My name is Cliff, and from when I first set eyes on a rod at 7, until I was 28 years old I did not catch fish. I fished regularly (multiple times a week) but did not catch fish. My goal in opening The Borrowed Lure is to save many other would-be anglers from the torment that is getting skunked day after day. This is my story.

I grew up in the small SF Bay Area suburb of Hayward. I had good friends and we were active. Mountain biking, playing war, city rec baseball and soccer, CYA basketball, and fishing at the local muni lake, Lake Don Castro. We were busy kids and our parents liked it that way. 

Lake Don Castro sits in the Hayward Hills, and was just a short bike ride from my house. During the summer we were there most days and the rest of the year whenever we didn't have homework. I loved being at that lake. It was a piece of nature in the rows of track homes. Perched between city and freeway, we felt a thousand miles away. What I didn't love was constantly being out-fished by my buddies. I got used to it, and thought to myself "this must just be how it is for me." I was doing exactly what I saw them doing, but for years I just didn't catch any fish. 

As a teen and young adult, my love of fishing never waned but still for some reason at 25 years old, I had never caught a fish. I spent thousands of dollars over the years collecting gear that would ultimately prove ineffective in my quest to catch. I rented VHS Tapes, then DVDs on how to fish and eventually with the advent of YouTube, I had taken in most of the published collective knowledge of America on fishing. Still though, I wasn't catching.

I visited and moved to other parts of California, all the while fishing a few times a month or more with no luck. I went out on boats from San Diego, Baja Mexico, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco with no luck. Avid fishing friends I met along the way were all sure they could solve my problem. They would tie up rigs for me and let me use their gear. It became clear to me that they didn't understand why they were catching fish. They innately knew something I did not, but could not explain it to me in any meaningful way. During all of this, my love of the outdoors kept me by the water and there's never any harm in getting the line wet, so I kept on.

My daughter Mia entered the world in 2006. As most of us do, when she turned 3 or 4, my wife and I started talking about activities to get her social. I was insistent that she was going to be a better angler than me. So in the summer of 2009, we went to Don Castro every day, and we fished. We caught no fish all summer, but going so often we made friends and got plenty of unsolicited advice and learned a lot. I noticed something that year. The fish were being caught by the guys with the little hooks and weights and baits. The guys with the big 7ft tree branch poles that were casting out into the middle of the lake or farther would occasionally get lucky, but they could not repeat the result on demand. Not only that, but the fish that were coming from the kids' poles (cast very near to shore) were just as big and nice as the fish coming from the middle of the lake. 

In 2015, Amazon web sales surpassed Walmart's. Mia and I were now catching fish on most outings. What changed? Our gear changed, and with that new gear, the ability to manipulate artificial lures also came. I pulled out an old ultra light backpacking pole from Daiwa I won in a contest as a Boy Scout. It was rigged with 6# test line and I started using spinners and jigs. I was able to purchase more lures on Amazon than my local Walmart ever had on hand (they always had a ton of bass stuff but nothing for trout), and because we had Prime, the shipping was now free.

What I hadn't realized all those years ago was that my friends had older brothers and fathers who fished. They borrowed, begged, or stole some pretty important pieces of gear and they didn't have extra to share. The guys who were the most vocal about how big of fish they caught and how often were not the guys who could tell me how to do it. YouTube was a game-changer for getting usable advice, but still it wasn't necessarily tailored to my region. In 2015 I also started seeing guys at the lake who were fishing catch and release, with small artificial lures for whatever they could hook up on. They had tiny spinning reels and baitcasters and were throwing lures as small as .5g, and while everyone else was sitting around, they were catching fish. 

I ended up asking a few guys what was up, but their English was limited, and it would take me two more years to find out about Japanese-style fishing systems and what that would mean for me as an American angler.

JDM lures were not sold at any tackle shop in my town. The closest thing was a Kastmaster or trolling spoon. Maybe the smallest crank bait you could find would work, but you still couldn't get any line lighter than 6#. The guys at the counters would tell me they couldn't order it unless I wanted the whole box because it just wouldn't sell. Trebble hooks were very in-fashion and single barbless hooks couldn't be found anywhere but the local fly shop. The experience of going into a fly shop as a spin angler at that time is a blog post for later. 

Shakespeare was making an ultralight outfit and Daiwa was making the Revros, all distributed to the USA. I was able to find these on Amazon in 2017, and a few tackle shops around the world had online stores, but shipping costs were still a barrier for me. I picked up a 7ft ultralight package to go with my Boy Scouts Daiwa UL and had some spoons shipped over. I stumbled across the Tenkara Bum online store from New York - most of his advice worked, but he fished in mountain streams and places I wouldn't get to go for another few years. It was like watching Bob Vila on This Old House and dreaming of building your own wood boat in your garage, only to face the reality that you live in an apartment and don't have a garage. 

I also met Ken of Suburban Trout Spoons in 2017. Ken fished ultralight JDM everything. Some days we would stand next to each other and he would catch and release triple digits of fish while I worked on my limit. Sometimes he was even nice enough to give me a few hard-fighting trout he didn't think would make it. That year I purchased 15 or so spoons from him... But it all started with 3. Ken call them his "starter pack." I think they were 3g spoons. 

cliff and nephew with troutSince that day I have met countless anglers at Lake Temescal. Some heard about the lake from friends, some from YouTube, and some from the Parks Department. They all come with big expectations of an easy catch. Unfortunately, with so much attention, the fish feel pressured and do not act as nature would otherwise have them act. They exhibit stress behaviors and don't feed, swim or interact as fish otherwise would. They become harder to catch. This is a situation Japanese anglers have already addressed. With so many anglers in the country and only so much space to be dedicated to fishing, Japanese fishing systems are designed for people fish where they can. In the mountain streams, on the coasts, from boats, and in the urban centers, pay-to-use stocked lakes and ponds called "Area." That is exactly what Lake Temescal is.

It is stocked... check. 

It costs $5 a day plus your fishing license... pay-to-use... check.

It's in the middle of an urban center... check.

On the TenRyu fishing rods (a well-respected Japanese fishing rod brand), it says "Learn A Lesson From The Past," and I think this sums up what The Borrowed Lure is all about. I'd like to help you catch more fish. American urban and suburban fisheries are only becoming more pressured. As anglers, we're going to have to adapt the way we target these resources. I have been able to borrow from fishing systems from all over the world, places with fisheries just like ours, and I'd like to share those collections with you. We should aim to humanely and sustainably harvest food and conserve our resources. Finding balance is the key to catching more fish. We need not reinvent the wheel, we can aim to improve upon it.

Captain Cliff is a CA Licensed Fishing Guide and USCG Near Costal Master Captain (up to 200nm miles offshore). If you'd like to go fishing, have any questions about the products I carry or how to use them, please get in touch with us. 

Captain Clifford Brown & Mia

The Borrowed Lure