Faces of Fly Fishing: Jeff Currier

By Collin Terchanik – Fly Lords Magazine, May 3, 2020

jeff currier india mahseer

We had the opportunity to sit down with iconic angler, Jeff Currier.  His notoriety as an angler came from public speaking seminars, writings, travels, and other fishing-related art. Fly fishing for over 40 years has taken Jeff to more than sixty countries on six continents with more than 400 fly caught species and counting… Wherever he goes, Jeff brings a sense of humor, enthusiasm, approachability, and plenty of experience. Check out his website for more of his artwork and seminars!

Flylords: Who’s Jeff Currier?

Jeff: Am I old enough to answer this one yet? Seems like we’re always trying to figure out who we are. It’s part of the journey and hopefully, I have a way to go. But what I’ve learned so far is that I’m an incredibly lucky guy… I have an amazing wife, I enjoy my family and friends, and I’m passionate about the outdoors and all that it comes with. I’m serious about conservation and absolutely berserk about travel and fly fishing.

jeff currier baja

Flylords: Can you recall your most epic fish battle?

Jeff: Man, there’s certainly been a few, but years ago my wife, Granny, and I were camped on the beach in Oman. We were there for almost three weeks. It was spectacular, to say the least. The morning routine was that I’d get up at the crack of dawn and walk searching for Indo Permit and Five Spot Pompanos. There was another fish called the Southern Pompano there too. This species is well known to saltwater fly fishing enthusiasts as the “Africanus”. The Africanus is considered to be virtually impossible to catch on the fly from shore because he lives in jagged rocks lined with mussels and oysters. Each time casting for them I ended up getting knocked down by the crashing waves and lose my fly in a snag. I was sick of losing my crab flies and had pretty much given up trying for them… Towards the end of my walk that particular morning, I saw Granny already up watching me and the sunrise from the rocks behind me. Right when I spotted her, she started yelling and pointing. “Hurry up! Come on! A bunch of Africanus!” I shook my head saying, “I’m good, maybe after a cup of coffee.” The problem was I was without my flat boots and barefooting the sand; however, she was imperative… I climbed up to where she was and sure enough, there were fifty tailing Africanus. Now that I saw all the tails, I couldn’t resist and went for it. Carefully, step by step I easedmy way to casting range doing all I could to not get leveled by a wave or slice my foot on a mussel. I managed to get in position and make my cast. To my disbelief, an Africanus took my crab! Next thing I knew I was knocked down getting by a powerful wave. I was in a froth of whitewater getting my skin ripped off from the mussels and rocks. When the wave receded, it was a struggle to get up, but I managed and dashed for shore with rod in hand and fish on. After making it to a better position, the Africanus was already deep in my backing. I looked like a fell in a blender and had blood leaking everywhere. Naturally, I didn’t care… Before nearly running out of backing, the Africanus stopped. I then began the intense battle to bring him back. To avoid the danger of getting cut on rocks, it was time for an advanced move – get out past the rocks so I could pull him back. We were now 45 minutes in with the fish exhausted. I was literally dragging him up to the beach. Then the nightmare happened. The fly just plain popped out as I attempted to surf him up on the beach. The exhausted Africanus uprighted and swam away. That hurt more than the loss of any other fish in my life. I believe that would have been the first big Africanus caught off the beach on a fly ever.

jeff currier africanus

You can read the heartening story I wrote the day this happened on my Blog –
“The Africanus that got Away”

Flylords: What’s fishing like in your home waters compared to other places?

Jeff: I live in Idaho for the amazing trout fishing. It’s truly some of the best in the world, but after more than 30 years on my home waters, they have gotten less challenging. So, for me, despite my home water fishing still being great, I mostly enjoy chasing the crazy different species I find all over the world both in salt and freshwater.

Flylords: What are the top 2 fishing accounts you follow on Instagram?

Jeff: I got my first smartphone earlier this year and still trying to figure it out. I do all I can to get my own post up let alone follow another’s. So, I have no favorites but rather when I have a rare free minute just check out the ones that pop up. Untamed Angling, Yellow Dog, and Built for the Wild stand out the most.

Flylords: Having caught over 400 species in 60 different countries, what 3 were most memorable?

Jeff: As of 2003, no American had ever won a medal in the World Championships of Fly Fishing. I was going into the last session for a Competition in Spain and was on my way to being the first. However, I had the lake my final session and my particular beat hadn’t produced a fish all-tourney and it had been fished by some of the best anglers on the planet. All I needed was A FISH to medal, but the odds were more than against me. Amazingly, thirteen minutes into my three-hour session I caught a 9” brown trout. The brown was small but just enough to put me on the podium. When they played the National Anthem and raised our flag for me in front of hundreds of people, it was the proudest moment of my life.

jeff currier atlantic salmon

The other was a 22lb Atlantic salmon in Iceland and a Catch and Release World Record golden mahseer in India. Both have great stories to go with as well but I’ll save it for next time you see me in the bar!

jeff currier india mahseer

Flylords: How do species differ as you fish from country to country? Do brown trout in the US contain small unique traits that fish in Europe don’t have?

Jeff: The brown trout in Europe are the same ones we stocked here in the USA. The main difference I see is that the ones in Europe are spookier and harder to catch despite being smaller. I’m guessing it’s a gene pool thing, Europeans aren’t as big on catch and release as we are and the ones that have survived are the wisest. When you wander north and south in this world you rarely get the same species. For instance, here in the USA, we have bass, but when you drop down into South America you get the cichlids. That’s when there are big differences based on them being able to live in hot vs cold water.

Flylords: What country should all die-hard fishermen attempt to visit?

Jeff: If we’re talking die-hard fishermen that like all species, then hands down it’s the Amazon of Brazil. The Amazon region has the top gamefish of the world, the peacock bass, but also so many other kinds that are super fun to catch. Toss in the remoteness, the impeccable rainforest, birds, and animals – it is simply an experience every die-hard needs to do. If you’re a die-hard trout angler and don’t care about the crazy fish, then you need to go to New Zealand. And if you’re a saltwater flats nut, don’t miss Seychelles.

Flylords: Who did you look up to when you were younger?

Jeff: No doubt it was my father along with both grandfathers. They all fished and mostly with the fly. My dad was an amazing fly fisherman and didn’t hold back on kicking my ass by catching way more fish than me even when I was like 8! It made me better faster. I finally out fished him on the Madison River when I was 16. I left him in the dust from that day on and I’m certain he was proud.

As for other pros in the sport, I was lucky to meet most of them. I was doing the big shows way back when I was only in my 20’s. I had the opportunity to be at the dinner table with many and I soaked it up. Guys like Mel Krieger, Dave Whitlock, Billy Pate, Lefty Kreh, Gary Lafontaine, Gary Borger, and Flip Pallot to name a few. Out of all of the fly fishing legends, Mike Lawson was the best. We became great friends at those shows and I still get together with Mike continuing to ask him questions and his advice on all kinds of matters.

Flylords: What does fly fishing do for you? 

Jeff: Its more than a hobby, fly fishing is my life. It keeps life interesting. There’re always areas of the sport I can improve upon and learn to catch more fish. I love that challenge even when I need to raise the bar and hunt down a fish on the fly that nobody’s ever caught before.

jeff currier peacock bass

There are benefits of fly fishing. First and foremost the sport gets people outside and on the water. Then, once folks see the fun fishing and the beauty in their surroundings, they want to protect it. Fly fishing creates awareness of the outdoors and leads to many fantastic conservation projects.

Flylords: Tell us about your art.

Jeff: I was the kid that did detention three times a week because of my desk art.  Yea, when you arrived at your class and saw a desk covered in some crazy pencil drawing, that was me. I may as well have signed the art because I got busted every time. Needless to say, I loved art class and it was always my guaranteed A+ on every report card.

jeff currier sharpie art

At college, I ventured away from the art. It wasn’t on purpose but I had other things going on. I studied biology and outdoor education. So, between studying and fishing the art slipped away. Right after college, I found myself working in Jackson Hole, WY at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop. I’d work there for 23 years daily. The owner, Jack Dennis, wrote a few books and somehow, he found out I was pretty good with art. He offered me $3000 to illustrate his latest book. I was broke and jumped on the project. I’ve illustrated several more books including my own, had T-shirt lines with major fly fishing companies, and currently have my own line of fish on coffee mugs, beer steins, and shirts. Who knows where this will end up, but I’m glad to be using my art skills.

Flylords: Was it the fly rod or paintbrush that came first?

Jeff: I was born to be both. No doubt about it. My mom still has finger paintings I did in preschool… All were of fish. Then, my dad had me fishing with the bobber and worm set up before I was five. I started copying his fly cast with my first fly rod at 7. I loved both and still do!

jeff currier art

Flylords: Tell us about your goal of painting every species you catch. How has the progress been going?

Jeff: Yes, I do have a goal of painting every fish species I’ve caught. I’ve presently caught 408 species and only painted about 75 of them. So, I’m a bit behind. The issue is I’ve been adding types of fish to my species list at a rapid pace. I never imagined I’d be fishing this much and it’s definitely cut into my art, but it’s a good problem to have. I figure there will always be time for my art. Art is something I’m certain I’ll enjoy when I’m old. The crazy world-traveling I do these days won’t be so easy when I’m old.

Flylords: What’s next for you?

Jeff: The great thing about my life is I’m not entirely sure. I think this is healthy and invigorating this way. What I know though is that I’m not ready to slow down. Though in my 50’s, I’m fortunate that my body still feels good. So, standing in the bow in wild seas, long hikes in foreign lands, and yanking on big fish are definitely on the “what’s next” agenda!

jeff currier double haul