Carson and Jared were born on a 40 acre farm in southwestern Wisconsin. They grew up tending to the pigs, cows and chickens. A trout stream ran behind their parent’s land. Their father took long walks and fished for trout along this stream. It was here where the twins came to love and respect nature.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2002, the twins traveled to many corners of the world, settling for a few years at a time in New York City and various cities in California. Throughout their travels Jared and Carson cultivated a taste for fishing a wide variety of settings like New York City’s Central Park and remote lakes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. After just short of a decade away from their home, Carson and Jared both migrated back to the midwest to Madison and Minneapolis respectively.
Isthmus Fly Fishing Co. is more than a company. It’s a channel for communicating everything that is good about fly fishing, conservancy, and a lifestyle built on a connection to and protection of natural surroundings.
The Story of Anton
Fishermen throughout the land have long told the tale of Anton, the mythic fly-fisherman. While there are many stories and people who have claimed to have caught a glimpse of the half-man, half-cow creature, no one has provided proof. Below is his story:
Anton was born in a small fishing village in Norway. His humble beginnings consisted of days filled with subsistence fishing to feed his parents and brothers and sisters.
One day when Anton was 15 years old, some neighbors who were looking for a better quality of life asked Anton to join them on a journey to America. They had heard there was an honest work in the logging and fishing industry in a place called Wisconsin. Anton convinced his family that they should all go, and they went, earning their place on the boat cleaning, cooking, and of course fishing to feed the rest of the passengers.
Upon arriving in Wisconsin Anton and his family worked in the lumber mills on the shores of Lake Superior. They were very happy with their new surroundings and the income they earned allowed them to live comfortably. Anton became well known across the area as an excellent fisherman. He was also the most skilled fishing line maker at a time when fishing line was made of cat guts.
Anton spent the little time he had away from the mills fishing and making fishing lines. Over a few years he became tired of lumber work. His brother and sisters were old enough now to support themselves and his parents were content in their homestead. So Anton decided to go off on his own and explore.
He spent long days walking the shores of Lake Superior and then Green Bay and Lake Michigan. He camped at night and ate what he caught, trapped, and foraged. He was happy being alone in the woods.
He eventually made his way to the driftless area of the state. The driftless area is called that because the massive ancient glaciers never reached the area. He found this area very comfortable and the farmers who lived there hospitable.
The dairy cows grazing the valleys were a constant companion for Anton as he fished day in and day out. He often imagined that these cows may be the only creature on earth that possibly understood the rivers and streams better than him.
One day a storm rolled in quicker than usual. Anton was not alarmed as he enjoyed thunderstorms and the rain and clouds often provided great action on the streams. As always his cow companions were present, lazily moving in and out of the stream. However as the storms built and the lightning strikes became closer, the cows began to retreat to their barns for cover. Except one cow. As the lightning and thunder became synced in sound and flash, the cow approached Anton and spoke to him in Norwegian saying, “there is one purpose for you and me”. And at that moment a bolt of lightning struck the stream they were both standing in.
When Anton awoke he felt pain throughout his body and head. He could not remember how he had gotten there. The grass beneath him was damp but as he looked up, the clouds were retreating.
Anton gathered himself, shook his head back and forth and tried to remember where he was and what he was doing there. He saw the stream and figured he must have been fishing. He felt groggy and decided he needed to go to the cold stream to splash some water on his face. As he wandered the few feet towards the stream he saw some cattle off in the distance and remembered the encounter he had with the cow just before being struck by lightning.
He thought he must be dreaming, no cow could speak, certainly no cow in Southwest Wisconsin would be speaking Norwegian.
He peaked over the grassy bank and began to lower his head to the pool below. With the clear blue sky behind him and the calm that had set in after the storm, the pool was like a mirror, and what Anton saw in the reflection made him gasp for air and retreat from the stream.
When he grabbed his head he felt coarse short hair where he previously had smooth skin, he realized his neck was much thicker and his head also felt heavier. His ears stuck straight up and were also covered in coarse short hair. His anxiety nearly overcame him and he thought he might pass out. He ran back to the still pool in the hope that this time, he’d see his own face staring back at him, but what he saw did not comfort him. He peered into the black eyes, and wide black nose of a Holstein.
His heart felt like it would burst out of his chest it was pounding so hard and fast. He immediately longed for his family and wished he had them to comfort him. He sat there, staring at the image in the pool, wishing this to be a bad dream.
Suddenly, something broke his anxiety. A small brown trout slowly swam beneath his reflection and he felt a sense of calm come over him. Then, another trout swam past, perhaps coming back to the feeding lanes they occupied before he disrupted them.
As they swam by, he felt a connection with them that he had never felt before. Somehow, the fish seemed to be beckoning to him and he felt an urge to grab his rod and begin fishing. To his delight, the rod he had been holding when the lightning struck was only about ten feet away and in perfect condition.
When he touched the cork on the rod, it was hot as fire, but strangely didn’t burn him. It sent a feeling of ecstasy through his entire body. He felt as if the rod gave him great strength and insight into the world of the fish swimming in the stream below.
He gripped the rod and pulled off about thirty feet of line. He picked up the line and with his first back cast, felt the cork blend with his hand. He looked down in alarm and saw that the rod had become part of his arm. Where previously he had a hand, there was now just a connection to the butt of his rod.
He fished this way for three straight days with no sleep, food, or water. All the strength he needed came from the rod. He made perfect casts every time and never got snagged. When he hooked fish he landed them quickly and released them with a simple twist of the rod tip.
On the fourth day since his transformation, he decided to venture out and see if his skills worked on other bodies of water, or if there was something special about the place where he became one with the cow. What he discovered both excited and perplexed him. He possessed skills unmatched by any fisherman he had ever known or heard of. And his physical transformation was matched by a spiritual one. He no longer felt attached to the world he once knew. He now felt a overwhelming reverence and brotherhood with all animals and natural things.
In the first few years after his transformation, Anton worked every body of water from Madison to Minneapolis. He fished the old haunts of his lumber days and into the upper peninsula. He learned the habits and preferences of every fish species.
Anton soon grew to accept his identity as a half man half cow. He felt he had been blessed and that he had evolved.
Often fishing at night in complete darkness and always in water too technical for even the most experienced guide, Anton has never been seen by other human being. He makes his way around the globe, bestowing his reverence and love on all fish and natural things.