Talk long enough with seasoned anglers and eventually you’ll hear someone say, “there’s an art to fly fishing.” That’s a curiously poetic phrase. They’re usually talking about technique, presentation or tying, but it’s interesting to see the correlation one makes between angler and artist. The Black Gnats are equally interested in this connection, so we’ve started a recurring section called “The Art of Fly Fishing” to highlight the unique stories and individuals that bring these two worlds together. This week’s featured artist is …
Jameson is the owner/artist behind Riverbend Woodworks in Bellingham, WA. What started as a necessity has turned into a profitable and fun business for him and his clients. Jameson’s specialty is creating reproductions of catches to serve as stand-alone pieces, or to be incorporated into woodworking items, such as coffee tables, end tables, and furniture. His attention to detail is incredible and his finished products are breathtaking. We chatted with Jameson by email and Facebook for this week’s “Art of Fly Fishing” interview with the Black Gnats.
Black Gnats: Who or what inspired you to get into fly fishing?
Jameson Hawn: I kind of fell into fly fishing on my own. I was fortunate enough to grow up on a small community pond full of bass and panfish, so I made the jump to fly fishing at age 12. The love of the sport was also engrained later when I watched A River Runs Through It over and over again and began to understand the draw of fly fishing more so.
BG: Who or what inspired you to get into art?
JH: My parents raised me to think of ways to enhance my experience while outdoors. For me, that meant blending my love for fishing with, at first, pencil and ink sketching, followed by watercolor pencil designs. Fly fishing offers a great blend of imagery for inspiration, whether you’re drawing a river scene or a close up of a beautifully colored fish, there’s no limit to what you can create. My carvings are just a natural progression from the two-dimensional art forms I started with as a kid.
BG: When did you realize that your passion for art and fly fishing could be combined?
JH: When I moved out on my own, necessity took over. I began fine woodworking because I didn’t have furniture in my own home. Luckily, I had a shop full of tools for home building. I began building furniture for my rental home, but folks kept buying them before I could enjoy them! By the time I was fortunate enough to go back to college for a degree in public relations, I had assembled better tools and fine-tuned my designs. Building one-of-a-kind pieces and hand-carving fish actually helped pay my way through college and led to me opening Riverbend Woodworks after graduation.
BG: What’s the most inspirational body of water that you’ve fished and why?
JH: Dry Falls Lake in eastern Washington. Envision fishing in the largest amphitheater in the world, surrounded on three sides by 400-foot-high sheer basalt cliffs. Each cliff is home to hundreds of birds and every sound on the 100-acre lake is amplified. The lake itself is full of giant rainbow and brown trout eager for chironomids and huge leech patterns, and sight fishing is often a go-to. One of my favorite parts about the lake stems from the history of it: the lake was (as the name suggests) a waterfall during part of the historic floods thousands of years prior. It sits as a reminder of the huge power of the Glacial Lake Missoula flood that uprooted eastern Washington.
BG: If money were no object, and you could do only one thing, what would it be?
JH: I would take my wife and I to Kamchatka, Russia to fly fish until my arms couldn’t take it any more!
BG: If you could fish with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
JH: Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy’s passion for the outdoors, never-quit attitude, and legacy for conservation have all been a huge inspiration. The world needs more people like him.
BG: Where do you see the future of fly-fishing?
JH: I recently worked my first fly fishing show this past February, and as a new business owner is was exciting to see what’s happening in our industry. I’m not one to fear the future of the industry, no matter what industry it is – change will always happen. I think my work tends to shy away from change. Creating hand-made pieces in classic styling is a throwback in an industry that often looks for the next cutting-edge thing.
“No matter what new tech or style arrives, you always end up the same way: placing a tiny fly in front of a fish and hoping for the best.” —Jameson Hawn
Luckily, fly fishing seems pretty timeless. No matter what new tech or style arrives, you always end up the same way: placing a tiny fly in front of a fish and hoping for the best. That being said, however, I mostly gravitate to a specific style of fishing. I fish primarily with a 1938 Wright and McGill bamboo rod, a large arbor Taylor reel and a nice blend of hand-tied and bought flies. I think I’m like most everyone else; you find your comfort zone and enjoy! If a new rod and reel enters my collection … well … that’s a good day, too!
BG: How does your medium of woodworking accentuate your artwork and your fishing?
JH: I love details. For me, there’s nothing like putting my hands on a hard-fought fish that you spend so much time trying to outsmart. When you’re holding your trophy, you truly appreciate the journey, and my carvings are a three-dimensional way of remembering that moment. One of the most popular things I create is my “Catch & Carve” design. Folks send me the image of their catch-and-release trophy and I replicate it in wood. My customers are always blown away when they receive their carving and hold it in their hands; they see that every scale is hand-detailed and every fin shows lifelike motion.
“Fly fishing is all about the details: the hatch coming up, the ability to make the best possible cast, and the appreciation for the beauty of the fish.” —Jameson Hawn
It feels great to bring that memory back for them in a piece of wood. Fly fishing is all about the details: the hatch coming up, the ability to make the best possible cast, and the appreciation for the beauty of the fish. My woodwork has certainly taught me to look at my fishing much more closely.
BG: What would you say to someone interested in fly-fishing but is too intimidated to start?
JH: Just go for it! I bought my first rod using my paper route money – all of my little kid savings, against my parent’s suggestion not to – and never looked back. Fly fishing has provided me an outlet for my creativity – a chance to express myself in as many mediums as I dare to try. Perhaps one of the best things about the sport (besides catching beautiful fish) is the chance to spend time outside in beautiful places.
You can check out (or order!) Jameson’s woodworking at his website [jamesonhawn.wix.com/riverbendwoodworks]. You can also check out his blog [riverbendwoodworks.blogspot.com], which he updates weekly. Find him on Facebook and Instagram, as well.