Many anglers (including myself) dream of one day being able to earn a living working in the outdoor industry, either as a guide, pro staffer, or making products associated with our passion. Shawn Washinger, is following that dream through his new business – Susquehanna Rod Company. Recently, I caught up with Shawn and spent some time chatting about his custom rod building company, fly fishing, Pennsylvania trout and beer.
What follows is my interview with Shawn. To learn more about Shawn and his company, check out SRC’s website www.susquehannarodcompany.com.
- Can you give me a brief bio of yourself?
My name is Shawn Washinger and I am 35 years old. I have been fishing for the last 30 years. I have loved fishing since the first time I picked up a rod and reel. I have been fly fishing for the last 10 years and almost only fly fish now. Whether it is for trout, sunfish, smallmouth bass, or anything else I am able to cast to.
- Tell me a little about your company, Susquehanna Rod Company.
I have always wanted to work in the outdoor industry in some facet. Custom rod building has always been something that I enjoyed so I thought, what better way than to build great custom rods for other people. Because I am solely a custom builder I have not come up with any product lines or models. I am currently working on creating an inventory of rods that I will have for sale. However, each rod will still be different and unique in some way.
I not only build fly rods, I also build: spinning rods, casting rods, and I am working on some deep sea rods. I try to use the best materials I can in rod building and can customize to a specific length, brand, or action.
Something else that I am trying to do at Susquehanna Rod Company is to give children and veterans the opportunity to get out and fish by offering casting lessons, mentoring programs, and information of upcoming events sent out through our Facebook page. I am actually working with Valley Streams Fly Fishing and we are going to try and bring our two companies together to provide more of these opportunities. So keep an eye out on both of our social media pages for more news, events, and give-a-ways.
- How did you get into custom rod building?
When I started building rods it was because I was tired of going to stores and always seeing the same rods just by different brands. Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of good rods available but none with the unique look that I was looking for along with being a great rod. So I started by building my own rods and loved it. I wanted to bring the joy and uniqueness to other people so I started my business, Susquehanna Rod Company.
- Pennsylvania has a lot of famous trout waters. What is your favorite water to target trout?
You’re right there are so many amazing trout waters in Pennsylvania it is very hard to pick just one. But I would have to say that one of my favorite waters to fish is LeTort Spring Run. I love the LeTort because it is a small stream that is tough to fish and has some amazing fish. I love fishing small streams for native trout.
- If you had to choose, what would be your go-to tackle setup in terms of rod, reel, line and flies to chasing PA trout in the summer?
My go to rod and reel for PA trout is my 7’6” 3/4 weight fly rod which I custom built with a Taylor Enigma reel. My 7’6” rod is the very first rod I ever built years ago. I love it and it has never let me down. I do still have the ability to make these rods with the same blanks. It is by far the favorite fly rod that I own.
- Besides trout, what other species do you enjoy targeting on a fly rod?
My favorite species other than trout would have to be smallmouth bass. I love fishing for bass on the Susquehanna River. Before I even started fly fishing I was always on the River fishing for smallies. Although the Susquehanna isn’t the river that it once was it is still second to none when it comes to smallies.
- Can you describe your most memorable fishing experience?
Can I describe just one would be the real question. I have had so many unforgettable fishing trips it is very hard to pick just one. But the fishing trips that are always in my heart are the ones where my best friend Justin, his dad, and I would float our canoes down the Susquehanna River for a few days. We would camp on the islands and fish throughout the day. We never had a bad trip even though there were rainy trips and blazing hot trips. Talk about fun. Always trying to figure out what lures to use throughout the trip and then just hammering the fish all week long. I still talk about these trips at length with friends and colleagues.
- If you could fish anywhere in the world, where would you go? Why?
Right now a realistic trip I would love to take is to Mosquito Lagoon in Florida. I listen to a podcast called “Fly Fishing After Dark” (It’s awesome, check it out!) and they are from the Mosquito Lagoon area in Florida. They run charters for redfish out of the Lagoon. But just listening to them talk about the fishing down there has made me want to go down and fish with them.
But a trip to anywhere in the world is a tie between New Zealand for big browns or a trip to Mongolia for big Taimen. My New Zealand obsession came from a YouTube video called “Once In A Blue Moon”. It’s an amazing little video about fishing in New Zealand with mouse flies. I think that would be absolutely amazing. I know a few areas around here that I would like to try mouse flies also. Mongolia has been a trip that my buddy, Dusty, from work and I have talked about for a few years now. We always thought it would be fun to go overseas and catch the world’s largest Salmonid.
- Every angler I know has a story about “the one that got away”. Tell me about yours.
I remember it like it was yesterday even though it was more like 28 years ago. I used to go to summer camp but I hated it. Lucky for me there were always plenty of grasshoppers around for me to catch for fish bait so that my dad and I could go fishing later that day. Pinchot Lake was our “go to” back then and we always had a blast. I had my jar full of grasshoppers after summer camp and dad had the boat ready to go when I got home. We put in at our usual spot by the ranger station and slowly motored across the lake to our favorite spot right by a little clump of lily pads that always seemed to be there (even to this day I still go to that spot when I fish there). I knew exactly which grasshopper I was going to use first because it was probably the biggest one that I had ever caught. So I hooked it and cast it out as far as I could with no weight, no bobber, nothing. So needless to say it didn’t go very far. It couldn’t have been on the water for more than a few seconds when POW! It got slammed by a huge bass. Now I was only seven so I think I was probably so excited I couldn’t contain myself. I fought the fish for about a minute when it swam under a rock (I saw it do this because the water where we were in was pretty clear) and the line snapped. I was devastated! I tried for another hour or so just thinking that the fish still had to be hungry but to no avail. We left after a little while because we had to get home, but I always remember that fish.
- Favorite brewery in the Mechanicsburg area?
There are a couple good breweries in the Mechanicsburg area, but we just got a new one on the Carlisle Pike called Ever Grain. Right now that is probably one of my favorites due to the great atmosphere and eclectic beer choices. It is a place that my wife and I go to for our date nights.
Robert Fravel grew up in Pennsylvania, where he started fishing local streams and lakes at a very young age. During his college years, Robert spent the summers working as a whitewater rafting guide in the Pocono Mountains of northeast Pennsylvania. As an avid fly fisherman and fly tier, he enjoys exploring backcountry streams in search of untouched wild trout waters. He currently works as a lawyer in Dublin, Pennsylvania.