Cameron Mortenson is the man behind the fantastic blog The Fiberglass Manifesto. Recently, we were able to interview him about his blog, his life as a dad among others things. See learn more, check out his blog here or follow him on Instagram
Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from, where do you currently live, how many kids do you have, etc?
I’m from Michigan and spent much of my growing up years spending a lot of time outside. When I couldn’t be outside I was thinking about it and my favorite book in elementary school was “Birds of America”. There were too many days in class spent leafing through the pages of John James Audobon’s work instead of doing my homework. We lived outside of town and on summer days I’d take off for hours walking across the field to a stand of pines with my BB gun, sketch book and backpack. There was a lot of nature out there and it really formed a lot of who I was then and now.
I didn’t grow up fishing and it wasn’t until my late teens while working at a summer camp in northern Michigan that I started spin fishing after work on the lake. Looking back, the fishing was unbelievably good with both smallmouth and largemouth bass and pike.
College years led to getting married, moving to Colorado where my wife and I spent a year and a half hiking, skiing and fly fishing our way around the state. It was a great way to start a marriage that has lasted over twenty years.
Fast forward to now and we have lived in South Carolina for almost twenty years. We have a fourteen year old daughter, Hadley, and an eleven year old son, Finneus.
When did you start fly fishing?
In high school it was on my radar but I didn’t have the money for it yet. As I was getting near graduating, my parents asked what I’d like for a gift? I remember going to the local fly shop any eying a five weight outfit but for some reason I opted for rollerblades instead.
A couple years later, I picked up my first fly rod which was a fiberglass Eagle Claw Featherlight and I learned to cast foam spiders to sipping bluegills around the lily pads. The year after I started exploring away from camp on the Au Sable River and Manistee River learning to fly fish for trout. I really didn’t understand what I was doing yet, I somehow caught enough to draw me deeper into fly fishing.
I guess I’ve been fly fishing for over 25 years now which doesn’t make sense as I don’t feel like I could be that old.
What aspect of fly fishing do you enjoy the most?
The “what I enjoy most” has changed a lot over the years. I get really excited with fly fishing situations that involve sight fishing but not really picky about what kind of fish it is. Carp, redfish, bonefish, permit or any other fish on a flat all have a draw for me. I like that moment of seeing a fin or tail just above the surface of the water and then doing my best to make that perfect first presentation. Getting an eat when it all comes together is exhilarating and a test of skills if nothing else.
I can also go on the other end of the spectrum and dig river floats where I’m happiest in the backseat playing clean up, taking photographs, enjoying friends and conversation while taking in the whole experience. It’s a lot of fun to go somewhere with a few friends, cook at the house or go out, have a few drinks and unwind. We all need that.
You are the mastermind behind the fantastic blog The Fiberglass Manifesto. Tell me how that came to be.
As I was getting more and more into fiberglass fly rods, I was spending quite a bit of time on the Fiberglass Flyrodders forum and we used to have a core group that would spend Sunday evenings in the chat room.
One of the other members and I had gotten to know each other pretty well and were discussing the need for a website that would highlight everything going on with contemporary fiberglass fly rods, the rod builders, the blank makers and the fly rod companies. At that point there was maybe a dozen rod companies, builders and blank makers messing around with glass but we sensed that things were going to pick up.
We were going back and forth with ideas and I’ll never forget asking him what we should call this thing we were talking about. Almost instantly he replied, “The Fiberglass Manifesto”. Damn, that sounded pretty good.
Neither of us were internet wizards and the idea was on the backburner for a couple months until one day I Googled “How to start a blog” and the Blogger website popped up. I haphazardly started putting the website together and began writing posts without really knowing what I was doing. Fast forward almost twelve years and I likely still don’t but have always had a lot of fun with it.
Many blogs come and go. What is the secret to The Fiberglass Manifesto being so successful?
Easy, sticking with it, consistency with publishing new posts and keeping the content varied. I don’t pretend that my little piece of the internet is all figured out and part of the proof is that I’m still working off the most basic Blogger template that they offer but I try to keep it interesting while also being a resource for everything that is going on with fiberglass fly rods.
Learning the different social media platforms and how to incorporate those with the website has been a learning experience and at a time where podcasts and video are the rage, trying to keep T.F.M. relevant is always on my mind.
I started using a hashtag years ago of #glassisnotdead that has centralized a movement and there are over 62,000 posts on Instagram tagged with it. It’s been a neat way to follow along with so many anglers and rod builders experiences with fiberglass fly rods.
I know you fish a lot in the family pond. Tell me a little about the significance of fishing as a family activity.
I married into a family where we built a house on the edge of many hundreds of acres of family land where there is also a 50 acre pond that splits the properties in half. This is a creek fed pond which was dammed up over sixty years ago and it’s full of structure, vegetation and enough fish to keep it interesting. The fish are never pushovers but there are a lot of areas of explore to keep the children interested.
As a Dad, do you approach fly fishing differently?
Well, fly fishing as a dad very quickly was dialed back to starting out by fishing with our children with glass spinning rods and crickets under bobbers. Like let’s start with the basics and see where we go from there. You learn a few tricks to keep everyone engaged with finding ponds full of hungry bluegills and the occasional bass and NEVER forget the snacks or something to drink.
I have some bad memories of trips where snacks were forgotten and it’s not recommended…
Our children are at an age where they are both starting to pick up the fly rod but still the default is their spinning rods. I’ll be honest, after twenty some years of not gear fishing, it’s way more fun than I remembered it. It’s broadened my own ideas on what’s fun to do on the water.
Do you have a fly fishing bucket list?
I’m still trying to catch my first permit and will keep at it. I enjoy the process when things are tough and it’ll feel pretty good when I finally complete that puzzle. They also live in some of my favorite places which isn’t too bad either.
There are a handful of places that involve multiple flights and too much money but if COVID-19 has taught us anything, there are a lot of places right out our back doors that we should be exploring. I’m trying to do that more and I’ll take a native fish on a nearby stream over a stocked fish elsewhere.
If you could only fish one location for the rest of your life, where would it be?
Well, I might be partial since I grew up there but it would be tough to beat the state of Michigan as there is just so much going on season to season and fish by fish.
About the time you read this, I should be out on Beaver Island poking around the flats looking for tailing carp, smallmouth around the rocks and pike in the weeds. This trip has become an important thread of my summer and can’t imagine late June any other way.