The Origin and Rebirth of Simms Cloud Camo

For most of us, waking up with the world’s second largest barrier reef for a backyard only happens on vacation, but for Wil Flack, it’s just another day in the life. Crystal clear water, white sand beaches and warm tropical weather would make just about anyone consider trading a fast pace suburban existence for a laid-back island lifestyle. Flack is one of the few who actually did. Since 2011, he has called the Belizean island of Ambergris Cay home, a place where the biggest stress of the day is deciding whether to target bonefish, tarpon or permit.


Born and raised on the west coast of British Columbia, Flack grew up only blocks away from the union of rivers and ocean where he developed a deep connection with steelhead. Steelhead may have been his gateway drug, but permit, and the highs (and lows) that come with fishing for them has become his drug of choice. 


Like any species obsessed angler, it doesn’t matter if he has a push pole or a fly rod in his hands, when permit are present, Flack is happy. Living in his happy place for the past 17 years has afforded him plenty of time to research, learn, and experiment. “Obviously, with permit, stealth is critical. It’s great to be able to cast a full fly line, but in reality, a hail marry cast is about the lowest percentage cast there is,” says Flack. “That’s always been my mentality, and because of that, early on, I truly became obsessed with figuring out ways I could get closer to these fish which is really what spawned the whole Cloud Camo idea.”


The notion of camo was, and is, something that Flack wholeheartedly believes. According to him, the first designs were crude, homemade, and uncomfortable. “I think it was around 2008 when I first started kicking around the idea of a Cloud Camo,” says Flack. “Believe it or not, the first shirts I wore on the flats were white cotton, long sleeve t-shirts that I glued patches of blue fabric on.” Crude and uncomfortable, yes – but by his account, also very effective. Flack adds, “I started testing the concept with bonefish and right off the bat, I felt like I was onto something. I wasn’t testing these shirts in deep water with happy fish around, I specifically looked for fish in super skinny water that were on edge. I’d just stand there, crouch down, and creep. I was amazed at how close I could actually get without spooking them.”


Sure, getting close to fish like bonefish and permit eliminates the need to make hail marry casts, but does it offer any other advantages? We asked Flack the same question and got a confident response. “Absolutely. Getting close is everything,” he says. “It’s not just to minimize casting distance. In my mind, the most challenging aspect of permit fishing is two-fold. Being able to fish the fly properly, and being able to fish the fly properly, according to the fish’s body language. Even if you make a perfect 80-foot shot, chances are, you’re not going to be able to see the fly which makes it next to impossible to fish it the way it needs to be fished. And of course, at a greater distance, you’re not going to have as great of a visual on the fish itself, which makes it a real challenge to accurately read its body language. Not only that, shorter casts mean less slack which typically leads to much better hookups. So yeah, getting closer to the fish is about making shorter presentations, but there are a lot of other pros that come from making shorter those shorter presentations. The list of reasons why anglers should try to close the gap is endless. In my experience, good things happen at short distances.”

It’s great to be able to cast a full fly line, but in reality, a hail mary cast is about the lowest percentage cast there is.

Flack’s theories and testimonials were presented to the product team at Simms and in short order, the first official Cloud Camo pattern was released. It may not have been a pattern you’d want to hit the town in, but for tactical minded flats anglers, Cloud Camo was functional gear that not only added the element of stealth, but also the element of confidence.

 

For the past few years, Cloud Camo sat dormant — but, it was never forgotten. It was a pattern that deserved an update, but how do you update a pattern that’s basically photorealistic clouds? If the pattern was going to evolve and improve, it needed to do so with the help of experts. So, fans of the original will be happy to see that Cloud Camo has made a resurgence in the Spring 2019 Line. With the help of Joe Skinner and the other concealment experts at Veil Camo, Cloud Camo is back, and bolstered by science. 



“To watch this idea go from a cotton t-shirt with fabric glued on it to working with a company like Veil is crazy! I mean, those guys are making the coolest military camo out there,” says Flack. “Joe actually came down and fished with me in Belize to research the project. That made my initial prototypes seem even more janky. After hanging with him for a few days, I was just completely blown away to learn about all the science that goes into their patterns. Those guys and their patterns are totally legit.”

 

Veil’s Joe Skinner isn’t what you’d call an avid angler, nor is Flack a scientific genius, but their two respective areas of expertise worked extremely well to yield the final product. The new pattern may carry the same name, but in truth, the new Cloud Camo pattern focusses less on mimicking clouds directly, and more on creating chaos in a natural way that confuses what fish perceive above the surface from below.


Read More about the Design and Development Process of Cloud Camo in this Interview with Veil’s Joe Skinner


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