JT Van Zandt

Rockport, Texas

The only way JT Van Zandt lives his life is in the moment - a habit self-instilled at an early age. With a famous father always on tour and a mother hard at work, JT was often left to his own devices growing up, but made the most of his summers by exploring every corner of the outdoors. He was constantly searching for what he could learn more about and what made him the happiest - and that's when he discovered fly fishing. From the second JT picked up a cane pole he knew it was the one activity he wanted be a part of his life forever. For years he practiced, using his in-the-moment mantra to spark ideas and work as hard as he could. Today, he's a passionate fly fishing guide, boat builder, and ardent environmentalist.
What goes through your head when you first wake up in the morning before you fly fish?
My family, the weather, the fish, and then a constant revolving array of possible spots to get my clients fishing as soon as possible.
Tell us a favourite story from a day out fly fishing.
I have collective stories with different clients. Each day is unique from the next. Overall, I love seeing the shore birds and dolphins, alligators, catching redfish on the fly, learning something new, having fun, and not getting hurt.
How do you up your game year after year?
By being on the water. The more time you spend fishing the better and more evolved you become. The more I learn year after year, the more powerful the obsession with my fishery becomes.
If you could do anything better, what would it be?
I'd like to be better at conveying the mechanics of the cast to beginner fly fishermen along with teaching them how to spot and approach each fish. I like to teach and I like to see improvement in my clients from trip to trip. Different analogies and types of instruction work better for different folks. Honing in on the best way to make a client successful in the shortest period of time without wearing them down is a fun challenge.
Who are your heroes? Who do you look up to?
I look up to many people. My dad because through it all he's always believed in his dream, never gave up, and never had to take a day job. Freddy Lynch, a fly fishing guide on the Texas coast who mentored me. The complexity of what he knew amazed and inspired me to become the fisherman I am today. Andres Segovia is also on my list for practicing guitar an average of 8 hours a day from ages 8-80. I am always impressed by individuals who are set on what they were put here to do and pursue it whole heartedly without the need for praise or reassurance.
What haven't you accomplished that you aspire to do in your lifetime?
To see my boys grow up to be happy, kind, thoughtful, conservation-minded individuals. I want to learn more about conservation. I simply want to see us all preserve our local resources and make rational decisions as people.
What part of you, or what you do, reflects a spirit of restlessness?
I can't sit still for a minute and fishing is running through my head all the time. I get crazy ideas and I'm over them just as fast. It drives my wife crazy but I'm trying to stack on as much experience as life will allow. I still get goofy excited when a client has the opportunity to sight cast to a fish.
If there is any love-hate relationship with any aspect of what you do, can you describe what that is?
Sometimes I get overwhelmed with all the possibilities out there - all the spots I haven't tried in a while, all the traveling there is to do, and what I'll miss while I'm gone. I love all the experiences I've had, but it's hard to stay focused on one thing without giving up other desires. Reaching balance and simplicity in one's life takes work. As a friend of mine always tells me, "To thine own self be true".