Travel Guide, Agency Chief Casts His Vote for Fly Fishing

For 45 Weekends a Year, BCF Advertising President Arthur Webb Can Is on the Water

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WASHINGTON ( -- Advertising ... fly fishing. Advertising ... fly fishing ... Advertising ...

Arthur G. Webb, president of BCF Advertising, Virginia Beach and Richmond, Va., has gone back and forth.

And not just back and forth as an avocation. Mr. Webb, 45, an avid fly fisherman -- and he makes clear it's fly fishing, not just any fishing that interests him -- has switched his whole profession between advertising and fishing and back.

Hand-built log cabin
A creative who worked for several agencies in the early 1990s, he tossed away advertising completely for a while and did a nearly three-year stint as a full-time travel guide. He lived in a hand-built log cabin on a lake in Baldwin, Mich., a secluded area south of Traverse City where the whole county had 2,000 people.

He probably would have stayed, except his wife threatened to leave if he didn't return to civilization.

Today, he has been back in advertising, but still has fishing in his blood.

"I have been passionate about fishing and rock climbing since I was 12. I've also been as passionate about being creative and growing the agency, but the fuel that keeps me going is fishing, specifically fly fishing," he said.

That fuel still has him leaving his office in Virginia Beach and casting at night. While he recently sold his 19-foot Hewes flats skiff -- a boat that's used most often to fish in the Florida Keys and Gulf Coast that he kept in Virginia and towed to spots all over the Southeast -- he's still out on the water regularly.

45 weekends a year
"How much time? Of 52 weekends a year, I'm out on the water 45," he said. He fishes for striped bass, bone fish and tarpon, choosing from a personal trove of 15 fly rods.

As for the number of lures ... it's in the thousands and most he made himself.

"I have tied over 2,000 flies from various game bird feathers from marabou to ostrich [plus] mammal fur, lots of new synthetic.

"I would rather be in the office working than chucking on a spinning rod," he said. "I love the art of casting a fly rod. Even if I'm not catching a fish, I love the art of casting a fly rod. It's like the swing of a golf club. It just feels perfect."

He derides other kinds of fishermen.

"When people fishing use heavy spinning gear in the ocean, there is relative little sport on it. You hook on bait and crank 'em up using the same bait they eat every day. The landing is not that difficult.

The art of the fly rod
"With a fly rod," he argues, "you are hooking on an artificial fly you have tied yourself that must imitate their dinner; then there is the job of landing it, and it's a battle winding it in. There is art to creating a fly, to casting a fly, to landing a fish on a fly."

It's the sport of catching the fish he likes. Most of the time he throws the fish back after he catches them.

Mr. Webb said his experience as a fishing guide and as a fisherman has taught him lessons about advertising and people.

"When I said I would go off and be a fly fishing guy, my dad blew a gasket," said the father of a young boy and girl. "But I probably learned more from being a guide and spending 12 hours a day in talking to people than any focus group could ever provide," he said.

As a guide he witnessed people do things they believed they couldn't do and saw how it changed them.

"It was an incredible experience for these people and hugely rewarding for me to see someone do something beyond their abilities. Running an agency is the same thing. We try to help [people], enable them to land fish they dreamed possible, so I use fishing every day," he said.

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