Justin Miller is a longtime friend of The Venturing Angler, and the podcasts he’s done with us have been the favorites of many listeners. A dedicated angler and a travel associate for The Fly Shop, Justin travels the world to fish, and for years, he’s been spending a good chunk of his life swinging for steelhead in Kamchatka. Justin recently sat down for an interview about his travels:
Where in the world have you fly fished?
Every continent but Antarctica! I love it all. Swinging flies is my biggest jam and has brought me all over the globe, from B.C. and Alaska, to Kamchatka, the Kola, and the tip of Argentina … But I love all travel to wild places and am always ready to jump a flight to go chase something weird and new. Saltwater fly fishing has brought me all over the Caribbean and Australia, and the jungle is the newest rabbit hole to jump down, chasing crazy aggressive fish from the Amazon to Africa. I love it all!
What is your favorite destination and why?
Hands down, the Kamchatka Steelhead Project. I am a steelheader to the core and the KSP is the best steelhead fishing left on Earth. Dime bright, we can hear waves crashing in the background. But most importantly, these populations don’t fight with all of the negative impacts facing our steelhead populations in North America. No dams, agriculture, deforestation, dewatering, pollution, over harvest, none of it. They are wild and unspoiled. Exactly how Mother Nature drew it up. That is unfortunately impossible to find here at home.
And if all of that wasn’t enough, the program is an active scientific research project. It is the longest and most in depth steelhead study in history and what we learn from these pristine systems we bring back to North America to use as a recipe for what we need our fisheries to look like. It is an epic model. Steelheading for science!
What is the most memorable travel experience you have and why?
Cape York, Australia. Place was off the hook. We landed 43 species for the week, virtually all on one fly. Everything from 3-inch mudskippers to a 400 pound Queensland grouper. Queenfish, barramundi and golden trevally were the main event, and they hammered the fly. It was just a ridiculous trip all around. Our mantra was, “What the hell is going to happen next?” It was never ending surprises.
What has been the best trip so far and why?
What makes one “the best”? That is an impossible question to answer. Every trip has things that make it stand apart from every other… If there was a best, it would be the only place anyone ever went … and that would be boring as hell … I think I would have like 17 trips on my list of best trips! HAHA!
Do you have any travel coming up?
Oh yeah baby … If this lousy ‘rona lets up in time, I’m headed to the Seychelles in the spring! So stoked — GTs are the top dawg on my hit list … If that falls through we will call an audible and head down to Mexico or Belize. We can still get into those countries at least!
Is there a species that you are dying to catch? What is it about that fish?
GT is in pole position right now. They just look like the most violent fish on any flats fishery on Earth and I want to pick a fight with one.
When you are not on the water, what do you want the most out of a trip and why?
Good people to share it with … and cocktails.
What is your dream trip and why?
My dream trip is waking up in the bed of my pickup truck on the side of a steelhead river. No sleep all night because I’m too nervous and excited to see if the river is in shape in the morning. Pulling the waders on in the rain and trying to get the coat on before the base layer gets soaked. Casting all day in the drizzle, hoping for just one grab.
If one song where to play in a video short of your most recent fly fishing trip, what would it be?
I always think of Eminem’s song from 8 Mile, Lose Yourself.
“You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime”
What is the one piece of gear you couldn’t bear to leave at home?
As you have traveled, what environmental issues have most concerned you?
“The Blob” in the North Pacific. It is a warm water temperature inversion that has created difficult oceanic conditions for all Pacific salmon populations, including steelhead. That plus the never ending droughts and low water in rivers during the spawn and we have seen steady declines in wild populations throughout the Pacific Northwest. Shit is no bueno.