Ryan Hanrahan Buffalo Bulletin Via Wyoming News Exchange
Zac Sexton is addicted to fly fishing.
âI’m literally addicted to this,â he said. âMy wife is an addiction counselor and she says I’m addicted to it. I don’t do the things that I’m supposed to do to be able to go fishing, to get rid of my responsibilities so that I can go fishing, that’s what I do.
And Sexton’s daytime job at the county jail – or, in his case, his night shift – contributes to his addiction, as he leaves his afternoons wide open to stand in the flowing waters of Clear Creek for to fish.
He will even stay outside some afternoons for so long – until the last rays of sun are almost entirely behind the Bighorns – that he has told his wife, Sarah, not to come and get him until morning.
Sexton’s passion for fly fishing was sparked early in his life, he said, when he learned to tie flies at just 13 years old.
At age 15 – even before he had his driver’s license – he worked at a Buffalo store called Just Gone Fishing.
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And at age 17, Sexton bought his first bamboo fly fishing rod – his now favorite material – from an antique store in Buffalo.
âSo I had this bamboo rod and I became a bamboo fishing snob at 17, where I would basically only fish bamboo,â he said.
His passion eventually shifted from fishing with bamboo rods to making them, when he said he learned the process from his friend Mike and read as many books as he could find on the subject. .
âHe got me through my first and then I couldn’t stop,â he said. âI literally couldn’t stop making bamboo sticks. “
While both graphite and fiberglass rods have their advantages, Sexton said, he is drawn to bamboo because it is more of a hands-on process that allows the rodmaker to switch from a rod. from raw bamboo to a finished fishing rod.
Sexton starts with bamboo that comes directly from the Guangdong region in southeast China. From there, he cuts the bamboo, pumice it, and stitch together several strips to form what’s called a blank, the centerpiece of the rod before a reel or fishing line is attached.
And Sexton isn’t kidding when he says he hasn’t stopped making canes since learning how to do it. His rodmaking shop in Buffalo is filled with dozens of bamboo rods, rod blanks, and finished rods that he works to repair.
Although Sexton has stated that he would like to move on to making fishing rods, it is not a reliable source of income for a small manufacturer, as it takes at least 40 hours to make each fly fishing rod in bamboo. âHere I’m doing them in batches, or at least I’m trying to do it, so I’m going to build as a batch of four to six rods,â Sexton said. âAnd that will take me about six weeks. I could probably add up to eight as I start and maybe do more.
Although Sexton’s main passion for fly fishing is bamboo fishing rods, he is also very aware of the importance of taking care of the environment and ecosystems that allow fish to thrive in coves of the northeastern Wyoming – and its own effect on them.
Although bamboo is his preferred rod-making material, an added advantage is that it is a natural material that will eventually break down, unlike other common materials for fishing rods, such as graphite or fiberglass.
âIt’s a natural material and it will degrade eventually,â he said. âThe cork will degrade, the metal will disappear. Everything on a bamboo fly rod will disappear at some point. Graphite and fiberglass, not so much.
Sexton also takes care to dispose of the less environmentally friendly materials it uses, such as epoxies and glues, in a safe and responsible manner.
On a recent fishing trip to Clear Creek, just east of Buffalo, Sexton’s passion for maintaining the environment around water bodies was evident when he highlighted the landowner’s work for help restore the creek banks on this part of the creek.
Restoring the banks of the creek, he said, helps keep the water in the system “for the long haul,” by keeping the riparian area – the wetlands adjacent to the creek – larger, which also helps to keep the riparian zone open. keep pastures in better condition.
But his concerns about what negatively affects the environment around the water were also evident, as he spoke about how lower water heights affect both the availability of fish and their reduced size.
In the past, said Sexton, an angler could easily catch fish approaching 20 inches in Clear Creek, but now you’re lucky to find them approaching 15 inches. And right where Sexton was standing – where he only made a few bites and no catches – he once caught her 44 fish in one day.
Sexton’s concerns about water availability have also intensified in recent years, as drought continued to plague Wyoming and much of the west, with not enough snow in the winter to make up the difference.
At the US Geological Survey’s site at Clear Creek, west of Buffalo, the maximum water depth of the creek has declined significantly over the past four years.
In 2018 and 2019, the creek peaked at almost 4.5 feet in early summer. In 2020 and 2021, that peak was closer to 3.5 feet. During the same period, according to USGS data, flow has increased from over 1,000 cubic feet per second in 2018 and 2019, to highs of less than 700 cubic feet per second in 2020 and 2021.
“Do you want our children to inner tube down a stream with a dry stream bed?” ” he said. âIt’s a whole ecosystem. Life depends on water. If we don’t have water, we don’t have a life worth living.
Sexton’s passion for keeping the environment stable is at
partly motivated by his passion for sharing fly fishing with the younger generations.
And these kids are one of the main reasons he’s starting to work more on expanding his fishing rod business – O. clarki Rods – and his reel business – O. clarki Outdoors – and maybe even offer lessons or guided fishing trips.
Its companies are named O. clarki after the scientific name for cutthroat trout – the native trout of the Buffalo region.
Because the canes take so long to make, Sexton said, he knows it’s not an option as a main source of income.
However, both of these companies have a bigger goal than helping people have great locally made gear for their fishing. Sexton is hoping they can support a school he is considering, based out of his Buffalo store, where Johnson County children can learn how to make and repair fly fishing rods and perhaps find their own passion. on the water.
Sexton already volunteers with the Boys & Girls Club of the Bighorns and the Johnson County Mentoring Program, which he does, he said, because “I feel obligated” after so many people have given him back. .
From his mentors in making the first canes to the people of Buffalo and Sheridan who helped him find storage space and even donated free space for his store, Sexton hopes he can be the next one. to help others.
And it starts at his store in Buffalo, which he is currently transforming into a space where the kids from the Johnson County Family YMCA and the mentoring program can come and learn fly fishing.
âThe money part can be difficult,â he said. “… They can come here, use the space, I will teach them for nothing.” I will donate equipment and I will also donate canes.
When his school is finally up and running, Sexton said, he hopes to help the children develop a passion for the activity that has given him so much in his life.
âIt doesn’t matter who you are, what your socioeconomic status is, who you are as a human being, you can be successful,â he said. âYou can be successful at fly fishing, you can be successful at being outdoors and you can be the best. You can be the worst, and you can still have a good time. Anyone can do this.