“I’ve permanently touched more people in the fly fishing industry than anyone else.”-Casey Anderson, Tattoo Artist & Cutthroat Trout Guide
An acclaimed tattoo artist in Reno, NV, and one of the world’s most accomplished cutthroat trout anglers, Casey Anderson ain’t your average fly guy.
Casey grew up fishing with his dad and grandpa. While fishing fascinated him at a young age, he developed another passion equally as intriguing.
“One of the first times I realized I had a thing for art was when I tried to redraw the trout stamps seen on our fishing licenses as a kid,” smiles Casey. His dad tried a hand at the sketch too but didn’t pick it up like his young son did. “My dad said, ‘hey this kid might have a talent here.’”
In kindergarten, Casey got in trouble for drawing instead of paying attention in class. During the teenage years, graffiti became his artistic outlet. His talent was fostered in college and before he knew it, Casey was making fistfuls of dollars in his early 20s as a tattoo artist. Unfortunately, this newfound source of money at such a young age led Casey to a very dark place.
“I began running amok and became addicted to heavy drugs,” he somberly recalls. “That is, until fly fishing saved my life.”
The journey to recovery began when Casey became a certified trout bum at Pyramid Lake. For years, he lived in a tent and people would fill his cooler with groceries. Casey began building a reputation for landing some of the largest cutthroat trout in the world. He won countless tournaments and garnered all kinds of attention for it.
“I’d been fishing the Lake so long, I became proficient at catching big ones, so a local fly shop prodded me to start guiding,” he reflects. “There was only one problem: my face tattoos. According to the shop it was a ‘deterrent’ for the customers.”
Casey’s friend Jay Johnson, who he met through Pig Farm, introduced him to Captain Robert Haggerty, a long-time guide and security director for professional sports and celebrity events.
“Rob saw where my heart was,” he reminisces. “And we both knew what fly fishing could do for people (including ourselves), so we founded Pyramid Fly Co guide service. It became a wildly successful business and our customers weren’t bothered by my tattoos. In fact, I think many related to me more because of them.”
Casey’s passion for fly fishing is what got him out of a dark place by replacing it with something healthy and beautiful. Fly fishing brought him outside and allowed him to meet good people he wouldn’t have otherwise.
“Art and fishing have always been what I wanted to do,” says Casey. “But my parents said being a fisher and tattooer are not real jobs!”
Mesmerized by tattoos early on, Casey learned the history of the art—from the 1800s to the present. He considers himself a traditionalist when it comes to his style.
“Traditional tattooing keeps motifs alive that look good and stand the test of time,” he explains. “It has to be studied and its attraction is timeless.”
Tattooing requires additional considerations compared to other types of art, like painting on canvas for example.
“It’s art made for the human body. We have to break it down and simplify it while making it last on a malleable, ever-changing surface.”
For Bajio, Casey went back into the archives, starting with a classic tattoo motif—the hawk. “Hawk art is part of Japanese tattoo history,” he explains. “When the style became more well-known in WWII, with patriotism going strong, this ‘war pigeon’ turned into an eagle when it came to America.”
The eagle is not only an important piece of tattoo history, as an animal, it’s also an excellent fisher, and a perfect fit for Bajio. Casey was invited to come paint the “most bitchin’ bus in the world” (aka Jay’s Bajio bus) so he chose to put an eagle on the front with a fly rod in its talons.
“In tattoo terms, a big eagle is an important chest tattoo throughout history—the chest being our heart and soul, our core. I hand drew the eagle on the hood of the bus, over its heart or engine.”
Bajio’s Founder and CEO Al Perkinson loved that eagle so much, he had Casey tattoo it on him in the Bajio office all across his back! This was his first and only tattoo—he was all in.
“It was a cool moment—merging fishing and tattooing,” he reflects.
Between fishing and art, and putting the two together with Bajio, Casey is finally doing what he always dreamed of—for his real job.
Reminiscing about his tattoo booth at a recent fly fishing show, Casey concludes, “In a relatively short time now, I’ve permanently touched more people in the fly fishing industry than anyone else.”