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Q&A: Conway Bowman – The Pioneer of Fly Fishing for Mako Sharks

Conway Bowman is a U.S. Coast Guard-licensed captain well known in the fishing world for having pioneered fly fishing for Mako sharks and west coast saltwater species. His fishing travels have taken him around the world, from the jungles of Thailand to the remote lakes and rivers of Alaska, and a lot of places in between.

Bowman has caught some of the most incredible underwater species over the years, and is so well versed in fly fishing; he’s literally written a book for beginners rightfully named, “The Orvis Guide to Saltwater Fly Fishing: 101 tips for the Absolute Beginner.”

We recently caught up with Conway to ask him a few questions about his adventures and fly fishing in general. Here’s what he had to say…

Adventure IO: Do you prefer fly fishing over other forms of fishing?

Conway Bowman: I like all types of fishing, but fly fishing is by far my favorite. Sight fishing a fly to any fish, salt or fresh, is always a big challenge, but it comes with a big reward!

AIO: Is most of your fishing for Mako sharks?

CB: No, I enjoy fly fishing all over the world for all types of fish! The Mako shark is a world-class game fish right out my back door here in San Diego. So, I’m fortunate to be able to take folks  fly fishing to catch and release these beautiful game fish.

(Click the image above to view video)

AIO: Tell us about the biggest Mako shark you’ve ever caught? What was that like?

CB: My biggest catch was around 700 lbs and 10 feet long! I hooked that fish 20 feet from the boat. It was crazy! The Mako jumped 20 feet into the air, within 10 feet of the boat, then jumped six more times as it ran off to the horizon going 30 miles per hour! I chased that fish for three and a half hours and over six miles. Luckily, I got it to leader right at sunset!

AIO: You’ve been on tons incredible of fly fishing adventures. Tell us about your favorite one.

CB: Fly fishing the jungle rivers in Thailand was awesome. Catching Royal Snakeheads, Jungle Perch and Thai Mahseer in a remote location is as extreme as it gets! 

AIO: What’s your typical gear set-up like for these trips?

CB: It depends on what I’m targeting. For saltwater fly fishing in shallow water, I use 8 to 11-weight rods with floating lines. The Orvis Helios 3D fly rod is my choice for rods and the Orvis Mirage fly reel pairs perfectly with the Helios 3D. For bigger fish like Makos, Billfish and Tuna, 12 to 15-weight rods are a must! For freshwater Trout and Steelhead, I use 3 to 7-weight rods in all types of models.

AIO: What advice do you have for someone trying to fly fish for the first time?

CB: Learn to cast 40 feet quickly and accurately. Everything else will fall into place the more time you spend on the water.

AIO: Finally, why did you decide to become an Adventure IO guide? What was the motivation?

CB: Adventure IO targets a great clientele that I think fits perfectly with fly fishing! As for motivation? I just want to get more people into the great sport of fly fishing.


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