I went down to Edison, NJ for the fly show this past January specifically to talk Fin and Skin with Dan Santoro. The booth was busy with the sound of the tattoo machine buzzing and onlookers checking out the work.
Flylords: When did you start tattooing and fly fishing?
Flylords: How often would you say you get to do fishing-related tattoos?
Dan Santoro: When it rains it pours. Some weeks I feel like it’s a big chunk of my clientele, other times I get none at all. In 2018 I was donating a portion of every fishing-related tattoo to conservation and that really sparked something. I was tattooing people who may have otherwise never found me, or even gotten tattooed. It was actually getting kinda crazy. Doing several weekly, I was like “ok I need to get back to making money” haha. I will probably be getting conservation literature in the mail until the day I die.
Flylords: For the most part I feel like the traditional fly fishing crowd is not the same clientele that walk into your studio. How did you get involved with tattooing at the fly fishing show? What were your thoughts?
Dan Santoro: It’s all changing. The new guard has far less of a stigma with tattooing and I think maybe some of the younger folks open that door for the older more conservative types. I’ve done plenty of first-time tattoos on 60 plus years old people who tell me they have wanted a tattoo their entire life and now they feel liberated with age and are no longer concerned with the opinions of others. I get goosebumps. It’s really empowering if you let it be. Offering a service that allows a passionate fisherman to express themselves is really an honor in my life. As far as the fly show, Casey Anderson who is a friend of mine, tattooer, and guide on Pyramid Lake set it all up. I was honestly shocked that it had become a thing, but glad that it has.
Flylords: I know you were based in NYC for a while where are you tattooing these days? What is the best way for someone to contact you?
Dan Santoro: I am currently at American House in Hawley Pennsylvania. My shop is essentially an appointment-only private studio that I share with my friend Dan Nelson. I have two children now and wanted to slow it down a bit after many years in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and central NJ. I do everything via email and I am fairly easy to find with a quick internet search.
Flylords: What’s your favorite fish related tattoo you have done?
Flylords: If you could pick anywhere in the world to fish and tattoo where would it be?
Dan Santoro: Maybe riverside tattooing off a car battery in Labrador. I don’t know how busy I’d be. Eventually I’d also like to go back to Iceland. I have tattooed there in the past. It was a great experience and the locals were excited to get tattooed. However, these days if I’m getting on a plane, I don’t want to bring tattoo equipment, just my rod. I am very lucky to be busy at home.
Flylords: I have seen tattoos become more socially acceptable overall but I don’t see a lot of guys out on the water that are heavily tattooed. Do you ever feel like you get the feeling of judgment or looks on the water or in the fly shop?
Flylords: What’s your favorite species to target and what’s your favorite species to tattoo?
Flylords: It seems you were very into conservation and the environment from our talk while I was in the chair. I see on Instagram you have been involved in a few river cleanups. It looked like you guys made a difference and had a lot of fun doing it.
Flylords: So if someone wants to travel to you and get a tattoo, where is the closest stream they could wet a line?
Flylords: Have you ever tattooed a client and then gone fishing with them?