Jake Keeler is a fly-fisher from St. Paul, MN … where the fishing is good, the homebrew runs constantly, and the thermometer starts reading at “cold.” Jake has his MFA in painting and drawing and is a former college professor (true to our hearts). He now pursues a budding career in homebrewing and craft beers (you might know him from his days in Brewing TV), as well as putting out some killer fish-themed art. In his own words, his art explores “concepts of mortality, life cycles, and the raw and sometimes brutal side of nature. We fish, and by the very nature of doing so, we kill; directly or indirectly.”
Who or what inspired you to get into fly fishing?
I’ve been fishing since 5 or so. Fly fishing came to me a bit later in life – around my late twenties. Two of my closest friends were/are serious fly fisherman. They introduced me to the lifestyle and method of fishing. It grabbed hold of me and I’ve never looked back.
“[Fly fishing] grabbed hold of me and I’ve never looked back.”
Who or what inspired you to get into art?
I’ve had art all around me from the moment I could see. I come from a long line of artists, so making art and creating things was – and still is – a way of life. It’s not a hobby, pursuit or identity – it’s more primal and instinctual, like eating, shitting and sleeping. It’s so woven into who I am, I can’t separate it enough to even say that I “got into” it. That’s a bit pretentious perhaps, but it’s the truth.
“It’s not a hobby, pursuit or identity – it’s more primal and instinctual, like eating, shitting and sleeping.”
When did you realize that your passion for art and fly fishing could be combined?
I was asked to do a commission for Allen Fly Fishing by my good buddy Evan over at the Open Fly Podcast and Allen. I rocked the commission per his requests and that got me thinking, “I like this.” It started with straight up fish drawings and paintings but soon the work branched out to fall inline with other bodies of work. That was about 2 years ago, so I’m a young pup in the fly-fishing “art world.”
What’s the most inspirational body of water that you’ve fished and why?
The Mississippi River. I was raised on this river and it is still my connection to who I am, where I’m from and why I fish. I’ve been lucky to live most of my life within a mile or two of it.
If money were no object, and you could do only one thing, what would it be?
Hang with the family and more … or wait, make art, I mean go fishing … I mean, make beer … shit, how about go fishing with my family, and afterwards make art about those experiences while drinking homebrew? Yeah. That sounds rad.
If you could fish with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
Where do you see the future of fly-fishing?
I guess I see it becoming more segmented per age groups, equipment, species and so-forth. It’s far from a homogeneous hobby, lifestyle and/or industry. Where we’ll come together is conservation and fighting the good fight … hopefully.
“Where we’ll come together is conservation and fighting the good fight … hopefully.”
How does your medium accentuate your artwork and how does it relate to your style of fly-fishing?
Direct and impactful. I think this translates to a disposition for swinging streamers and throwing poppers. I like fishing for big browns and warm water species. I don’t get pumped for 7:00am Trico missions.
What would you say to someone interested in fly-fishing but is too intimidated to start?
Give it a try, but don’t be a wiener about it once you’re all into it.
You can check out more of Jake’s art and writing at his blog [20acrecarcass.com] and buy his prints and merch at his society6 page [society6.com/JakeKeeler]. Also, be sure to follow him on Facebook and Instagram.