Author: Will Rice
When I first came across Howler Brothers, a few lines in their catalog caught my attention.
“We are Howler Brothers. We are not really related by blood. But we are bonded by many shared calling: surfing, fishing, paddling, and the good things that come with these pursuits. Things like fire pits, really good tequila, limes and pre-dawn coffee.”
I thought to myself: ‘I like these guys already.’
We think you are going to like Howler Bros as well. If you aren’t familiar with Howler, their mission is to craft limited run, high quality clothing and goods that draft inspiration from the style and tradition of surfing and other coastal sports. They set out to make gear that works in the water, the boat… and the fire pit.
We’ve sported their gear in Honduras, Mexico, Montana and trips here in Colorado. It works.
Trouts Fly Fishing was able to catch up with Chase Heard and Andy Stepanian for a quick interview. Originally from the East Coast both grew up surfing and fishing in Florida and Virginia. Today, the two reside in Austin, Texas and spend their downtime from the outdoor apparel business world making music, hanging out, surfing when they can… getting to the water to go fly fishing.
Trouts Fly Fishing: When and how did you guys get into fly fishing?
Andy: I grew up doing all kinds of fishing. Cane pole, rubber worm bassing, you name it. It wasn’t until I moved to Ketchum, Idaho for a summer during college that I started seriously messing with the fly rod. Living there, at that stage of my life, it was like going to a fly fishing immersion program. I fished 6 days a week, mostly on Silver Creek, which is kind of like trying to walk before you can crawl. I took a lot of whippings.
Trouts Gear Testing - a Howler Brothers shirt on location in Guanaja, Honduras
Trouts Fly Fishing: How does your experience fishing impact your clothing designs?
Andy: We consider utility in all of our designs. We want to make sure zippers and seams are properly located so as not to be annoying while you’re poling or in the way when casting, wading or trying to order a beer. Overall, we try to keep things simple at Howler and take a “less is more” approach. We work hard to make things that don’t look like too much like fishing clothes because we feel like a lot of fishing specific clothes are ridiculous looking.
Trouts Fly Fishing: As fly anglers, we tend to abuse our equipment and clothing but also have high expectations from a performance and durability standpoint. How do you take that all into consideration when you are producing your lines?
Andy: Quality is the name of the game. I think we understood out of the gate that if we did not make high quality items, we would sink the ship pretty quickly. So, we keep this in mind when designing, when testing out fabric and when choosing the places where we source our goods. We want folks to be able to have a piece of Howler gear for 15 years and still see no reason to retire it.
Trouts Fly Fishing: How about testing gear? How do you make sure your clothing is not going to fail in remote location X?
Andy: We travel tons. It’s one of the perks of the job. So, we have a lot of firsthand knowledge of our products and their ability to withstand the beatings we put on them.
Trouts Gear Testing - a Howler Brothers shirt on location in Ascension Bay Mexico
Trouts Fly Fishing: So if you guys had a week off of work, where would you go fly fishing?
Andy: Tough one. There are so many places on the list that I still haven’t hit. I will say that I went to Los Roques in Venezuela last year about this time and I have really been thinking about it a lot lately. Very incredible fishery and far more than just a bonefishing spot.
Chase: Tough one. Too many to name. After hearing my partner Andy's rave reviews, Los Roques in Venezuela is at the top of the list. I’m also keen on chasing the elusive but giant bones in Hawaii. And we are actually taking that "week off work" to hold our first Howler Pilgrimage at the Palometa Club in Punta Allen Mexico in a few weeks. World class permit fishery and definitely a dream fly fishing trip. Stoked.
Trouts Fly Fishing: What is your favorite species – and why?
Andy: It’s kind of a fly fishing cliché, but I have the tarpon bug pretty badly. I think it’s because I spent years trying to get my first one and they taught me a lot of hard lessons. I still get weak kneed and make horribly stupid errors when in their presence.
Trouts Fly Fishing: At Trouts, we feel that it is important to give back to the natural resources and support local organizations that are trying to improve fishing habitat and protect the rivers we love to fish. Does Howler take part in any conservation activity or support as it relates to fishing habitats?
Andy: One thing about the fly fishing community is that there are a lot of people doing good things for conservation or other excellent causes. We try to participate in a meaningful way as much as we can. In the very near future, when have our first Howler Pilgrimage this year in Mexico that involves a tournament and some other friendly competition to raise money for the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust. We get to fly fish for a week with good friends AND do something beneficial at the same time. Easy.
Trouts Fly Fishing: Tell us about the fish that is burned into your brain – landed or not landed.
Andy: Back during that summer in Ketchum, I literally spent weeks without catching a fish because I was such a novice. Finally, one evening at Silver Creek, I managed to catch about a 22 inch brownie on a callibaetis cripple fly that I still have to this day. It was like my first notable fish on fly rod. A blind squirrel finding a nut. I made some stranger next to me come and take my picture. Looking back, it was probably pretty poor form to make him come all the way over during the peak of an evening hatch to take a photo but luckily I didn’t know any better at the time.
Recreating the Silver Creek Magic
Chase: Probably the most notable near miss for me would be my first Texas Tarpon experience. Pure beginners luck- we caught the Tarpon running on a perfect day out of Port O'Connor. It was my first Tarpon mission and one of my first fly fishing experiences ever. Accordingly, I was not even close to equipped with the skills to handle the silver king. It's a tragic missed opportunity that still haunts me.
If you ever have questions about Howler Brothers gear give us a call at the shop or check out their gear at our online store.
And there you have it…