Fly Fisher, Architect, Interior Designer and Outdoor Lover, Anton Yupangco

Anton Yupangco balances his busy life as an architect and interior designer with fly-fishing. In the last year he has fished 52 rivers, caught 50 species on the fly and completed the first stage of the Western Native Trout Challenge! We caught up with the gay American-Filipino to learn more about why fly-fishing is so addictive and how it is finally opening up. Meet Outdoor Lover and skilled fly fisher Anton Yupango

Can you share with us how you first got into fly-fishing? 
I was driving over a bridge in the Catskills one summer, and saw an angler casting in the river below. I had never fished before, and even though it was a fleeting image, I knew immediately that it was a pursuit I would enjoy.

What is it about fly-fishing that you prefer over regular conventional fishing?
The mechanics of casting-its visual and tactile: beautiful to see, and when done correctly, it feels great. In conventional fishing, anglers typically cast bait or a lure, a weighted object that when flung, pulls the fishing line off of the reel. In fly casting, what the angler is trying to deliver to the fish is often (though not always) a bit of feather and fur on a hook -- a nearly weightless object that has little mass, so the mechanics of conventional casting don't work. The primary mass in the system is instead the line itself, and you use that to propel or push the fly. It's as if someone gave you 40-80 feet of string and asked you to aerialize it; learning to cast is difficult but also intuitive, and about timing over muscle.

"Learning to cast is difficult but also intuitive, and about timing over muscle."

You fish in fresh and saltwater, what is your favorite and which fish do you specialize in catching if any?
If it swims I'll try to catch it! Of course I love targeting trout--they are an ideal quarry for fly fishing because often they are exclusively in the mood to delicately sip tiny bugs off the water's surface. When they're like this, fooling them can be quite rewarding. When they're aggressively seeking a big, high-protein meal like another fish, or a mouse, that's a lot of fun too... Really anything predatory that will give chase, strike aggressively, and fight hard--so trout and smallmouth in freshwater, tarpon and jacks in the salt.

Many people refer to fly-fishings as a form of meditation? Does that ring true for you?
It does encourage a kind of meditative state... I would describe it as a flow state where intuition, observation and skill come together. I believe the loud thrumming of flowing water, the proximity to and deep observation of nature, and the awareness of danger and humility brought on by that, all contribute to a kind of soft focus that keeps intrusive thoughts at bay. Many people ask me what I think about while I fly fish, and I always reply 'nothing'. It is difficult to sustain an outside thought in this space for very long. So, in that sense it is the closest thing to an off switch that I've found. The environmental factors also contribute... fish often live in beautiful places, and that of course helps clear the mind.

As an outdoor lover can you share with us two of your favorite places outdoors to spend time?
In the last few years I've spent a lot of time in the Sierras. There's a lot of water to cover from tiny streams to big rivers, and it changes so dramatically between seasons. I also love being on the flats anywhere in the tropics--long sandy stretches of beach, clear shallow water--it's a dream for sight-casting to fish.

You also tie flies, can you share a little about the art of fly timing?
Many anglers also tie does seem like a natural progression. It's a facet of the sport where you can really make things personal and experiment. Say on your home water you observe trout keyed-in on feeding on a particular mayfly, specific to your region at a particular time of year. You could go home and tie a fly pattern that modifies an existing one or invent your own.  There's a river in the Catskills where, when walking on the riverbank, I'd often see snakes dart into the water. No one sells a snake fly commercially, so I tied one up to test a theory. Turns out a lot of fish will eat a snake!

Fly-fishing is quite a traditional sport and world, and is often seen as the preserve of wealthy old white dudes, is that a fair assessment or is that not the case?
There is absolutely truth to that stereotype, but I do see the industry growing rapidly beyond this base. Marketing has become more inclusive and representative, particularly for women, people of color, and young people. Brands and retailers recognize it is both poor optics, and poor business practice to keep the sport niche. But beyond commercial visibility, there do seem to be grassroots efforts to make the sport more inclusive. Social media has amplified and elevated voices from a diverse assortment of anglers, allowing them to find each other, and also connect on and off the water. See orgs like @communityflyfishing or @brownfolksfishing.

As a gay person of color do you find the fly-fishing community open and accepting?
I do think the community is accepting -- and I believe the sport generally lends itself to decent individuals. On a whole I'd say anglers are respectful and considerate of both nature and others. Personally, I've not experienced bias on the river as a person of color from another angler.  Nor have I become fishing buddies with someone who did not want to be friends after finding out I am gay. 

"Fishing is a discipline in equality, for all people are equal before fish." 

What advice can you give other LGBTQ+ person interested in getting out on the water to fly fish? Are their groups they can join?
To paraphrase a former president: "Fishing is a discipline in equality, for all people are equal before fish." Anyone can find success on the water, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, physical ability, age, race or creed. Don't be nervous about starting, and don't be discouraged by early failure. To start from scratch, your best bet is to go to a local fly shop and talk to someone and sign up for a class. Classes are often free and will help you overcome what can be a steep learning curve. And there's probably a young person sitting behind the counter bored out of their mind, eager to help someone get started. In my experience local fly-fishing clubs are more than happy to welcome new members and steer them in the right direction. Also look for orgs like @lgbtoutdoors, as there may be a chapter in your area.

Being out on the water greatly increases the risk to your skin from UV damage. Can you share with us how you protect your skin whilst fishing? 
Anglers spend a lot of time staring at the reflective surface of the water, which means we're getting UV from just about every angle. There is allmanner of angling sun protectants: buffs, technical upf fabrics, glasses, gloves, etc., but the base is sunblock. Reef safe and aquatic friendly products should always be used when fishing (fresh or salt) and certified cruelty free is non-negotiable for me. I prefer something thathas a non-greasy feel. And ideally, something you can apply and touch up without using your hands... otherwise you risk compromising your grip on your line hand when you're trying to set the hook on a big fish. This, unfortunately, I know from experience.

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