In our Artist Spotlight Series, Casey Anderson of Pyramid Fly Company sits down one on one with artists across the fly fishing world to discuss art, fly fishing, and all things life. In this feature, Casey sat down with Mandy Hertzfeld a talented artist and fly fishing guide based in the mountains of Colorado.
Casey: Thank you, Mandy, for taking the time to do this interview with us. I’m sure you saw this one coming, please tell us about a little bit about yourself.
Mandy: I grew up in a small farm town in Waterville, Ohio. Since I was young I
dreamed of living the mountain lifestyle. A place where I could snowboard,
flyfish, and adventure all in one day. My Colorado adventures began 6
years ago when I graduated from art school. I was looking for a place where
flyfishing was popular and I knew Colorado was a perfect place to begin my
Casey: You’re a guide with Minturn Anglers in Colorado, can you tell us
some of the bodies of water you take clients on?
Mandy: I guide on the Colorado River, Eagle River, Roaring Fork, Blue River, and Gore Creek. I spend most of my time on the Eagle and Colorado.
Casey: You are also an incredible artist, would you mind explaining your preferred medium(s) and subject matter?
Mandy: Oil paint has always been my preferred medium to paint with. It’s long dry
time allows for me to work/rework areas and mix colors without having
paint drying quickly. It’s especially helpful on the large paintings. I also love
to draw with Prisma color pencils and micron pens. Prisma pencils allow
layering and blending of colors and I can get very detailed on drawings with
Casey: Which came first, the brush or the rod?
Mandy: I learned to tie flies at the age of eight, even before I picked up a fly rod. Tying flies was an art within itself and I was hooked. I finally added a fly rod to the collection after trying to cast on of my dry flies with a spin rod. It’s hard to say which came first but, my artistic side is responsible for gravitating myself towards fly fishing.
Casey: When did you decide to not only paint but guide as well? And what was it that sparked that vision into action?
Mandy: School was not my cup of tea, and the only thing I really looked forward to was my studio classes. I decided to become a painter only a couple weeks before the fall semester of my freshmen year. The only way I would make it through was to focus on something I was passionate about. I loved creating and I was good at it. I moved out to Colorado after graduating college to better market my artwork, and for the adventure.
After all, the closest trout stream in Ohio was about 2 hours away. Fly Fishing is what I grew up with. I had a job with Minturn Anglers lined up before I made the move. I figured that my years of experience in fly fishing retail would have myself bound to the shop. They mentioned guiding as an option and I was determined to become one. Upon arrival, I took the week long guide school and it was something I knew I was going to enjoy. With so much to learn, it was an excuse to spend every minute I could on the water. I began to look at fly fishing in a new way.
Casey: Since you have combined both careers, has life become hectic or have you begun to find a balance?
Mandy: Since my guiding and painting career began it was hectic trying to find the
balance between the two. I guide every day from June-October with limited
days off. Although, fishing is amazing in the winter and early spring, not as many people are interested in fishing through the snow and cold. When I’m not guiding, I’m creating work and building my business as an artist. The winter and spring months allow me to work on commission paintings and other ideas that were stewing from the guiding
Casey: Do you have clients who have both bought artwork from you and you have guided on the water? If so, can you give us a quick example?
Mandy: After taking a family out a couple different times, they had mentioned early on that they wanted to commission a painting from me; they just weren’t sure what yet. After an amazing trip on the water, they wanted something that would be memorable for that day. We were caught in a “Yellow Sallie” hatch. The little yellow bugs were everywhere and it was no mystery to what the fish were eating. They were attacking our “Yellow Stimulators” on the surface and the smiles that day was constant. After that day on the water, they knew that a giant “Yellow Stimulator” would make an awesome painting.
Casey: Your paintings of flies are beautiful and so recognizable. Do you have a favorite one that you’ve finished recently?
Mandy: The current painting I’m working on is one of my favorite. The bright colors and different textures that make up this salmon fly pattern are so captivating.
Casey: Judging by your social media, you put some of your guests/clients on some large fish! Could we hear a story of a memorable fish or experience?
Mandy: This past summer I guided a gentleman from South Africa. He had never fly fished before let alone held a fishing pole. His well-seasoned buddy was fishing upstream hooking fish religiously, we were still working on a presentable drift. As a guide, you read the water and know where the fish are sitting, if your client can just create the perfect drift. Well, he finally did. We were fishing a Mini-Rig, the hopper went down, hook set, and that was it. His fly fishing career was spoiled before it even began. He fought and landed a monster rainbow on the fly and was surrounded by beautiful Colorado landscape. He said, “I think I’ve peaked as a fly-fisherman.” as he sat down on the bank with a giant smile on his face.
Casey: Earlier this year I was in Vail for the Go Pro games and saw your art along the walkways. How did that come about?
Mandy: This past spring, I created work for “Restore the Gore” project. This project helps gain awareness for Gore Creek and how all contents of storm drains dump into the creek. Local artists were chosen to create a work of art representing the wildlife found in and around the creek. It’s important that locals and visitors of Vail understand that their choices can directly affect the ecosystem of the creek. I choose to paint the cutthroat trout, a species that started disappearing from the river’s ecosystem because of water
Casey: If you could only use two flies for your whole guide season, what would they be?
Mandy: #20 Butt Crack Baetis Brown-Designed by Duane Redford and #16 Natural Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail/Pink Hotspot.
Casey: If you could go anywhere in the world to fish and paint where would that be and why?
Mandy: Patagonia has been a place I’ve always wanted to travel to. The fishing is highly spoken of and seems absolutely beautiful. A dream of mine is to catch a massive Brook Trout and that may be the place to make that happen.
Casey: Brown trout on a streamer or Rainbow on a dry fly?
Mandy: The exciting visual of watching a rainbow break the surface after your dry fly is like nothing else. Especially love watching clients hook fish on the dry, it usually comes with a good startle when they aren’t expecting the eat.
Casey: Do you believe social media is a helpful tool while building your career?
Mandy: Social media is a very helpful tool in building your career. My work gains most recognition through social media. It also acts as an endless fly catalog, as I’m constantly searching through for my next subject matter.
Casey: What is your general process when choosing the subject matter for a painting?
Mandy: I find inspiration on the river and often in social media/magazines. Anglers share amazing fish photos and fly patterns; the most colorful and dynamic subjects are generally the ones that end up on a canvas. Reaching out to tiers and getting to know them and their work is probably my favorite part of the process. They usually send their fly patterns so I can photograph and paint them. I’ve had the privilege of painting flies created by tiers from all over the world.
Casey: Often anglers look at fly fishing such as scientifically or mathematically would you say being a painter you see it from more of an artistic/creative viewpoint?
Mandy: Definitely! I find myself wanting to create new ways to fly fish successfully.
Whether it’s testing a new way to rig my flies or thinking about how bugs may look different to fish depending on the environment they live. My brain is always looking for new things to discover in flyfishing.
Casey: Can you tell us a little bit about the hats you made?
Mandy: I’ve had a hat on my head since I was little, I guess you can say it’s a “comfort thing”. When I’m on the water every day a good fishing cap is part of my uniform, designing my own brand of hats was a must. Since I started creating flyfishing artwork I’ve had ideas stewing in the back of my mind to turn into hats. I had the chance to work with Minturn Anglers to design a series of caps.
If you’re interested in purchasing a Mandy Hertzfeld Fly Art Hat please visit either Minturn Anglers Locations; Minturn, CO Lonetree, CO or they are also available for purchase on my website www.mandykhertzfeldart.com.
Casey: If you could have one special power to improve your fishing what would it be?
Mandy: To be able to change the water temperatures.
Casey: If you could guide anyone for a day dead or alive, who would it be?
Mandy: Easy: Taylor Swift
Casey: As a woman guide, artist, and angler what would be some advice you might have to other women who are interested in fly fishing careers or lifestyles?
Mandy: My advice to women out there who are interested in making flyfishing a part of their lifestyle or career is to know your stuff! With that being said, find a fly shop with staff that will acknowledge and accept you as well as take time to help enhance your fly fishing game. When you surround yourself with skilled and professional anglers, gaining helpful knowledge comes easy.
Stay humble, listen, and spend as much time on the water as possible, keep a journal in your fly pack, and remember; showing too much skin leads to skin damage…and attracts creeps.
Casey: If someone were to want some art or take a trip with you, what is the best method of contact?
Cover Photo Credit: Rick Lohre
Check out the other artist’s spotlight’s from Casey Anderson: