I’ve working in the fishing industry on and off for the past six years. I’ve swung flies all over the west coast and I’ve fished to super picky fish all around Montana. The line between work and play is often quite vague. And so, when I think of fly fishing, I not only think of broad swing runs and classic dry fly flats, but I also think of numbers, marketing, and spreadsheets.

I met Keith Lyon last October on the banks of the Rogue River in Southern Oregon. He was just finishing up with a guide day and walked up to talk about the fishing – it had been pretty slow for both of us. And as we talked I noticed the logo on his hat, and these very distinct rods leaning against his drift boat. I knew then that I was talking to the owner of Jefferson Rod Company.

In the months since we have worked together a bit on a few photography and video projects. In all my dealings with Keith, it is apparent that he is working toward something he is really passionate about. He wants his rods to be a connection between his own story and that of the angler fishing them throughout the world. Even the name of his company, Jefferson Rods, is inspired by the place where they are created. In an industry dominated by marketing campaigns and technological advance, I find the return to the purer side of the sport refreshing.

That is not to say that these rods are not meant for performance because they certainly are. In all honesty, they strike the perfect balance between pleasing aesthetics and serious fishy performance. But this is not a rod review – I don’t want to talk specific models, lines, or loops. All I really have to say is that fly fishing is about connection. It’s about feeling connected to your environment and to the people you meet out there.

But for me, it’s also about feeling a connection to your gear. I want to know the guy who builds my rods; I want to feel the labor in the cork. When I’m really working the rod on a windy day or in a tight casting situation, I want the assurance that a keen angler built the tool in my hand. Not everyone can live in the Rogue Valley or the mythical State of Jefferson, but everyone can feel connected to their home water by fishing a handcrafted fly rod.

For more information, check out Jefferson Rod Company. Special thanks to Marcus Mattioli for the blog post and images!