Learning To Fly Fish with Ben Brown Of Built To Fish TV

We sat down with super offshore salty geezer, Ben Brown, this week for a catch up about his foray in to the world of freshwater fishing. When it comes to the salt, there’s really only a few others out there that can match what Ben Brown from Built to Fish does on his Surtees. Black Marlin, check. Monster Kingies, check, insert every other ocean dwelling fish here and add some hyperbole about size and you get to understand who Ben Brown is.


Ben Brown Holding A Nice Trout Caught Fly Fishing

Aside from being a passionate fisho and proud Kiwi with an overly keen sense of adventure, he is always more than 100% grateful for the support and opportunities he has been given over the years.

He cut his video teeth in kayaking. As one of the sports leading gents, he hit the big time with sponsorship from GoPro and the likes and these industry connections must have liked what they saw in the fresh faced blonde haired kid from Hamilton, because they have stuck with him as he has grown into a wily old salt. Ok, he’s not that old, but he’s older than those kayak days and he has now nestled quite nicely into the boat captain’s life.


Ben brown with a trophy brown trout

When Ben started to show some renewed interest in freshwater stuff, the team at Manic were keen to get on board and help him on his way. It was by no means was totally Manic driven as it all went back to when Ben’s dad was given two free days guiding on the Tongariro River. The classic gateway drug and Ben had no way to resist.

After two days being guided, both Ben and his dad wanted more and snuck off for a third day by themselves. Ben dabbled for a few years after that, but life has a way of keeping you busy and fly fishing became a distant memory. Fast forward twenty or so years and a global pandemic coupled with a government that closed the entire country down meant that GC’s like Ben couldn’t go play with their fancy boats anymore. Lockdown meant no offshore fishing, but it did allow for river play, handy huh? Lucky for Ben, his mate and huge #manicmate, Mike Davis from Hunting and Fishing Rotorua knew of some decent rivers in the Waikato region and a new love was formed…for fishing.

In Ben’s words he considered himself the fly fishing equivalent of a ‘long time listener, first time caller’. Fly fishing always had a draw for him, but the connection to a top angler, like Mike Davis, was the catalyst he needed to truly get into the sport.


Mike Davis of Hunting & Fishing Rotorua

Mike was the perfect guide for Ben as Mike doesn’t teach, he mentors. Mike asks questions, gives some direction, but allowed Ben to develop his own skills and style. Getting the casts right, working out where the fish sit, what a drag free drift looks like, how to mend…and the million other things required to get the fish landed, Ben was able to work out for himself. All in all, Ben began to realise that most of that doesn’t matter as long as you are enjoying yourself. Ben’s biggest tip for anyone starting out, is to find a good mentor to help you along the way. To show you the right fly, the right spot and just to generally hang out with too.

Ben soon realised that fly fishing is all about playing the long game. The more you put in to practicing, and of course fishing, the more you will learn and develop. Forget about the stigma attached to fly fishing, it’s not as intimidating as it seems. People on the rivers generally want to help you out and help you enjoy it. Sure, there’s always one guy out there who will be a grump, but it’s the exception, not the rule.


Great fly fishing gear for beginners and pros, Primal Rods and Ross Animas reel

Since picking up the sport, Ben has now developed a pretty decent cast and even has a few favourite pieces of equipment. His go to rod is a Primal Raw 5wt as he likes the fast action power, but with the ability to be precise with his casts. For reels, he’s a bit spoilt and loves his Ross Animas and who can blame him? He’s loyal enough to remember his mentor when it comes to picking a favourite fly – the Davis Backcountry Stone Fly. It’s just a winner wherever you are fishing.

Given Ben’s penchant for the salt, we asked what he thought of saltwater fly. Ever the honest chap he admitted that it didn’t spin his wheels. When you are so adept at every other style of salt fishing, why add another? In any case, it gives us here at Manic a chance to tempt him with the right mentor to get him enamoured in salt fly. Or perhaps we just tag along with him and help him with his next black marlin or stripey.

Either way, Manic Tackle Project is stoked to have Ben Brown as one of our top #manicmates. Stay tuned to our socials and the Built To Fish TV Facebook page to see updates on his fresh water antics.


Drew Thompson is in charge of herding cats at Manic Tackle Project. When they are all in order he can be found sorting out marketing matters or simply ensuring the coffee machine is clean and ready for the next user.