Burch Barrel took advantage of a snowy June day in Bozeman, Montana to sit down with Flylords founder, Jared Zissu. A graduate of Sewanee: The University of the South, Jared, is making a name for himself in the fishing world through his own fly fishing focused media company. Flylords was founded during his college years, where Jared met his fly fishing mentors. He said that the older guys in the on-campus fire department, in which Jared served for four years, introduced him to the sport. Jared has since built an enormously popular social media platform on Instagram, and most recently has launched his Flylords Magazine (flylordsmag.com). In the magazine, Jared features stories, videos, and interviews of world renowned anglers. Many of these stories can be previewed on the Flylords Instagram which has a loyal following of over 180K people. In addition to the creation of a wildly popular fly fishing media company, Jared has also become an extremely accomplished angler himself. Jared first started fishing in college and since then has fished all over the world. His passion for the sport was clear when he described chasing golden dorado in the Amazon, giant Rainbow trout in Patagonia and Giant Trevally in the Seychelles. Check out Jared’s interview below and see more on Instagram @flylords!
“I love the adventure in the pursuit of the unknown in a new place. It's always about that new experience, meeting new people, and trying new cuisines..”
Burch Barrel: Jared, you started fly fishing during your college years; how did your passion for fly fishing develop?
So, I grew up in New Jersey where there weren't a ton of fly fishing opportunities but when I went to college at Sewanee, the University of the South I joined the fire department on campus. Some of the older guys in the fire department were fishing guides in Alaska during their summer vacations and took me under their wing and really got me hooked. That's where the passion started. I first started fly fishing on a local tailwater called the Elk River in Tennessee.
Burch Barrel: When did photography become part of the picture for you?
From the start, I’d always been documenting my trips and adventures but at first I was just using my cell phone. While that’s probably where the passion started for me, it was when I got my first DSLR camera as gift on graduation day at Sewanee that I came to the realization that Flylords is something I wanted to take to the next level. That meant that creating our own content was going to be essential. Up to that point, Flylords was much smaller and included a lot of content from other fishermen who would send in their photos. So the journey kind of started there when I got my first real camera, and both my passion for photography and Flylords itself have evolved drastically since then.
Burch Barrel: When did you come up with the idea for “Flylords,” and what was your original vision for the company?
Actually, the original vision was never really a business or a “company”. That was not the plan at all. Right when Instagram was starting to become more popular, I created the Flylords account as an opportunity to start sharing my passion and my friends' passion for fly fishing. I liked having a place where people who were interested could check out my fishing pictures. It became a much better alternative to annoying my friends by bombarding them with a million texts of fish pictures!
Burch Barrel: How did you come up with the name?
I was home for the summer in New Jersey and there was a book on the kitchen counter that caught my eye. It was William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Instantly I just thought “FlyLords,” and I just knew it was the right name for the account.
Burch Barrel: What was the first fish you ever caught on the fly?
The first fish I ever caught on the fly was a small rainbow trout, probably around five inches long. It was a stocked fish for sure, that had been put in the Elk River near Sewanee. Funny enough, I actually caught it by accident. I fished with some of the guys from the fire department for four days straight and we weren’t catching anything. I was talking to one of my buddies with my fly dangling in the water and all of the sudden I noticed the little rainbow on the end of my line. He must’ve been 3 feet off the bank, not exactly a glory story, but certainly one I won’t forget.
Burch Barrel: Generally speaking do you prefer saltwater fly fishing or freshwater fly fishing? Why?
Great question. It's tough for me to pick one over the other. I think at heart I'm probably a trout and freshwater fisherman. That's where I learned and that was where my passion came from; that tailwater in Tennessee, the Elk River. That being said, it's tough to compete with the excitement of saltwater sight fishing. Chasing bigger saltwater species that fight so intensely that they send you into your backing is a whole different kind of fly fishing. My saltwater adventures have been some of my most memorable, and I think that every serious fly fisherman should experience the salt at least once during their lives.
Burch Barrel: How about you talk a little bit about largest saltwater species and your largest trout you were able to land?
Yea, absolutely. The biggest saltwater fish I was fortunate enough to land on the fly was a sailfish. I caught this sailfish last winter in the Seychelles, a chain of islands off the coast of east Africa. I was fishing with the world-renowned Alphonse Fishing Company Guide Service. Earlier this spring, I had the opportunity to fish Jurassic Lake in the Patagonia region of Argentina. We caught a lot of really nice fish this spring, but the first time I went to Jurassic lake I landed a 16-pound rainbow trout which was absolutely incredible, and without a doubt my largest trout by a large margin.
Burch Barrel: You’ve had some incredible adventures traveling the world to fly fish. What’s the most remote place you’ve ever been?
A couple of weeks ago my team and I got back from a two week shoot in Australia and the first place we fished was in a place called the Wessel Islands. They’re off the very northern-most point of Australia, and to get there we rode on a large mothership which had smaller boats on board. It took two nights to get into this small chain of islands.
Burch Barrel: So, the Wessel Islands are more remote than the Seychelles or the stretches of the Amazon River you’ve fished?
The Seychelles and Christmas Island are certainly remote but I think in terms of number of people who have been to the Wessel Islands, and the wild journey it took to get there; it felt more remote than any other place I’ve been for sure.
Burch Barrel: What is your favorite state to fish in?
That’s almost an impossible question. The Australia trip we just discussed was earlier this year, and right after we got back we headed west to Idaho to try and catch the Salmon Fly hatch on Henry’s Fork. It’s funny, we ended up hitting the salmon fly hatch pretty damn good and caught a lot of solid fish. Again, it’s tough to name one favorite state much less one favorite river for me. I love fishing the western states like Montana, Idaho, and Colorado. Floating down the Henry's Fork in Idaho and being able to throw big hoppers is really cool. If I can hit a good hatch on a western river, it reminds me why I like trout fishing sometimes more than saltwater fishing. It’s tough to beat that.
Burch Barrel: What’s your favorite fish to target on the fly?
I definitely don’t have one single favorite. Trout will always be special to me, because that's where the passion started, but I can’t name one favorite fish to target. I mean right now I'd love to catch a permit. I'm not as crazy about them as some fishermen are, but I've never caught one. It's always cool to cross that next fish off the bucket list.
Burch Barrel: What would be your go to set up fishing the Yellowstone River in Montana in July?
Honestly, I’m not too familiar with the Yellowstone river. My approach to any new water is to start by doing my homework. I’d probably bring a six-weight rod, and then I’d gather as much local knowledge as possible from willing guides and fly shop owners. I’d figure out what the trout were eating based off of the hatch and the time of year and then talk to fly shop owners and local fishermen to see what kind of patterns and presentations they’d recommend. From there it would just be trial and error.
Burch Barrel: Of all the incredible places you’ve visited which was your favorite?
People ask me this question all of the time and for me it’s an impossible to answer. I like to tell people “the next place.” I love the adventure in the pursuit of the unknown in a new place. It's always about that new experience, meeting new people, and trying new cuisines.
Burch Barrel: Speaking of cuisine, what has been your favorite fishing camp meal? Also, what was your favorite grilled fish you’ve ever had? Burch Barrel is always looking for new grilling ideas!
The best camp meal for sure was this: we caught Arctic Char in Iceland and we just sliced up some Sashimi and ate it raw with a little soy sauce. That was some of the best Char Sashimi I've ever had. As far as a favorite grilled camp meal; we caught this fish in Australia recently called the Barramundi, and the chef on the boat grilled it to perfection. I’m not sure what his secret recipe was, but the spices he used to season the Barramundi combined with its super light white flaky flesh made it an unforgettable and absolutely delicious meal.