Howler Ambassador

JT Van Zandt

We're honored to have had JT Van Zandt as a Howler Ambassador since 2017. JT has spent over 30 years dedicated to fly fishing, and yes, he is the eldest son of the late Townes Van Zandt—a songwriter of mythical status who some famously argue is the greatest of all time.

JT is a dead ringer for his father and contemplated a life as a songwriter for himself but instead forged his own path as a fly fishing guide and woodworker. He guides the middle coast of Texas for redfish, and builds some of the coolest and sleekest wooden skiffs and canoes you'll ever see. A devoted daddy to two young boys, JT Has created a zen-like connection between family, the outdoors and the legacy of his father's songs. All of this was the the subject of an excellent short film produced by our friends over at Yeti. Check it out here.

We caught up with JT during a photo shoot for our Fall 2017 line and found out a little more about what makes him tick.

HB: Are you really the son of Townes Van Zandt or is that some bullshit you cooked up to get a leg up on the other guides here on Texas' middle coast?

JT: It's true, and something I wouldn't own up to if it weren't. Honestly though, it's been a really cool road I've travelled, and one that uniquely shaped my sensibilities. I try to carry the meaning of my fathers tunes with me and live in a way that honors the wisdom he put out there.

HB: Ten years ago, you almost never saw anyone fly fishing out here but now skiffs and fly anglers are seemingly everywhere on the Texas coast.  Do you feel like this is good or bad?

JT: There are a lot of people everywhere these days and I'm one of them. It has the potential to be positive if we all behave in a way that is respectful towards each other and to the resource. The flats are sacred, and should be treated as such. Don't let a needless behavior of your own have a negative impact on the habitat or another angler.

HB: What's your "go to" Texas redfish fly?  Can you tell us? 

JT: It doesn't need to be elaborate, it just needs to be properly weighted for the depth and well placed so that it darts across the fish's path. If your first cast is well placed, and the first couple strips elicit a response from the fish then it happens. I like a small buck tail fly with bead chain eyes and no flash. I can tie a dozen in 15 min in tan, pink, and chartreuse. It is a sparse pattern that is suggestive of multiple species of prey. The first cast is critical. Think of multiple casts at a redfish like multiple shots at a deer. The animal becomes aware and bolts. Your first cast to an unaware fish offers your greatest opportunity with any fly. Your probability goes down with each additional presentation.