The return of fiberglass rods to the forefront of fly fishing? That can be credited, at least in part, to Cameron Mortenson, a policeman from South Carolina who is the man behind pioneering blog, The Fiberglass Manifesto (T.F.M.).

The first fish I remember catching was bluegill. We did a lot of camping when growing up and, when I was maybe ten years old, we stayed at a campground with a small lake on it.  My dad took us fishing and we caught bluegills on worms under a bobber, tossing the few fish that we caught into a bucket filled with water. I can remember putting my arm all the way up to my armpit chasing those bluegill around the bucket. We played with them until it was time to leave and then poured them back into the lake. It left a mark and forty years later I still get excited about bluegill.

fiberglass rods

My first fly rod was a cheapee gaudy yellow 7’ five weight Eagle Claw Featherlight, so it might have hard wired me on fiberglass fly rods.  I put it down for a number of years but for the past fourteen or so years it (glass) has been all I fish. From 2-weight to two-handers to quite a bit heavier line weight glass, it’s all I fish with.

In my mid-teens I realised what it was like to get paid for working and often times had two or even three jobs through college.  During high school I did everything from agriculture crop counting to being a summer camp counselor and ceramic teacher at a Christian summer camp. In college I worked at the pool, checking people in and out at the front desk on early mornings. I did landscaping, worked at a hospital as a tech and for the college’s safety department for a few years. After college I focused more of my work on law enforcement as a Reserve Police Officer, Park Ranger and for almost 19 years as a police officer with various jobs including assignments in the Patrol Division, K-9 Handler, Traffic Division, Narcotics Taskforce Agent, Criminal Investigations Division and for the past five or so years in the Special Operations Division working with our Community Action Team, School Resource Officers, Traffic Division, Training as well as Public Information and managing social media for the department. I guess I’ve never thought of it as a job but, for the last almost twelve years, I’ve been writing The Fiberglass Manifesto and keeping up with everything in the world of fiberglass fly rods.

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On a typical day we’re up early (around 4:30 a.m. or so) as my wife works from home.  This gives me time over a couple of cups of coffee to answer emails, work on the day’s T.F.M. content and make sure that there isn’t some sort of dumpster fire on the police department’s Facebook page.  By 6:00 a.m. the children are up and we’re getting ready for school and work. There aren’t a lot of typical work days for me with the police department.  It’s what drew me to the job years ago and I still like the unpredictability of what can happen when I’m on duty. Evenings are spent with our children, sports practice, dinner, homework and wrapping up loose ends.

I grew up in Michigan, living in Grand Ledge, Lansing, Berrien Springs and a few summers up north in Grayling.  My wife and I were married twenty years ago and immediately moved to Greeley, Colorado where we lived for a year and a half before moving to South Carolina where she is from. We have a small piece of land that is part of several hundred acres where we built a house on family land. We’re surrounded by my wife’s relatives with her parents’ house just through the woods. There’s a 50 or so acre pond, which makes for lots of room for the children to play. We have lived here for almost nineteen years and the mountains around Asheville and the low country coast around Charleston are both about two hours away.

In terms of home waters, the family pond is where we spend a lot of our time.  We have a few kayaks and the children have a good time exploring, especially the upper reaches where there is a beaver dam. The pond holds all sorts of warm water species including largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, catfish and even some large grass carp to keep the weeds down. Other than that I still consider Michigan home in many ways and I usually get up there a couple times each year, in the winter to fish for steelhead with a guide friend and in the summer for upwards of two weeks.  This trip involves flats fishing for smallmouth and carp along with some evenings and nights casting mayflies and mice on a few streams.

fiberglass rods

The best advice I have ever been given was, “You don’t know shit until you’ve been here at least a year.”  Wise words from a typically quiet supervisor when I started in law enforcement while we were both taking in the conversations at shift change.  It put into perspective the importance of listening and learning which rings true in a lot of other areas of my life too.

For the rest of Cameron’s Lifer, dive into issue 20 of The Mission below or buy the print edition here.