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 eased my 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