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Community Member Spotlight

Ward Simpson

We are thrilled to introduce Ward Simpson as our AZ Fly Shop community member spotlight for the month! Ward is an avid angler and a true asset to our fly fishing community.
Whether he is chasing fish on the salt water flats or pursuing the Arizona Trout Challenge, Ward brings years of experience and a joyful nature to the game of fly fishing. Always willing to share his knowledge with others.
We are incredibly fortunate to have Ward as a member of our Arizona Fly Shop community. His infectious enthusiasm, knowledge, and dedication make him a true asset to our fly fishing family. Join us in celebrating Ward Simpson as our community member spotlight for the month!
-Chris Rich, AZ Fly Shop Founder

What does fly fishing mean to you? What about fly fishing offers you most satisfaction?

As a kid, I never liked sitting still and watching a bobber or even just blindly casting a lure. Fly fishing can be more active and while it may appear passive to outsiders, your mind has to be working the entire time to make the most of it. My other passion is upland bird hunting. They can be very similar when you think about knowing where to fish, how to stalk, and lead to capture your objective. While the jewel-like machined reels and handmade fly rods can be beautiful, it is really about understanding the fish habits, the water, and the entire environment. You have to cast a fly with an oddly designed device into the wind, and accurately place it to not scare the fish but yet not too far. You need to understand what they eat at different times of day and in what season. What you do and the way you do it differs from stream to river to lake and where they are. The other bonus is you are always in a beautiful environment and lucky to do so. Oddly enough, the more complicated and challenging, the better!

What does having AZ Fly Shop in the community mean to you? What do you like about AZ Fly Shop?

I learned from another passion, cycling, that it is important to have a relationship with your shop and the wider group of people you share the place with. While I can be guilty of being a gear junkie it is also about getting the right advice and the right gear can matter. Beyond that is the people you meet and become an activity community beyond the boundaries of the shop. Isn’t it all about the people and passion you can share it with that enhances your short time on earth?

Tell us your most memorable fly fishing story

So many trips but recently, my wife Nancy and I were with seven other couples on an AZ Fly Shop saltwater fly fishing trip to Cuba. Can’t thank, Grace, Jill, and Chris enough for setting it up. The group went in a day early to stay at an Airbnb in Camaquey, Cuba. Fun dinner topped off with a class about Cuban cigar history and industry. The next morning we took a pedicab tour of the UNESCO-recognized city center. Then a bus ride to Cayo Romano to our hotel and marina. Wonderful fairly new 60-room hotel where the water eventually worked but all handled with great humor! Each couple had a flats boat and guide where this time of year we mostly hunted for Bone Fish and Permit. All caught as well as other fish and spearfished lobster which the hotel prepared for dinners. Saltwater fly fishing is tough work and all were terrific at learning and catching fish. My wife is not a fishing enthusiast but we learned from previous trips that we experience far more than just the fishing. We were questioned by family and friends, about why Cuba and not Paris or something. Mostly, we love to learn about different cultures and have different and sometimes uncomfortable experiences. We always thought we appreciate being an American citizen but seeing other places reminds us of just how good we have it. Our form of capitalism may not be perfect and I wish it was more balanced for all but we are a darn bit better than some others. The best part of the trip was the people. The hotel, guides, and others but mostly we lucked out with an amazing group of people which interestingly enough, is the most lasting memory.

Is there any advice you would share with the fly fishing community?

A generalization is the product of a simple mind. I don’t like starting with what sounds like a negative thing but while I understand generalizing about things and people is the natural human condition, it limits how we see things and understand them. It becomes the core of bigotry and polarization. Seems to me it limits all our growth and life.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the community?

Give back. At the core, I am the average self-concerned person but have stumbled upon the pleasure of giving back. I know depending on your situation if you have the time and resources but most of us have so much that at least we can show up at our fly fishing club, national organizations, or your shop and do projects that benefit the community on or off the water. You grow more from the experience.

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