Conway Bowman gets around. Based out of San Diego where he guides for, of all thinks, Mako sharks on the fly, he also hosts Conway Bowman’s World of Fly Fishing. His previous show, Dollar Wise Fly, focused on how to get the trip without the sting to your wallet. Conway agreed to do an interview here, so I’ll get you to it.
California doesn’t spring to mind when people think of saltwater fly fishing, but you seem to have carved out a pretty good fishery down there in San Diego. How does catching a Mako on a fly compare to other fly caught big game?
First off, California lives in the shadows of other great saltwater fisheries like Florida and the Gulf coast. California is the victim of an East Coast bias, like many other sports. We just don’t have the fishing population ,popularity or media attention as the east coast. That being said, the West coast has some of the greatest blue water fly fishing anywhere. The Mako shark is the star in my opinion. The fighting and acrobatic qualities of the mako shark plus is eagerness to take the fly within a few feet of a boat puts it up there, if not higher, with Marlin and sailfish. Additionally, San Diego , is unique in that there is no other place in the world a fly angler can constantly target a blue water game fish that is over 100 lbs with a fly within a couple miles from the beach.
I saw on the website mention of Corbina as “bonefish of the west coast.” What is that fishing experience like? And, are those Mission Bay bonefish worth the time/effort?
The Corbina is a highly sought after fish with the fly rod here is so cal. It can be as difficult to catch on the fly ( or on bait) as the Permit. They require the fly angler to present a fly quickly and accurately under adverse conditions (i.e. breaking surf and difficult lighting conditions). The Corbina is almost impossible to see even in perfect conditions so this adds to the difficulty in catching them. The approach is sight fishing in very skinny water, using floating or light sinking lines and fly patterns that imitate a mole crab.
The bonefish here is so cal are more of a deep water fish that are caught incidentally rather than targeted. This is a symptom of not having clear shallow flats available on our bays. I will say there are times of the year when the bonefish can be targeted in deep channels with sinking lines and various shrimp and bait fish patterns. But to get a classic tailing bonefish scenario in clear skinny water just does not happen as far as I know.
Through World of Fly Fishing you are getting to get out and about with a fly rod in hand, where are some of the places you are looking forward to checking out? Any of those bonefish destinations?
Yep I’m very fortunate to be able to travel, get paid and fish all over the world! Best gig in town I must say! Iceland is high on my list for Atlantic Salmon. As far as bonefish, I’ve fished Christmas Island , Belize, Bahamas and Yucatan so that leaves the Seychelles to explore. Hopefully I can do this sooner than later.
You previously had a show focused on good fishing without dropping a ton of cash. What lessons did you learn about getting after it without hemorrhaging cash in the process?
“Dollar Wise Fly”! That was a great show, unfortunately it had a short run, but it really connected with the audience. Still to this day, I receive emails about how that show demonstrated to people that you did not have to spend a ton of cash to have a great fishing trip. It’s so true, with a little research the frugal angler can go out and have a world class fishing experience and not mortgage the house. Get a tent, rent a camper, do some research of best times, places and go for it! Spend money on good beer!!
What is your go-to rod/reel for bonefishing?
Orvis H2 9 foot 8 wt with a Orvis Mirage IV. Floating line ( Hydros bonefish or SA Bonefish)
Many of us were lucky to have a saltwater mentor, someone who shaves years off the learning curve. Did you have such a person in your life?
Yes, I’ve had a few. My father john, who took me fishing at age two and who continues to inspire me to go out and fish!! Bill Storud, who owned the only fly shop in San Diego, Stroud Tackle, was a huge influence early in my fishing life. He taught me how to cast a Penn Jig Master and how to fish a live anchovy. Also how to fight large saltwater fish from a boat I can hear him now over 40 years later (“ keep your shoulders square to the fish at all times”!! “Don’t horse the fish”!!) Capt Lou Fador, who taught me so much about the behavior of Mako sharks and where and when to fish for them. Nick Curcione, who inspired me to take my 14 foot aluminum skiff offshore and target Makos.
When you are out on the water a lot you tend to see things that other people just would never see. You have to be out there to experience it. Is there anything you’ve seen out on the water that was special, unique, scary or funny that fits that description?
It’s all inspiring. Every second, every day, every form of life from the most micro jelly fish to the largest blue whale. It’s a privilege to be able to hit the water and just be in the moment.
What is your favorite species to chase, and why?
FISH! Any and ALL!!!!!
Thanks Conway and I hope to see you on the water down in San Diego one of these days!