Friday, September 30, 2011

20 Questions: Cameron Mortenson

The first time I realized just how influential Cameron Mortenson has become in the fly fishing world, I was attending a Trout Unlimited chapter meeting outside of Canyon, Texas, on the banks of the Guadalupe River. The TU chapter down there is one of my favorite chapters in the country, because those guys have such limited trout-fishing opportunity. That doesn't stop them from loving their river, though, and the Guadalupe is a very respectable tailwater trout destination, made special by the caring group of TU members who work constantly to ensure habitable conditions for trout that actually enable year-round trout production (if not fishing) on this river in the middle of the searing Texas Hill Country.

The "glass geek" himself.
Anyway, at the chapter meeting last spring, I noticed a TU member sporting a Fiberglass Manifesto t-shirt, and we struck up a conversation that led to some fascinating talk of hidden creeks bristling with wild and native Guadalupe bass, a species that's on my "to catch" list, hopefully in the coming years, and hopefully on a supple and sensitive fiberglass rod. The Fiberglass Manifesto is Cameron's blog, and over the course of the summer, I noticed a couple other TFM t-shirts out there, the last of which I found on the back of Mike Sepelak of Mike's Gone Fishing ... Again, while chasing trout in southwest Montana.

Finally, in New Orleans, of all places, I got to meet Cameron in person at the International Fly Tackle Dealer show, where a lot of the fly fishing movers and shakers gather each year to gawk over geer and share a drink or two. We chatted briefly over a bowl of gumbo and beer, and promised to stay in touch. This blog post is the first realization of that promise.

Cameron's a self-described "glass geek," a devoted angler who fly fishes with fiberglass, an old-school material that has faded in the minds of the fly fishing masses (unfortunately) with the advent of graphite and all the new materials the big manufacturers are finding ways to fuse into finished rods these days. But glass maintains a following (I am among them). If you like to feel fish on the line and you like a softer, slower cast that makes delicate and accurate presentations, glass rods have a place in your quiver. If you're like me, and you cut your fly fishing teeth on old, bulky glass rods, you also know that nostalgia and fly fishing go together like Brad and Angelina. 

Cameron gets the glass attraction, and has devoted his blog to glass and the people who help it persist. As an aside, he's also a husband, a father and a vice police detective. Cross him at your own risk. 

Enough chatter. On with the questions:

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness? Traveling, fly fishing, feasting, new experiences and spending time with family and friends.

2. What is your greatest fear? 
Dying young. Well... is 37 still considered young? I hope so. I’ve worked within law enforcement for the past 15 years, currently as a vice detective, and there are aspects of the job that are a constant reminder how easily life can be taken away.

3. Which living person do you most admire?  My parents. They made sure that they were involved with everything that we did growing up from church groups to school trips. They also expected me to spend my free time outside and not in front of the television. I know without a doubt that it helped mold me into the person that I am now.

4. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?  A lack of self-control and being a bit obsessive compulsive which seem to have a hand-in-hand relationship with certain aspects of my life.

5. What is the trait you most deplore in others?  Close-mindedness. There needs to be more forward thinking in many aspects of our lives.

6. What is your favorite journey?  Certainly the one that I am on now, being married and raising two children together with my wife. We travel as much as possible and are passing along the same wanderlust that we have to our daughter and son. I’m of the belief that experiencing new places broadens ourselves and it’s neat to see how it has changed our children’s perspective as well. Of course it’s just strange coincidence that most of these places that we travel also involve fly fishing of some sort as well.

7. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? “No Sir, Finn” to our two-year-old son as he climbs on, pulls down, stumbles over, drives over, steps into everything that he shouldn’t nearly the entire time that he is awake.

8. What is your greatest regret?  Not finishing my college degree. I was a couple years into a nursing degree when I decided to follow my interests into law enforcement. I still plan to go back and finish but likely would do something business related instead.
McGuane tops TFM's reading list.

9. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My wife. I’ve been told by friends over and over that I married up. They’re right.

10. Which talent would you most like to have?  I often wish I was a better writer. I have a problem putting what I am thinking into the right words that end up on paper or the computer screen.

 11. What do you consider your greatest achievement?  Staying married over the past 12 years while working a very irregular work schedule with various assignments within law enforcement, being engaged as a father, and still carving a bit of time here and there to get on the water.

12. If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?  A backcountry stream where native trout swim and would require quite a long hike in so that only the people that worked for it a bit would ever be able to enjoy it.

13. What is your most treasured possession?  Over the past five years or so I’ve begun collecting custom pieces of fly fishing gear such as fiberglass fly rods, reels, and other items which were built in small shops by craftsman rather than a factory. There is something quite special about a piece of gear which was made specifically for you.

14. Where would you like to live?  Ideally we’d split our time between several of our favorite places at different times of the year. The list grows longer each year as we visit new places.

15. Who are your favorite writers?  Ernest Hemingway, Thomas McGuane, Jim Harrison and John Gierach, though I don’t sit down and read as often as I would like.

16. Who are your heroes? My father. He has been a salesman his entire career and taught me the art of the hustle. You’ve got to work hard to get what you want.

17. How would you like to die? See question No. 2. I don’t want to die. Life is too beautiful to leave.

18. What’s on your iPod? I listen to a lot of podcasts such as the Fish Schtick, Itinerant Angler, Dirtbag Diaries, From Scratch, and NPR Live Concerts to name a few. My music tastes are wide open, though I’ve been especially enjoying The Black Keys, Jack Johnson, Radiohead, Bright Eyes and Ben Kweller lately.

19. What would your profession be if you couldn’t do what you do now? It would be really neat to have the opportunity to work on The Fiberglass Manifesto on a full time basis. I have a lot of ideas on how to grow the website but a lack of time to get it done. I would also restart the Fishy Kid website since it has a tremendous potential to engage young anglers.

20. In three words, how would your closest friends describe you? Obsessed. Creative. Hack.

BONUS QUESTION: If there is a Heaven, and you go to Heaven, what would God say to you upon your arrival? 
“Cameron, my son... you were right. Glass is not dead.”


  1. Did you mean "vice detective" or viSe detective?

    Rotary is not dead!

  2. Another great post. I'm loving this. Cam is purely a class act and great friend!

  3. Great interview, Chris, and thanks for sharing, Cameron. With the amount of energy put into TFM, I thought this was your full time job ;-). I have even more respect for you knowing you are a public servant as well.

    You have me convinced that I need to get a glass rod for my small stream pursuits. Just need to figure which one to get.

  4. GFP...HA... I'd rather be a "Vise" detective.

    Howard...thanks for the kind words.

    Dean...thanks and let me know when you need help deciding on which fiberglass. I've got suggestions.

  5. Great interview with an exceptional guy. Obsessive compulsive...why does that seem to be a familiar trait amongst those who keep blogs about fly fishing? I don't get it...;)