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People: Five Questions with Conway Bowman, the Mako Shark Man

Based in Southern California, Conway Bowman is a man who loves to catch fish, and the fly rod is his weapon of choice. He has traveled the world in search of Atlantic salmon, wild trout, redfish, bonefish, and tarpon. Bowman currently holds the IGFA world record for redfish caught on the fly (41.65 lbs Redfish, Record: World Fly Rod, 20lb Tippet). We recently caught up with the man to ask him a few questions about his passion for fishing.

1. When did you start fishing and who taught you?

I started fishing at age three. My father introduced me to fishing.


2. You have become known as the Mako Shark Man. How did you get into fishing for sharks? Do you have a special rig/technique for hooking makos?

I started fishing for makos 25 years ago off the San Diego coast. I always wanted to target big saltwater fish on the fly rod but never had the money to fly around the world to do so. I would read all these amazing stories in magazines about tarpon, tuna and marlin. I found out later that I had one of the world’s best bluewater game fish and fisheries right out my back door. With the help of some commercial fishing friends, I figured out how to catch mako sharks consistently very close to shore off San Diego.

My rig is very simple. An eight-and-a-half-foot 14-weight fly rod, a very large fly reel with 500 yards of backing, a floating fly line, 30-pound test leader, and 60-pound stainless steel wire attached to a big orange fly called the Mako Bomb (10/0 hook). This is all I use to catch makos up to 300 pounds. Add a 24-foot bay boat, good tides, and some fresh tuna for chum. Oh, and a lot of patience.


3. You run Bowman Bluewater Guides & Outfitters out of San Diego. What are your essential items to pack for a saltwater fly-fishing trip?

It depends on what I’m targeting, but in general, this is what always stays in my boat bag in addition to my rod and reel.

Conway’s essentials:

1)    Polarized glasses (amber lenses)

2)    Sun protective clothing (face, neck gaiters, hat, sleeves, gloves)

3)    Lip protection  (a must)

4)    Sunscreen (30 SPF w/ zinc)

5)    Box of baitfish pattern flies (saltwater streamers)

6)    Small bag of split shot weights

7)    Duct tape (works for repairing everything)

8)    Multi tool/knife blade and screw driver

9)    Microfiber cloth (for cleaning camera lenses to sunglasses)

10) Small point-and-shoot camera (to document all the fish I say I catch and so my wife knows I went fishing)

11)  Bottle opener (for obvious reasons)

12)  Copy of passport/ID and emergency contact info

13)  Handheld GPS (just in case I get lost or the guide gets lost. Yes, it happens.)

14)  My St. Christopher medal (for good luck)

15)  A good attitude (you catch more fish if you’re in a good head space)


4. Do you have any memorable “One That Got Away” stories?

I’ve had so many nice fish get away it’s difficult to sort out the most memorable.

How about the one I wish I threw back? It’s a great story, you’ll just have to wait to read it in another article.


5. What is the one fly any self-respecting fly angler should always have in the box?

If you are fishing for everything other than permit, I would suggest a Chartreuse Clouser Minnow. If you are fly-fishing for permit? A spinning rod and live crab! Just joking! For those who target permit on the fly, this most frustrating and humbling experience can leave even the finest of fly anglers with little self respect. Another joke!

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