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Adventure & Aesthetics: Pirate Fly Fishing

Bright and shiny sells. Often, bright and shiny is only indicative of the external: a façade and nothing more. The fly fishing industry is not immune to this marketing malady. Reels, apparel, and flies that look really good or capture the eye might not help you one bit when it comes to catching fish. In a visual world, form has the capacity to overshadow function.

If you’re on “fly fishing social media,” chances are you’ve seen Pirate Fly Fishing’s fly patch pop up in your feed. It is hard to miss: it’s a big, bright, brown trout-colored rectangle. Sometimes they display it all on its own, other times it is covered with meaty streamers. It looks appealing, and it looks like it works. Their publicity efforts worked on me, because I was interested enough to click on through to their website. After checking out their site, I was interested enough to contact the company.

Pirate Fly Fishing is Maddie Bonthron and Justin West. They live outside of Denver, are recently out of college, and want to make functional products that “look good doing it.”

“I spent a summer in Alaska, and after that I couldn’t find a job that interested me,” West says. “So I made one.” A hardcore fly fisherman, he noticed the frequency with which he was finding loose flies scattered all over the inside of his truck. This leads to lost flies, torn up upholstery, or, in worse-case scenarios, injuries or damaged gear. “There are other products out there that do this, but we wanted to make a better one.”

Justin walked me through the details of the Pirate Fly Patch:

  • ½ inch thick, high density foam
  • Accommodates hooks from 6/0 to 26 (and smaller)
  • Attaches to car visors or other surfaces with flexible, galvanized metal clips
  • Casing in heavy duty polycarbonate
  • All materials tested to endure high heat and prolonged UV exposure
Sizes as small as 26 on the left, 3/0 (with wire guard!) on the right

Then, I asked about the aesthetics. Why a brown trout? “We have so many great fish species, trout species in Colorado,” said West. “But when you think brown trout you think large, hungry fish.” It was Maddie that came up with the current patch’s signature pattern. She has a background in design, and appreciates the visual and artistic element in fly fishing products.

Pirate Fly Fishing just launched in December of 2016. With younger anglers at the helm of the operation, they are seeking to pave their way in the industry through this generation’s preferred paths. Right now, that means social media over traditional advertising. It entails demonstrating the purpose of the product right along with the imagery associated with the experience.

There are future products on the horizon for Maddie, Justin, and Pirate Fly Fishing. They’re working on new patterns to feature on their patch as well. It must work well and be different enough to roll out. Wisely, their goal isn’t just to release any and all products that might work. That is an encouraging outlook for a young company finding it’s footing in a small yet busy community. It is exciting to see the next generation being deliberate in business, in design, and in marketing. Companies like this are worth paying attention to, and probably worth supporting.

The final question I had was: Why Pirate Fly Fishing? “It communicates a spirit of adventure on the water,” West says. “That attitude is something everyone can relate with. Plus, it looks cool.”

You can find Pirate Fly Fishing at their website and across various social media platforms.


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