fishing vest or hat.
Leavitt runs OutsmartingFish.com, a blog dedicated to showing the fishing adventures of Leavitt and three of his friends. Fly-fishing carries the stigma of being a rich mans sport enjoyed by retired businessman, lawyer and doctors, but a new face of fly fishing has begun to emerge, thanks to social media and a surge of pro athletes from skiing and snowboarding, like Cody Townsend, John Spriggs and local snowboarder Jake Welch, who have started fishing in the off season. Leavitt and countless others who are excited about fly fishing use the Internet to share their fishing stories and provide information in creative ways to help people enjoy fishing more.
But the goal isn’t to provide a step-by-step Fly-fishing 101 lesson, but rather focus on getting people excited about fly-fishing, sharing unique photographs and writing about interesting places or when something unique happens, Leavitt says. “The Internet is full of information—we aren’t going to add anything new,” Leavitt says. “So I want to provide some interesting stuff—more like entertainment.”
“A lot of guys right now are out shooting videos while they are fishing and posting it on social media avenues, and it’s blowing up,” says Spencer Higa, who manages Falcon’s Ledge, a fishing lodge in Altamont. Fly-fishing film festivals have also begun touring the country, spreading the word about how fun and crazy fly-fishing can be.
Fly-fishing’s exposure on social media and video-sharing sites has increased the sport’s visibility, Leavitt says, and drawn in people who enjoy being in the outdoors. “People who mountain bike, ski, snowboard or whatever they do, are beginning to fly fish. They like to be outside, doing stuff in the mountains,” he says. Fly-fishing “takes you to cool places.”
Higa says that the incredible amount of information on the Internet helps people learn on their own, or, in some cases, realize that you don’t need to know everything about the river or everything about flies to start fishing.
“Most of the guys just like the outdoors and hiking,” said Higa. “There a lot of nice little rivers around Utah that you can hike into and fish, kind of a combination of two passions.”
Exploring is what drives Leavitt and his friends at OutsmartingFish.com. The idea of adventure and seeing new places has been their focus.
“It’s about trying to find that next place that has that combination of what we are looking for,” Leavitt says. “It’s always a search. We are always Facebooking, texting and e-mailing, trying to find that next place we want to go explore. You have to scrape up your own info and go find out. It’s part of the adventure. It sucks going somewhere and striking out, but it’s part of the fun.”
Big company names like Orvis are also taking notice of the new generation of fly fishermen and are trying to capitalize, sponsoring video and endorsing younger fishermen who run blogs to get the Orvis name out in front of younger people.
“They know that these younger kids are going to these film festivals so they have tried to make a presence in the film festivals by sponsoring films, donating gear for the guys use in the film festivals,” Higa said. “They know they’re going to get good exposure and these younger kids are going to see it.”
Leavitt predicts that fly-fishing is going to see even more change and growth as teenagers start fly-fishing with their friends and do the same thing he and his friends are doing, launching fly-fishing to the echelon of skiing and snowboarding. “What you are seeing and getting an inclining of is only the beginning.”