We sat down with Scientific Angler’s Jeff Wieringa and asked him ten questions. If you don’t know Jeff, you should. You probably owe a lot of the innovations in fly fishing to his mad-scientist type mind. He is inventor of Sharkskin and the designer of the new Scientific Anglers waterproof fly boxes. Jeff was the owner of JW Outfitters before being acquired by 3M/Scientific Anglers. Enjoy!
- FW: Tell us about your start in the angling trade.
JW: My real start was when I was 12 years old and I invented a device that put Zeks floating cheese on a treble hook and compressed it on so it wouldn’t falloff when you cast it . It was very simple made from a 30 cal bullet shell. (See image below). I called it the Master Baiter, I of course had no idea why my mother got so mad about the name. My real start in fly fishing was in 1989 when I designed and manufactured a line of packs, tying bags and pontoon boats under the name of JW Outfitters. That business grew very fast and after 11 years I sold that company to 3M/Scientific Anglers. This is where I still work to this day. I have spent 9 years in the lab designing and engineering products for Scientific Anglers. I now am the Business Development Manager for the business.
- FW: What can you tell us about the ideas behind coming out with sharkskin and textured fly lines?
JW : While working in the lab at SA we wanted to try and make a fly line float better. I knew we had taken a line about as far as it could go with floatation with micro balloons and AST. I started to research how insects are able to walk on water. There is where I learned that roughness can reverse the adhesive properties of water known as Meniscus Force. So the challenge began.I started trying to figure out how small of a profile I needed to emboss onto the line to start making a difference. After figuring that out I had to devise a way to put the texture into the line surface. Not easy. It took two years with dozens of failures and one day it seemed to all come together and I was able to build lines one after another with out any defects.Then all of us in the lab went out fishing the new lines and we were all in shock of how easy they cast, floated, roll cast and had low memory. That was the beginning of the Sharkskin revolution.
- FW: The afore mention lines are giving anglers a new advantage. Do you worry about any enemies you might have made in the animal kingdom? i.e gang of back alley tarpon or a posse of burly permit.
JW: I am sure there are some that have an issue with the advantages that our lines bring. I cannot say if those are all fish or not. I did see a guy hook a gator once with a fly using our line.
- FW: In the credits of the movie Drift by Confluence Films it gives thanks to “jw and the lab rats at SA”. Can you elaborate on who the rats are/ what they do at SA?
JW:Sure, When you take on a project of this magnitude you have a vast amount of talented individuals to pull help from here in the 3M labs. We have PHDs and fish heads here. They (we) are affectionately known as lab rats. There is Del Kauss (line designer) Tim Pommer (product developer and assisted with the sharkskin development) Dale Wiehe ( chemical engineer for SA) John Stark (head lab rat) Bruce Richards ( rock star, line developer and probably one of the top 10 casters in the world) Brett Fortier ( assisted in Sharkskin development).So there is a full team here at SA working on lines, fly boxes and many other accessories. The producer of the movie Drift is a personal friend of mine and also worked at SA many years ago. So we sponsored him by giving lines to him and the crew to use during the filming. So he wanted to thank all of us here at SA.
- FW: Kenny Rogers, Kenny Loggins, or Kenny G? And Why?
JW: Kenny Rogers is OK because he dated Dolly Parton. I wouldn’t listen to Kenny G because that is Dustin Carlson’s fav. It would have to be Kenny Loggins for “I’m All Right” from Caddy Shack, which is the best golf movie every made.
- FW: Scientific Anglers always seems to be on the forefront of new fly line design. What can you tell us about the development/ testing that goes into new fly line design?
JW: Our lab is constantly working on fly lines. People would be in shock if they new how many lines we destroy on a daily basis. It is our number one priority to develop new lines continuously. This does not include new tapers and colors but also includes new compositions and surface technologies such as Sharkskin. It is important to remember that Scientific Anglers is the company that made modern day lines float with micro-balloons and to sink with tungsten. That is what the foundation of our mother company 3M provides us.
- FW: Can you confirm or deny any rumors that 3M might be involved in time travel?
JW: We invented the time travel machine that was used in Napoleon Dynamite but abandoned the project for obvious reasons. That engineer is now developing a device that will be able to tie flys with out any humans involved. We will finally be able to sell flies that will be 100% machined tied. Just think we will soon be able to remove the word Hand from Hand Tied Flies.
- FW: What is your home-water?
JW: I am from California and did almost all of my fly fishing in the Sierras. I actually combined my love of backpacking with fly fishing.
- FW: Random fact?
JW: I hate liver, but doesn’t everyone? Afraid of clowns and mimes. I have been married twenty eight years to the same woman, Connie. Wish I would have bought Apple stock at $12.
- FW: Favorite Scientific Anglers product?
JW: I think the old school System II reels are awesome. For current stuff it would have to be Sharkskin GPX or the new Mastery Textured Nymph for the new DRYTIP that we have incorporated in them. Actually all of our Sharkskin and Mastery Textured floating lines include the new DRYTIP improved technology. Another shamless plug is our lines now have SA ID which in short is writing on the line to tell you what model and weight the line is.
A special thanks to Scott “Scoot” Silvers for his help with this article.