Chasing Natives with Cameron Cushman

Flylords: Tell us a little about yourself, Cam?

Cam: Well, my name is Cameron Cushman and I’m a husband, father, fly fisherman, glass geek, and a filmmaker/photographer. I spent six years of my life as an Infantryman in the Army which brought me to Georgia, Texas, Alaska, California, and Afghanistan. That was a pretty exciting time of my life and now I’m back home with my family in Florida trying to catch fish and share the passion of fly fishing with others.

Flylords: How did you get your start fly fishing?

Cam: I’ve always been a fisherman. Whether it was chucking shiners for bass or doing kayak fishing tournaments, I’ve always had a rod in my hand. While stationed in Alaska I picked up my very first fly rod, I think it was a Redington combo I bought from Sportsman’s Warehouse. I watched some YouTube videos and gave it a go on the Chena River just outside of Fairbanks Alaska in hopes of catching some Grayling. On one of my first trips, I had brought my wife and she started laughing hysterically, saying I looked like one of those dancers who twirl around the flags. Thinking back on it, I’d imagine I did while learning. I kept with it though and shortly after learning we moved to the hill country of Texas where I really dove head first into it. After running into some health issues, I dove even deeper into it and since then have looked as it as a medicine.

Flylords: What inspired you and your team to make the film?

Cam: I had actually been trying to convince Marcos to come out west with me in pursuit of Rio Grande Cutthroat for several months before he finally agreed. When we started the planning, it was supposed to be us just going to fish for a few cutthroat species in Colorado before heading to the Fly Fishers International expo, where I had been invited to speak on DIY fly fishing Florida saltwater. We kept talking about it and before we knew it we set the goal to chase ten native species across the west in a period of about fifteen days. Both of us being filmmakers, we knew we had to make a short film out of it. The reality was we had hoped to make a longer one, but ended up being super happy with the short film it turned out to be.

Flylords: Does any single fish stand out to you from the trip?

Cam: That’s a super tough question that both Marcos and myself have been asked often. We chased a total of ten species, Rio Grande Cutthroat, Greenback Cutthroat, Bonneville Cutthroat, Colorado River Cutthroat, Bear River Cutthroat, Yellowstone Cutthroat, Lahontan Cutthroat, California Golden trout, Kern River Rainbow, and the Apache trout.

I think Marcos often answers with the Golden, probably due to it being his first trout species ever earlier in the year. In their defense, they live in some absolutely incredible waters and the surrounding landscape is amazing. It’s a tough question for me and I’m normally stuck on it for a few moments before coming up with an answer. I’d have to say the Apache trout was my most memorable and favorite species from the trip. That may be due to it being our last species of the trip, or that it was the worst weather we came across on the entire trip with freezing cold rain, foggy conditions, and howling winds. The whole thing was an intense hiking experience, we hiked deep into a canyon all while realizing we had a mountain lion following close behind us. It seems strange saying that the most miserable experience was my favorite but I think that’s how it usually works. Plus they are an absolutely gorgeous species.

Flylords: What fly pattern was the most effective for you?

Cam: Marcos probably had the most effective pattern of the trip because he never changed it. He stuck with a purple Parachute Adams for every species, I think I convinced him to change it once and he went right back. He was throwing between a size 12-18 and probably averaged with the size 16.

I like to use multiple patterns so I rotated through a lot but ended up being most successful with size 14 stimulators in various colors. Funny enough we only used dry flies for the entire trip, despite fishing some freezing temperatures.

Flylords: What is the most memorable story from the expedition?

Cam: Oh man, that’s a tough one. There’s definitely a few stories that stick out the most. We happened to blow all four of the tires on the trip, what’s funny is they went out in pairs. First, we blew the front two in Colorado about three hours into the mountains with no way to fix them after our first patch job from another angler. We burned through the mountain roads and when we finally hit the pavement, we had 6 psi in the front left and 11 in the front right. We stopped at an Amish community where they were kind enough to fill the tires back up and point us in the direction of the nearest tire shop. The second time it was a similar situation but in Utah where we blew the two rear tires out in the middle of nowhere. The other big memorable story was when we took a one day detour into Las Vegas and were immediately asked if we needed any cocaine after walking out of the hotel. We politely declined.

Flylords: What would you say to someone who wants to make a similar journey?

Cam: Just do it, don’t get caught up in the logistics of how far to drive each day, or where to stay. We slept in the car almost the entire trip because we were either not near a campground or tired from driving and just needed to crash.

With some googling you can find a lot of good information on the native species and the areas they can be caught, so finding the fish is probably the easiest.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to people on social media and ask for advice.

Make sure you have a good spare tire, an air compressor, and some tire patch kits. You’re more than likely going to blow a few tires on the adventure.

We covered 7,992 miles when we pulled back in my driveway, but your trip doesn’t have to be that long. Start small and work your local area, then once you’re comfortable with big adventures where you don’t know what’s around the next corner, just go for it.

Flylords: What do you hope viewers will take away from it?

Cam: I think our biggest goal is that more people will find an appreciation for the native species that call this country home. Everyone gets hyped up for the big browns and bows, and I’m not complaining either. But our little and sometimes not so little natives deserve some love and as I always tell people, there’s something special about catching something where it belongs.

I also hope people realize it’s not just about the fish but about the adventure and the people you meet on these journeys. I’ve got some major health issues and I hope that I can pass along the medicine fly fishing has to offer to others.

Super stoked for what’s next to come with our big Chasing Natives Film! 

To see updates about the upcoming film, follow @chasingnativesfilm on Instagram. To see what Cam’s up to follow him on his personal account, @cameroncush on Instagram.

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