You've seen Cody Townsend ripping big lines in Tahoe, Alaska and beyond. What you might not know is that Townsend is also a master fly fisherman, hooking countless fish and also a few sponsorship deals in the past year. Townsend is just one of a handful of professional skiers who are turning to the streams and rivers for off-season fun, so it beckons the question: Is fly fishing skiing's hot new off-season trend? We checked in with Mr. Multi-talent this week to find out.
Cody Townsend: Well I catch my fair share of fish and I'd call myself above average, but there are quite a few damn good anglers out there who out-fish the hell out of me. I've been lucky enough to fish with a few of those guys and learn from them. Fly fishing isn't worm dunking, the more experience and skill you have the bigger, better and more fish you can catch. It's one of the reasons I've been so addicted to it since I started about seven years ago.
FS: How did these sponsorships come about? What's your role as a team member?
CT: The sponsorship came about because there is a big shift in fly fishing right now. There is a new generation of fly fishers that are a outdoor/action sports style of anglers, more so than the old lodge-and-jet crowd that dominated the fly fishing story for so long. My role is to help companies like Montana Fly Company and Orvis help tell that new story.
Cody hooks himself a nice trout. Photo courtesy Montana Fly Company.
FS: We're in the heart of the off-season right now, how much time do you spend fishing, and where do you typically go?
CT: I'm pretty much out there five days a week. I split my time between a number of rivers and creeks in the Tahoe area. It all depends on river flows, bug hatches and where I think the fish will be congregating.
FS: Do you prefer salt or fresh?
CT: I like fresh water fishing because I like being in the mountains. But I'd love to go hook into some bones, permit or a beastly tarpon out on the salt some day.
FS: What are your favorite fish to catch? You exclusively a fly guy?
CT: Wild trout. They're wily, smart, hard to fool, fight hard and are beautiful fish. Plus they hit dry flies and not much is better than hooking into a donkey on the top water. Pretty much I exclusively fish with the fly. I've thrown some lures and bait rigs in my day but I like the challenge, tempo and feeling of fly fishing much better.
FS: Are you as good at preparing the fish in a frying pan as you are at luring it to your hook? Do you have a favorite recipe?
CT: Pretty much the only fish I'm keeping are salmon when I'm up in Alaska. Otherwise it's all catch and release around here for me. Otherwise I have to cook my fish good, I married into an Alaskan family. They don't take their fish lightly.
FS: When you guys are off shooting ski films in AK, do you and the gang sneak away when the cameras aren't rolling in search of tasty salmon?
CT: I try to. I always bring my stuff but most of the time the rivers are still iced up when we're up shredding. But I have caught some great fish in the Jackson area in the middle of the winter when I was filming with TGR back in the day. Otherwise next year I plan to do some more Steelhead fishing in Whistler mid-winter.
FS: Whistler sounds nice. What's your dream fishing destination?
CT: A two week float in Western Alaska in September. Fly in some rafts on a sea plane, get dropped off on a lake miles upon miles away from the ocean, catch giant rainbows on skated mouse patterns and feisty silver salmon with some good friends all the way back down to the sea.
MFC flies: (L-R) Lanier's Lucent Lightning, Tungston Lightning Bug-Blue and BH Flashback Bob Red.
FS: Who do you typically fish with? I hear via the rumor mill that many of skiing's top guns are also expert fisherman. Can you confirm or deny?
CT: I like to fish a lot with some of the local guys in Tahoe that ski too. Guys like Nick Patch, David Lass and Jeff Matt. Otherwise I love to fish with my wife, she's out there quite often with me these days, even if I'm waking up at 6:00am to stand in an icy river for hours at a time. I have also been taking out Michelle Parker and her boyfriend Danny Tourkamine lately.
FS: Is fly fishing skiing's hot new off-season trend?
CT: It seems to be growing pretty quickly. Dane Tudor, John Spriggs and the Provo brothers are pretty damn good anglers and are putting some good media out these days. Otherwise I have tons of skiers asking me to teach them and expressing the desire to get a fly rod in their hands. It's such a great off-season sport for skiing.
FS: What's the best fish you ever caught? How 'bout the one the got away?
CT: I don't know what my best fish is. I've got some damn fine rainbows around Tahoe and a lot of pretty big salmon in Alaska. But no single fish that has eclipsed the rest yet. It's the one I'll be searching for for the rest of my fishing life.
FS: For the techies out there, tell me quickly about the equipment you're using.
CT: I'm absolutely loving my new Orvis Helios set of rods lately. The Helios 5-weight 10' is the best all-around rod for Tahoe that I've found. Otherwise I wind up my line with the MFC reels, having been using the new Orvis 3D line and am hooking lips with either MFC flies or with flies I've tied myself.
FS: What's the worst mistake you've ever made? Slip on the rocks? Realize you'd forgotten your pliers after you'd reeled the fish in? Hook anyone in the ear?
CT: Probably slamming my buddies rod in the door while walking into his house. Thousand dollar rod in pieces in the blink of an eye. I felt like quite the prick.
FS: Ouch. When am I getting my free lesson?
CT: When you stop drinking Bud Light and learn to drink a real beer.
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