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< Inside L.L.Bean

Freeport, ME, April 1, 2021

Fly-Fishing: An Escape to Nature

Away from the noise and the hustle, Jeff Miller is back out on the water. It’s the place he goes whenever he can – or needs to – get away. For Miller, fly-fishing is about catching fish, of course. But more so, it’s about what’s happening all around him in nature.

It’s the mix of solitude, stillness and untamed wild that the outdoors offers – delicate and harsh at the same time.

Miller was practically born on the river, his technique forged by countless years of fly casting. Growing up in Maine, he began fly-fishing at just seven years old, taking courses at L.L.Bean long before he knew he’d be designing the future of fishing.

Jeff Miller, Corporate Merchant for L.L.Bean Hunting and Fishing showing off past catches.

FROM THE WORKSHOP TO THE RIVER

Inside Bean’s Hunt and Fish workroom, Miller is tasked with developing and testing fly rods for anglers of all skill levels. The process is intense, he says, with multiple rounds of prototyping and field testing to perfect the sequence of line weights: beginner, intermediate, expert. Shifting between these personas has become second nature.

As a gear developer, Miller is attentive when he’s on the water and people are nearby. He’s conscious of their challenges, the gear they have, and is always thinking about how he can make fishing easier and more enjoyable. He recalls walking the aisles of L.L.Bean as a kid and picking out his first rod – how the weight felt different in young hands. It’s something he always keeps in mind when designing for others.

“The most important part of testing is understanding who it is for. We spend more time developing beginner and intermediate rods to ensure each one has a forgiving action – perhaps even more difficult than designing a high-performance rod.”

That welcoming mindset is core to fly-fishing, he says.

THE OUTDOORS AS FUNDAMENTAL

When he talks about the sport, he describes it both as an artform and as an excuse to be in nature.

“Fly-fishing in itself is artistic. There is something soothing about the rhythmic stroke of casting a fly line. It requires precision, mental focus and clarity.” But most importantly, he adds, “fishing takes you to beautiful places that are an escape in and of themselves.”

His reverence and respect for the outdoors is palpable.

“There is something rudimentary about being in the outdoors. It’s where we’ve always been – in our most primitive form, when hunting and gathering was a necessity, not a pastime. Before people hiked up mountains for fun.”

Despite his expertise, or perhaps because of it, Miller talks about fly-fishing in its simplest and most accessible form.

“Everyone fishes to their own drumbeat and pace. It can be as simple or complex as you want it to be,” he says. “When you go fishing, you’re going to get so much more. You’re going to experience wildlife, whether you meant to or not.”

WHEN THE FISH STRIKES

Miller is a Corporate Merchant for L.L.Bean Hunting and Fishing – ensuring the company carries high-quality, problem-solving equipment – and remains the head designer of both spin and fly-fishing rods. He has countless recommendations on gear (keep it until it’s no good or leaking), wading techniques (10-12 feet away from the bank gives you plenty of room for a back cast) or personal fly-fishing challenges (like catching 10 fish, or simply not getting your line caught in a tree).

He ends with this: “Fishing changes with every new river you’re on. You never know what the next cast will bring. But when the fish strikes – when you feel that tug on the line…that moment is the addiction.”

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