Friday, January 6, 2012

Turning Tides Jack Simpson

Turning Tides
Jack Simpson
Trevor Shpeley

We all know the name Brian Chan, and who hasn't heard of Phill Rowley, Tom Johanson and Gord Honey? They are great fishermen, writers and guides but what about the rest of BC? What about all the skilled fishermen and outstanding stewards of our waters? What about the virtuosos of the tying bench or the masters of old world boat building toiling away in their basements? What do we know about the people that give countless hours of their free time teaching newcomers techniques, ethics and etiquette?

There are hundreds of people like that littered through the BC angling community. They are teachers, lawyers, retirees and loggers. They come from every walk of life, some are well known, others are not. That's what this column is about; normal everyday fishermen who have distinguished themselves in the sport and deserve to be recognized for their efforts. I hope you will enjoy reading about these outstanding people as much as I will enjoy writing about them. Without further ado, here is our first profile.

Two AM is an ugly time of day to be heading out on a fishing trip, that's pretty early even for me but this day was special, I was headed up into the Cariboo to fish with a man I've known for at least ten years and seen in person maybe a dozen times, interior BC fishing legend and internet forum pioneer, Jack Simpson.

The first thing you notice about Jack when you meet him is the odd disconnect between his 67 years on this planet and his obvious vitality. His hair is still brown (ish), his eyes are piercing and while he certainly doesn't posses an imposing stature, it is immediately clear that messing with him would be something you would only do once.

Jack radiates confidence which is probably unavoidable for somebody that spent ten years flying radial engined prop planes for the Canadian and U.S. Military, a stint that took him overseas providing low altitude troop support in combat situations, sometimes returning the plane to the hanger with more metal than it took off with.

These days the only lead Jack tosses around is inside a weighted Leech. After a relatively late start flyfishing at age 40, Jack quickly became obsessed and enthusiastically embraced every aspect of the sport. He learned to tie flies, build rods, and find secret lakes. He became adept at modifying his boats to better suit his flyfishing needs and he has never balked at sharing the fruits of his labors with others. To date he has taught somewhere around a hundred fishermen to build their own rods and rare indeed is the person who fishes with Jack that doesn't walk away with a handful of his hand tied flies, many of which are his own creations such as the Bead Bodied Leech and the Black Hackle Nymph.

I first became acquainted with Jack online at Fish.BC which at the time was BC's largest fishing forum. He became their first and only moderator back in 1990 and literally thousands of fishermen have since benefited from his advice, guidance and acerbic wit. Did I mention Jack is opinionated? You always know where you stand with Jack. If he doesn't like somebody, he'll let them know but thankfully those people are few and I've never seen Jack hesitate to offer assistance to any stranger that asked.

Jack has moved on from his moderating days and has been helping companies evaluate and market flyfishing gear. He has been pro-staff for seven prominent manufactures and recently finished a term as director of flyfishing for Amundson Rods. Lately he has shifted focus to a company he founded, Sandpiper Flyfishing, which strives to provide gear to segments of the market traditionally ignored by the major companies.

Jack is also first on the scene to experiment with new equipment. If there is a new boat or rod that he likes, he gets one and puts it through it's paces. It is a measure of his popularity in the fishing world that he has little trouble acquiring demo models for that purpose. If he likes them, everybody hears about it. If he doesn't, they hear about that too. His honesty is a rare quality in the retail world and he sometimes pays the price for it.

Jack and Grace, his wife of 37 years, now live in Williams Lake in the heart of what many in the fishing community call “The Republic of Jack”. He continues to fish almost daily and if you walk up to him and introduce yourself at a lake, you will be able to count your self among the countless BC fisherman who have known and probably learned something from Jack Simpson.

If you know of somebody that should be profiled in these pages please email me at