Matt Schliske is a well-known photographer and bamboo rod maker. His pictures have been seen in the pages of Fly Fisherman, Fly Rod and Reel, and American Angler magazines and his love for fly-fishing made him want to go further and begin to learn about hand-crafted rod making. Today, his rods are sold to clients around the world. It is our pleasure to share Matt’s words with you.
Fd: When did you start fly-fishing? Can you tell us about your memories from those times?
MS: I’ve been trout fishing for as long as I can remember. I learned to fly fish from a childhood friend of mine. He fished with a bamboo fly rod given to him by a neighbor. He got the idea of bamboo fly rods into my head early on.
Fd: When did you get started with photography? And, how did you become a professional photographer?
MS: I started taking photographs at the age of 13. I made a pin hole camera in a junior high photo class. Being able to process film in the darkroom was a huge attraction for me. I worked in labs, photo stores and took classes for years so I could process my own stuff. Photography is like making breakfast for me. It’s something I do almost every day. I just do what I do, and if I can get paid doing it all the better.
Fd: Photography is one of your passions, along with fly-fishing. How do you handle both at the same time when you are outdoors?
MS: Usually I will focus on one or the other. If I’m out fishing with the Pig Farm, I will bring more camera gear than fishing gear. I’ll focus on shooting when other anglers are with me. If I’m out fishing alone I usually leave the photo equipment and just focus on fishing. I always have the iphone with me though. If I do bring the DSLR on a solo fishing mission I will focus on pics of scenery, my rods, flies, or fish still in the water.
Fd: Do you have any mentors in regard to fly-fishing photography?
MS: Jay Johnson, Chip Guthrie, Addison Berry, Markew Brown, Brian Morrow and all the Pig Farm. They push me to do my best every time I pick up the camera.
Fd: When you go out on a photography and fly-fishing session, do you have certain ideas of the pictures and the work you will do, or you prefer to see where the moment takes you?
MS: A little of both. I try not to be too structured unless it’s just going out and getting a shot we really need for something in particular.
Fd: What is your favorite camera system? Which are your favorite lenses?
MS: I use Canon DSLRs and iPhones. I really like wide angle and macro stuff. I’d love to shoot on Canon L Series lenses but don’t have that kind of coin so I find cheaper stuff I like. Some day Pig Farm Ink will be huge and I’ll have Pellicans full of L series lenses.
Fd: What would you recommend to the starting photographer and to the anglers that want to have better pictures of their fishing trips and catches?
MS: Learn about composition, lighting, focal lengths, depth of field and basic photography subjects. Shoot as many pics as you can. Put the time in and you’ll start creating decent images. Check your background and angles. Keep the fish in the water. They photograph so much better that way.
Fd: You also make fine bamboo rods. What can you tell us about the process of making your own rods?
MS: Making bamboo rods is beyond a labor of love. It really doesn’t make a lot of sense. It takes 30-80 hours to make one rod. There are many specialized tools and materials needed and many steps to accomplish along the way. There’s really nothing like planning your own bamboo rod though. I suppose that’s why folks still do it.
Fd: What would you say to anglers that have never tried a bamboo rod?
MS: The way a rod casts and feels is all due to taper. All bamboo rods are not equal. Cast as many rods as you can. Find the rod and taper that speaks to you and your casting style. I design most of the tapers I build myself. They are designed to cast dry flies as well as lightly weighted streamers. They also need to be able to punch through the ever present rocky mountain wind. Bamboo for me is all about feel. The feel of a big fish on light tippet with bamboo is unparalleled.
Fd: You have traveled because of fishing.
A) Which are your favorite spots? Rattlesnake creek and the finespot stream. B) Can you tell us some of your best memories from your trips? Any funny story or risky situation that you recall?Coming up on rattlers on rattlesnake creek is always a good time. I had a grizzly bear swim across the Snake River this year straight to the bank we were fishing. It hit the bank not 50 yards upstream from us, looked at us then high tailed it up into the willows.C) Any special memories of the people you fished and worked with?Being able to work with Jay Johnson of Motiv Fishing and Pig Farm Ink has been life changing to say the least. Being able to film and fish with the Holeman brothers in Key West was pretty cool. There were no fish on the flats due to cold weather so we went and hand lined sharks. That’s how men are made.
Fd: Do you have spots and species in your bucket list?
MS: The bucket list is huge but Atlantic Salmon is right at the top.
Fd: What is it that you enjoy the most about your job?
MS: I enjoy the community of being able to create with other like minded folks. Go Pig Farm!
Fd: As a final point, what does fly-fishing mean for you?