Photographs courtesy of Christopher Watt
For some anglers, it’s all about the trophies. For others, such as Christopher Watt, it’s about the adventure—which is was what the Thomasville, Georgia, 14-year-old had in mind when he set out on the trip of a lifetime. The goal of his mission, which he calls Catch50, is to land a fish on the fly in all 50 states and, along the way, to encourage more kids to try the sport. Two years into his journey, Watt is more than halfway through with his goal and on track to complete Catch50 before he goes to college. In the process, he’s picked up an Orvis sponsorship, countless stories, and a little perspective on the fishing itself.
Watt’s thoughts on the project:
My dad and I were talking about different goals in fishing and in life. The idea of catching a fish on the fly in all 50 states got thrown out there. We thought about and decided we could do it.
I love dry fly fishing, so my favorite fly is a stimulator. I’ve had a lot of success with it on small rivers and streams. It’s one of my go-to flies for small-water trout.
There’s no “best” place to go fly fishing because each destination offers its own unique experience, but my favorite states so far have been Florida, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Montana. I’m really excited about Alaska and redfishing in Louisiana.
I love to fish for tarpon because of their explosiveness on the fly. The largest fish I’ve ever caught was a migratory tarpon when I was fishing in the Florida panhandle last year. Fishing for rising trout is a close second.
I feel pretty certain I’ve caught at least 500 fish so far on my trip. I’ve been to 27 states and plan to fish my final two states—Hawaii and Alaska—the summer before I go to college.
My favorite snack to bring fishing is Oreos. They guarantee fish.
I love to fish with my parents. My dad taught me how to fly fish when I was 9.
Some people may think flyfishing is too difficult or too expensive to get into. Like all outdoor sports, it can be expensive, but anyone can be extremely successful without having to pay a lot of money. Very good gear can be found at relatively inexpensive prices.
If a state is known for a certain type of fishing or body of water, I try to find opportunities to fish it. I’m always asking friends of my family or friends who live in a particular state for advice about where to go. In some states, I’ve just pulled over and fished rivers along the road.
Since I started Catch50, I’ve discovered that fly fishing isn’t just about catching fish but really about the whole experience of fishing. The people, places, and experiences are what are so special and fun about it.
There’s no secret to fly fishing—just don’t be intimidated. Give it a try, and have a mindset for adventure.