Cahill Tells All

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Photo by Kent Klewein

Photo by Kent Klewein

I sat down recently for an interview with Kyle Wilkinson for Trouts, “Current” magazine.

I hope it is not too self serving to share the interview here, but I did get the chance to answer some questions I hear all the time. I though G&G readers might enjoy a peek behind the curtain. I won’t make it a habit.


Trout’s Interview with Louis Cahill

Tell us a little bit about the history of G&G. Where did the idea come from, how long has it been in existence, and in general how did you get this whole thing started?

Photo Steve Seinberg

Photo Steve Seinberg

I was working as an advertising photographer and was shooting more and more for the fly fishing industry. I met Kent Klewein and we started fishing together. It was a great partnership. Kent is one of the most talented anglers I’ve ever known and there is an intensity about him that comes through in photographs.

My photos of Kent were popping up on magazine covers all over and I started getting a lot of emails from anglers who were coming to my photography site to look at fishing photos. A portfolio site isn’t a great vehicle for that. There might be 50 or so photos on that site, but my library of fly fishing photos is about 5,000,000 images. I was looking for a way to better serve that community. Kent had been writing a blog for his guide site and it just seemed natural for us to do something together, so we launched G&G in August of 2011.

Now onto to the name. How did you come up with it and why ‘Gink and Gasoline’?

It’s pretty tough to find a good URL that isn’t taken. It seemed like every idea we had ended at a parked domain. We almost called it Crazy Eddies but that wasn’t quite right. At first we weren’t quite sure what the site was going to be. We were traveling all over the place chasing fish and listing to a lot of loud music in the car. We were playing the Southern Culture On The Skids CD, “Dirt Track Date,” and the song “Fried Chicken And Gasoline” came on. It’s all about being on the road and everything smelling like fried chicken and gasoline. It hit me like lightning. We had a good laugh and registered the domain. Without anyone knowing it, Dave Grossman and Steve Seinberg were listening to the same music and came up with “Southern Culture On The Fly”, so I guess the fly fishing media owes that band some credit.

Let’s move on to you. Who is Louis Cahill?  How did you get your start in fly-fishing? Photography?

My grandfather was a fly fisherman. He fished gear mostly, but he fly fished too and watching him captivated me. He taught me to cast a fly rod when I was eight years old. He put one of my grandmother’s dinner plates in the backyard, showed me the casting stroke and told me to put the fly on the plate. He gave me an old bamboo rod. It was a cheap hardware store rod and I’m sure he was about to throw it away. The stripping guide had come off and he’d taped a bent paper clip in its place. I fished that rod until I was in my mid 20s when I backed over it with the car.

Photo Bruce Chard

Photo Bruce Chard

I’ve always been a photographer, I suppose. My dad took pictures and so does my older brother. I got a hand-me-down camera, one of the original Polaroid Land Cameras, and it stuck. There is a Polaroid taken with that camera in my mother’s photo album and written in my child’s hand writing it says, “double exposure test 1969.”

I delivered news papers in second grade and in high school I sold them room-to-room in the local hospital. When I graduated, I became a photographer for the Danville Register and Bee. I eventually moved to Atlanta and found my way into the advertising business and later married my best client, which was the smartest decision I ever made.

My wife, Kathy, gave me a waterproof camera to carry fishing and I started to put the photos on my screen saver. My clients loved them and convinced me to put a few on my portfolio site. I didn’t think anything of it but about a month later a link to my site appeared on Moldy Chum. I sold three images that week and decided that maybe I should take it more seriously.

The camera quickly introduced me to some of the top folks in the industry. I met Bruce Chard at IFTD and he walked me around the show introducing me to everyone he knew, which is everyone. Half the folks I met that day are close friends now, including Bruce, without whom G&G would not exist.

On the topic of content, it would be hard to find someone who doesn’t think you put out some of the best and most consistent around. You’ve got a handful of great contributors, but you still supply the majority of the content. How do you avoid the roadblock of ‘what the heck am I going to write about today?’

First of all, thank you! We certainly try very hard. I love fly fishing and if I’m not talking about it, I’m thinking about it. It’s a short trip from there to writing about it. I’ve been very fortunate to have some great friends who know an awful lot about fly fishing and are interested in writing.

Wicked Justin Pickett

Wicked Justin Pickett

When Kent stepped back a little over a year ago, my job changed. I had to start thinking of myself as an editor. The last thing I wanted was a site that was all about me! Justin Pickett got involved, not only writing but handling the social media, and that’s been a big help. I talk with my contributors and try to help them with ideas but a lot of the writing still falls on me, and that’s ok. I won’t lie, it’s a challenge but there are a couple of things I keep in mind that help.

First and foremost, I work for my readers. I started the site to serve this community and I take that seriously. If it is not of value to the readers, it doesn’t go on the site. That said, we have a very diverse audience. We have readers who are at the very top of the sport and readers who have just picked up the rod. That means that anything I can think of is relevant to someone. Every time I choose a fly or figure out a fish or have a conversation in the fly shop there is the potential for an article. I guess the short answer is I work at it, every minute of every day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten out of bed in the middle of the night to write.

You’ve recently increased your video presence within the Blog. Tell us a little more about the theory behind this strategy and where you plan to take it.

I’ve always wanted more video on the site. The medium just lends itself to fly fishing and I think it serves the folks who don’t have the time to read an article or learn better from being shown. The problem is, I was overwhelmed. I honestly never expected G&G to take off like it did. I thought I’d have time to figure it all out. I didn’t. I had to hit the ground running. I became friends with Murphy Kane who had a site called Bent Rod Media. Murphy is a great videographer. He joined G&G about a year ago and it has really stepped up our video game.

We were asked to produce some tip videos for a TV show. We shot the segments but the show got cancelled so we put them on the site. They have been very popular and we are expanding that format this year. We are also working on larger video projects, which will be more entertainment oriented. We created a space on the site called G&G TV. It’s in its infancy right now, but look for that to expand and become more dynamic.

What has been the most surprising and/or most rewarding thing about your Blog?

My fishing buddies

My fishing buddies

The best thing about the whole experience has been connecting with the readers. G&G took off at light speed. I was shocked, honestly and kind of naïve. In retrospect, I’m glad it happened that way because it forced me to make some decisions I might not have made otherwise. I decided early on that G&G was going to be a community. It really is and it’s a great community. A very positive and enthusiastic group. That’s why I started hosting fishing trips. So I could hang out and fish with them. They are real people on the other end of the Internet. It’s easy to forget that. I think of it as having 2 million friends.

What can we expect for the future of G&G? What would you hope readers see when they head to your site 5 years from now?

Authenticity. G&G continues to grow, but I am committed to keeping it authentic and personal. I never want it to be a canned and polished presentation. I will never push off a bunch of paid editorial on my readers. We try to present it in the best way we can but at the end of the day we are a bunch of anglers writing about what we love.

More contributors with different points of view. We will be adding some different media. Podcasts and more video and, who knows, in 5 years maybe we’ll be able to take you on a virtual fishing trip but it will always be about the community. It’s not us telling you, it’s a conversation.

Fly-fishing has changed quite a bit since I started (20 years ago) and I’m sure you would agree. There was no such thing as social media, and no internet websites to instantly answer any question I had. Quite truthfully, it was all about reading books, hopefully having a good teacher, and figuring things out on your own. What are your thoughts on the direction our sport is heading?

Fly fishing is growing. I’m sure of that. You hear that it isn’t but I don’t think that’s true. I think the industry just isn’t doing a good job of tracking it. For a long time industry folks have been saying, “We need another River Runs Through It.” They can’t see that what’s happening now is ten times better. “A River Runs Through It” got a bunch of 60 year old guys into fly fishing. The Internet is introducing kids and women to fly fishing like never before. It’s amazing.

IMGP0585It’s not just changing the demographic. It’s changing the way we fish and what we fish for. How many folks would be casting to carp or fishing Tenkara rods without the internet. Anglers are talking to each other, and to the industry, in real time. Manufacturers get so much feedback now. That means better gear and better anglers.

Maybe the biggest, and most positive change is in conservation. The discussion over protecting our fisheries has come out of the TU meeting and on to Facebook and Twitter. It’s changing things at every level. If it wasn’t for the Internet, the Pebble Mine would have happened without us ever knowing. Even at the micro level it’s helping. You see a lot fewer photos of fish being held by the gills these days. You catch hell for that on social media, as you should.

I think the future of fly fishing is the brightest it’s ever been. The learning curve is a whole lot shorter, for sure, but there’s a difference in what folks are learning, too. We are all exposed to a wider spectrum and we are all learning, beginners and pros alike. Not only how to catch fish but how to do it responsibly and how to share it with others.

Alright enough with the serious stuff- what is your most memorable fish story?

I’ve had some amazing opportunities. I get to do some pretty awesome fishing in some beautiful places. Your readers can check out some of those stories on G&G. Like the fishing trip when I almost died, called “Not Today,” or my existential crisis on The Dean River, in “The River Is Full Of Want.” Getting to fish the Saint Vrain with John Gierach was a real treat for me, since I learned to trout fish from John’s books. You can read about that in, “Not Just Anybody’s Saint Vrain.”

I will tell you about something I haven’t written about though. It’s a small thing, very simple and a long time ago, but I think of it often. My grandfather passed away many years ago. I never got to fish with him as an adult. I remember talking with him about fly casting, picking his brain, and he told me I’d catch a lot more fish if I could throw a really tight loop up under overhanging brush.

“Some guys can put it way back in there,” he told me, “but I was never that good.”

It was good advice and I’ll never forget the first time I made that cast. It felt like he was standing there beside me. I never fish under overhanging brush now without thinking of my grandfather. It’s a simple thing, but I know it would make him proud that I took his advice and that I learned to do something he never could.

Lastly, if you could only target one species of fish for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

That’s a tough one! I love so many kinds of fishing and have so many more species I want to catch. If I had to choose though, it would be steelhead. There is something magical about those fish. They are a lifetime of challenge, that’s for sure, but there’s more to it.

photoI live in the south, a long way from any steelhead. Those fish are out there wild and free, swimming in the ocean where we could never find them, but they are drawn to the river for reasons they can’t fully understand. At the same time, I’m here in Atlanta or wherever, and I’m drawn to those rivers too, for reasons I don’t fully understand. Those fish are traveling and so am I. We meet on the river at that time and place driven by powers we can’t control. Then we both go our own way and never meet again. It feels like destiny. The romance of that idea is incredibly powerful to me. If I just wanted to catch fish, I’d go dig some worms, but I know that, at some level, it’s not really the fish I’m looking for.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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6 thoughts on “Cahill Tells All

  1. “We meet on the river at that time and place driven by powers we can’t control.”

    Never have a read a better description of why we do this. Thanks Louis!

    P.S. Hope you’re having a killer time on Abaco right now.

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