Out & Back: Hooked on fishing with The Black Stonefly

Tacoma angler, chef and outdoorsman Giancarlo Lawrence found solace in the icy waters of the PNW.

On the edge of adulthood, 21-year-old Giancarlo Lawrence found himself at a crossroads. He could continue down a road of self-destructive behavior or seek something more meaningful. That more meaningful path opened when he saw someone fly fishing.

Lawrence was captivated by the beauty of the sport and turned to YouTube to learn more. Eventually he fell in love, dedicating all his free time to studying the craft and picking up the nickname The Black Stonefly. More than a decade later, he is now a well-known angler worldwide, a highly sought-after guide who has been featured in several films about the power of fly fishing to transform and heal lives. 

Black people like Lawrence are underrepresented in fly fishing. A recent survey showed that 79% of participants in 2020 were white, while 7% were Black. But while Lawrence recognizes the whiteness of the sport he loves, he has never let that stop him from doing what he wants to do. 

Lawrence has rejected notions of what is “white people stuff” in all aspects of his life, openly embracing snowboarding, skateboarding and art. He says that all these things are Black people’s stuff too. He recognizes the power of representation, how his own presence in the sport has the power to transform future racial dynamics. He says that if 10 kids see him fly fishing and get inspired, and then 10 of their friends see it and get inspired, soon enough Black people will all be fishing.

On this episode, I meet him in his hometown of Tacoma for an interview and then drive 30 minutes to Bremerton to experience fly fishing for the very first time. We talk about everything from Black liberation and creating our own commune to what we hope for our children and the future of the outdoors.

For more from this episode, listen to the Out & Back podcast. You can find it on SpotifyApple Podcasts, Amazon or wherever you get your podcasts.

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