Phil Clark Chats About His Approach to Fly Fishing and the Spot Brand

September 21, 2023

Meet Phil Clark: Spot’s creative director and resident angler. He grew up fishing on the Gulf Coast of Florida before moving to Minneapolis where he realized the importance of conservation through fly fishing. He’s always up for casting a fly rod and sharing outdoor experiences with friends. When he’s not fishing or working on the Spot brand, you’ll catch him on a bike, strapped into a pair skis or soaking in his wood fired hot tub.

We caught up with him to talk about all things fish, gear and creating content you believe in.

First things first, where’s home for you?

I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Now let's get into your branding experience. What is your approach to being the creative director of an active/outdoor brand like Spot?

So, I don’t come from an insurance background at all, but I do have a background in cultivating communities in the active and outdoor space. Spot as a visual, verbal and experiential brand is a dream to work for. However, the most important thing I can do right now is making sure we’re engaging within our communities in an honest and authentic way. What does that mean? We’re always working on building relationships from the ground up and we believe in the content we create. We’re also always looking for ways to physically participate in the activities we represent. I’m really excited to see what’s ahead for us.

As our resident angler, how do you balance fishing/outdoor time with your full-time gig at Spot?

I’m more inspired to be active since joining Spot because of all the great folks and partners that surround me. I’m riding my mountain bike more, I’m skiing more and I even get the chance to explore new waters when I travel down to Spot HQ in Austin, Texas. The past two trips down, I’ve been able to introduce Alison, copywriter (you), and Drew, marketing manager, to the world of fly fishing. It’s been wonderful sharing that experience with y’all.

And we appreciate you getting us out on the water… was stoked to catch my first fish! Do you find that being on the water, or just out in nature generally, fuels creativity?

I find it to be very calming. My mind is typically always in overdrive, but fishing (and other physical outdoor activities) really makes me focus on one or two things. Everything else has to slip away so it sort of resets my train of thought. It might not directly fuel creativity, but it does allow room for it to grow.

When did you start fishing?

I grew up fishing on Florida’s Gulf Coast with my family. My folks actually ran a bait and tackle shop called The Happy Hook. I vividly remember my excitement surrounding the early morning bait truck’s arrival. Like most kids, I moved on to other hobbies like skateboarding, music, climbing, skiing, design, etc. and didn’t pick up a rod again until 10 years ago.

Was there a certain person that got you hooked on fishing (no pun intended)?

Michael “Fish” Fischer, owner of Mend Provisions Fly Shop in Minneapolis. Mike and I met through a bike shop called the Angry Catfish and quickly became friends. He knew I was a graphic designer and asked if I could help him brand his fly shop. I said yes and we traded design services for casting lessons and gear.

What do you like most about fly fishing?

It’s pretty similar to other outdoor activities that I’ve experienced in that it has a great community that surrounds it. It’s also one of those things that starts out as one thing and ends up being another. The more you fish, the more time you spend on the water, the more you realize how vulnerable our environment really is, the more you want to protect it. Through fly fishing and my background, I’ve been able to provide pro bono design services to conservation groups across the country such as Chehalis River Alliance, Fly Fishing Climate Alliance and Keep Fish Wet.

What rod are you using right now?

For midwestern trout, a Winston Boron IIIX 4wt.

For smallmouth bass, a Scott Sector 7wt.

For salt, the Scott Sector 7wt. (redfish and snook) and a Scott Wave 10wt. (juvenile tarpon and bonefish).

What’s your favorite smallmouth fly?

The Howitzer Changer by Weights & Measures.

Any tips for someone looking to get into fly fishing?

Shop your local fly shop if you have one nearby, and hire a guide—it’ll shave years off the learning curve. 

Great advice. Any guides you’d like to shout?

Tanner Stofferahn is a great friend, possesses a wealth of fishing knowledge and is a guide who will put you on the biggest smallmouth of your life.

Whitney Gould of Headhunters in Craig, Montana. Whitney is a world champion fly caster and a super fun guide to hang with on and off the water.

All Water Guides is my go-to guide service when I’m visiting Austin. I’ve had several guides there and they have all been excellent. 100% would recommend.

Will you be pivoting the species of fish you pursue as we transition into fall?

With the cooler temps arriving, I’m hoping to get a couple of muskie float days on the calendar. You need to put in a lot of time for that fish, so we’ll see what happens. Once winter settles in, I tend to shift into ski mode. There’s talks about a saltwater trip, but nothing has been planned yet…

Anywhere in particular you’re hoping to visit?

Currently looking at No Name Lodge in Puerto Rico or back to Belize River Lodge.

Can you tell us about your Belize trip? 

My fishing pal Slater and I went to Belize last December and fished with Belize River Lodge. Before landing on that lodge we did a solid amount of research through Yellow Dog Fly Fishing. BRL had the best of both worlds—easy access to the flats for bonefish and permit and the jungle for snook and juvenile tarpon. The jungle option really helped when the wind kicked up making flats fishing almost impossible.

As soon as we arrived at the lodge, we knew this place was special. I can go on and on about their hospitality and stellar food, their historic lodge and the epic fishing, or I can simply say that when we go back to Belize, we’ll be staying there again.

Sounds incredible. Where else do you love to fish?

The upper Midwest really is a special place. It’s hard to explain, but once you’ve experienced its fishing possibilities, people, community and landscapes it’s really hard to leave.

Second favorite spot is Craig “Craiglandia”, Montana. I love that the town literally feels like it exists for fly fishing. Three fly shops, a restaurant and bar, a standalone bar and a taphouse. It’s the Disney World of fly fishing towns.

Who’s fishing with you?

I’m fortunate enough to have a solid crew of friends to fish with, but what’s so great about this community is that you could make a friend in an instant and you’re on the water with them the next day. That being said, these guys are in heavy rotation because they have decided to deal with my dry humor and sarcasm: Brian Slater, Tanner Stofferahn, Erik Johnsen and Roo Way.

What outdoor activities keep you busy besides fly fishing?

Downhill skiing, mountain biking and wood fired hot tubbing.

Favorite spot to grab a bite in Minneapolis?

The Kenwood for pancakes and a side of bacon.

Broders’ Cucina for a caprese sandwich on focaccia.

Pizzeria Lola for their Iowan pizza: prosciutto di parma, ricotta, mozzarella, garlic, arugula.

Favorite Minneapolis coffee shop and/or brewery to work from?

I’m a close-to-home kinda guy, so Wild Grind Coffee and Wild Mind Ales are perfect. Yes, the coffee shop is in a brewery—win win!

What beer are you sipping while on the water?

Castle Danger Cream Ale.

What snacks are you packing?

A gas station sandwich, meat sticks, cheese curds, chips, carrots and hummus, cookies.

Saltwater or freshwater?

Today, freshwater specifically for smallmouth or for a chance at a muskie.

If you ask me that question in January, saltwater.

Photography: Roo Way / July 2023 / Missouri River, Montana

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