Content Marketing / 05.19.16

What Fly Fishing Taught Me About Marketing

By Jeremy Frank
Fly fishing is my escape. Some of the best fly fishing locations are deep in the mountains or national parks—remote places where your cell phone is basically useless. You often have no option but to digitally disconnect. And even if you do have service on your mobile phone, it’s usually unwise to take it out when you’re wading in the middle of a river.

But fly fishing isn’t just an escape, it’s also an inspiration. Successfully landing a fish, surprisingly, has a lot to do with my day job: content marketing. Here, a few things I’ve learned in the river to take back to the office:

Be Authentic

Photo Credit: Nick Price Photography
Photo Credit: Nick Price Photography

Authenticity is the single most important element for success in fly fishing. The ultimate goal is to make your fly look like a real-life creature that a fish would want to eat. Dozens of factors contribute to this: your cast, your line, how the fly floats, the color of the fly, your stealthiness, and more. Marketing is no different. Your voice, message, and delivery are just a few of the elements that contribute to authenticity in marketing. Humans, like fish, have adapted to the noise of traditional advertising and marketing, and will only “take the bait” when your content is trustworthy and authentic.

Think Ahead—And Think Big

Almost no one comes up with big ideas by sitting down at their desk and telling themselves that they need to come up with a big idea. Similarly, in fly fishing, you don’t get to the river, wade into the middle of it, then think “How am I going to catch a fish today?”

Photo Credit: Nick Price Photography

I think about fly fishing pretty much every day. When I go on a fly fishing trip, I am constantly thinking about my approach, what I can be doing better, and what I can do differently. By the time you get on the water, you have an arsenal of strategies, ideas, and flies. Marketing is the same way. People and agencies are only as good as their commitment to new ideas and creativity. Great ideas and creative strategies come from constant evaluation, research, and iteration until you come up with something truly new and amazing.

Research and Experiment

In fly fishing and in digital marketing, we often find ourselves somewhere new. Whether it’s an unfamiliar creek or trying out a new content strategy, blazing new trails is part of the fun of both activities. In fly fishing, when you get to a new river, you always go to the local fly shop and ask for ideas. You’ll get a bunch. Then you head to the river, where it’s all about experimentation and learning.

Photo Credit: Nick Price Photography
Photo Credit: Nick Price Photography

You study the bugs flying around, you observe the currents, and you identify the type of water the fish are likely holding in. You gather as much data as you can, and you use that to make your best guess and start fishing. After a while, you start to understand what’s working and what’s not. Maybe your fly selection is correct because fish are looking at it, but they aren’t eating it because it isn’t floating naturally. Perhaps you need to try casting from the other side of the river. Or maybe your leader is too thick and they can see it. It’s time to keep what is working and change what isn’t. I think every marketer is familiar with this approach: You have a set goal, and you experiment until you reach that goal.


I have joked before that fly fishing is just marketing to fish. Like the most successful marketers, the most successful fishermen are the ones that can combine strategy with iteration and flawless execution.

Jeremy Frank, Vice President of Content Strategy
Jeremy has more than 10 years of experience in content and communications working both in-house and agency-side. Prior to Original9, Jeremy was director of content marketing at ServiceMax (and an O9 client!). Jeremy loves fly fishing, and would be happy to tell you why it has a lot in common with content marketing.