Your name or any nicknames you have?
Justin Bower, most of my close friends and family call me Jutt, which is my childhood nickname.
Where are you at in the world? Where will you be fishing this year?
Born and raised in the state of PA. Hoping to get back out west this year and explore some new waters, possibly a trip to NY as well.
What river(s) and lake(s) do you guide/fish?
No guide here, just someone who loves the sport of fly fishing. Most of my time is spent on Spring Creek, Big Fishing Creek, Little Fishing Creek, and I have been testing the waters on Penns Creek this past year or so.
How long have you been guiding/fly fishing?
The first time I picked up a fly rod was in middle school, I must have been around 12 years old. I started heavily fly fishing the past 8 years or so. I am 27 now and have really begun to invest more and more of my time these past 8 years to really learn the deeper ins and outs of the sport to make my treks out on the water more successful.
What got you into fly fishing? When did you start?
I have always been a fisherman ever since I could remember. I’d go with my father, grandparents, and close friends and family. When I was in middle school I joined the fly-fishing club out of interest of what I had been hearing about the sport. We went on a class trip to Cabela’s, where I purchased my first fly rod. We took a trip that following day to a camp that had a pond. I managed to land a couple of pan fish on dry flies and I became hooked. I was on and off between spin fishing and fly-fishing, often resorting to spin fishing because it was always, “too much work,” to rig up and not catch anything sometimes. That was always my excuse. Then I was asked to help control for the Olympic fly-fishing team qualifier that was happening on Big Fishing Creek. I said yes, and it was like it flipped a switch on my perspective of the sport. Yes, sometimes it is work, but by asking questions to those that are knowledgeable and actually going out there and trying, you can be just as productive as a spin fisherman and even more in a lot of cases. I refuse to pick up a spinning rod now. Not because I am a snob and look down on spin fisherman like some do. However, there is so much to learn about the sport of fly-fishing, and I like to think of it as a goal or a challenge to become the best I can be at it. To engulf myself with more knowledge and become better and better.
Why do you fly fish? What does it “do” for you?
There are two reasons that come to mind on why I do it. One is that it is my therapy. Some people do yoga, others go to the gym, I like to have my hydrotherapy as one the residents I treat as a COTA/L calls it. My time to forget everything and just think about how I am going to catch that next fish. If no fish are caught that day, there is still nothing better then spending time in the water, surrounded by overgrown trees, and only the sounds of the water, wind, and wildlife around me. A lot of thought is involved when you are fly-fishing, but it becomes more of mindless thinking that is enjoyable, rather than worrying about the day’s troubles. I can destress from what negative things are happening in my life and use it as a way to reevaluate what’s going on. A great way to clear the mind of the bad.
My second reason is I may be a bit of a gambler. What I mean by this is that I get a thrill of the unknown. It’s like scratching a lottery ticket, or pulling a lever on a slot machine. There is that chance that you may just hit big the next part of the ticket you scratch or the next time you pull that lever. It is the same for me with fly-fishing. There is that chance each time you lay that fly on or in the water that it is your next personal best fish, and you are always out there trying to beat it.
If you own and use a Rod Vault, what do you like about you Rod Vault?
I have been using a Rod Vault for the past 3 or 4 years I believe. As I said earlier, I used to just grab my spinning rod because it was easier and I knew it would produce. Now I can park, throw on my wading gear and grab my rod and go. Where I fish I do a lot of hopping around, this is where the Rod Vault makes life so easy. I can get on the water much quicker, this means more time catching fish. I will never go without one now. Now that I have more time to fish since school is over, I am going to love having the Rod Vault even more.
What is a piece of advice you want to give to other anglers or a tip/trick that has helped you grow as an angler?
ASK QUESTIONS! I can’t stress this enough. No matter what level of fly-fisherman you are, asking questions can only enhance your knowledge about the sport to become even better. Most people I know like myself could sit and talk about fly-fishing all day. I consider myself to be still fairly new to the sport, and love to hear what others have learned, and share what things I knowledge I have to others when they ask for help. Go to fly-fishing shows and listen to speakers of the sport. For example, you could sit in a George Daniel seminar for 5 minutes and hear 100 plus different things that seem simple, but you never thought about them before. These little tips and tricks can be the difference from your 5-8 fish day to 20+ fish day averages. Consume as much knowledge as you can. You fly-fish because you enjoy it, and you enjoy it more when you catch more fish. Ask those questions to make all of your outings enjoyable. Even if it pains you to ask for advice from your brother who started fly-fishing after you, (YES DAVID BOWER, I do appreciate your advice)
Who has influenced you most as an angler?
I would have to say my brother David Bower. My brother used to make fun of me for how much I fished, until I introduced him to the sport. He started making all of these contacts with people who are very knowledgeable about the sport. He wasn’t afraid to ask questions to learn more about the sport. He engulfed himself into the world of fly-fishing and made that his job, literally. He fished heavily day in and day out and quickly became better than me because he spent the time to learn, and asked those question to make him better. He went to guide school and spent the last few years in Colorado, Alaska, Montana, and in our home state of PA guiding and sharing his knowledge with others. Now he will be working at TCO Fly shop in State College, PA. He showed me what you can do if you spend the time and ask those questions, it can take you far in the world of fly-fishing.
What’s your favorite new piece of gear?
I have just recently finished college and plan on starting to enhance my gear now that I am working. I’d have to say my favorite piece of gear I have now are my Simms Headwaters Pro waders. For many years I would spend $75 to $125 on cheap waders that would last me a season, or maybe two at best. I was tired of wasting money, so I finally got a pair of waders that are comfortable to wear and built to last. If they rip, Simms has an amazing customer service department that has hooked me up. They know how to treat their customers right!
What is your favorite fly? (To tie, or catch fish on?)
I think my favorite fly to tie and catch fish on would have to be a flashback pheasant tail in a size 16. It is so universal, I can catch fish it in my home state of PA, but can also throw it in Colorado and it still produces.
Best catch of all time?
It would have to be my first Cutthroat trout I caught while I was fishing in Rocky Mountain National Park. The goal was to hike to Fern Lake with my wife, and catch both of our first Cutthroat trout. We accidently passed the trail to go up and added an extra 4 miles onto our hike the first day in Colorado. Determined, we toughed it up and back tracked up to the lake, where we each caught of first Cutty. It was well worth the pain and agony of hiking back down to the trailhead where our car was parked.
What's your "Dream Trip"?
It’s between going to New Zealand for monster brown trout, or somewhere like Belize to catch GT’s, Permit, Bonefish, and Tarpon!
What are some of the best places you’ve been fishing?
PA is home to some of the best trout fishing in the nation, I also loved fishing out west in Colorado.
How do people follow you on social media or reach you?