- John Frazier
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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.”