Matt Thornton

 

 

Since I was a child, the wilderness has been calling. In 2014 I decided to answer the call as a professional fly fishing guide — 22 years after my father first taught me how to cast. I moved to Alaska and began the journey, exploring as much water as possible and delving into local knowledge, techniques and navigation. I’ve emerged as a competent licensed captain with a vast range of experience both in and out of the world of fishing, perfect for rounding out your next adventure. As long as you want to discover, I want to curate. Let’s answer the call.

 

Getting to Know Matt 

Q: What first got you into fly fishing?

A: I was nine when my stepdad and I moved to Salem and started fly fishing. He, was a mountaineer from New Zealand & would pack a fly rod as part of his food plan. C

Q: You clearly have a passion for fishing. Why did you become a fly fishing guide?

A: It was a natural progression. I was skilled at fishing and often shared spots and techniques with friends. I love people and take a genuine interest in them and seeing them grow and succeed. Transitioning into a career guiding felt like the next logical step.

Q: What do you enjoy most about being a fly fishing guide?

A: I love how the river turns us all into kids—laughter and playfulness are a top priority. And I love the 'aha' moment when a guest grasps a concept. That’s pure joy.

Q: What species of fish do you help clients target?

A: Steelhead, Trout, Coho, Kings, Sockeye, Dolly Varden, Grayling, Pike, Bones, Tarpon, Permit, and more.

Q: Why do you choose fly fishing over all other forms?

A: It's the challenge—an active pursuit where knowledge often spells the difference between success and failure. It's a blend of athleticism and intellect. And it’s taken me to places and caused me to see them in ways I never would have without the sport.

Q: Do you tie your own flies?

A: Absolutely. I started over twenty years ago, I love the thrill of catching with my own ties, especially those crafted from my study of entomology or fish behavior. When I fish it’s also at always with flies that I or a friend have tied, specifically designed for that stretch of water.

Q: What are your personal favorite species to chase when you aren’t guiding?

A: Steelhead & Permit. If it's a challenge, dubbed 'the fish of 1000 casts,' count me in.

Q: If you could travel to one place to fly fish, where would it be and for what species of fish?

A: Bhutan for the Golden Mahseer. A friend of mine does a yearly expedition. He had to get special permission from the king. Wild, new, stuff. I can’t wait to go with him.

Q: If you could give advice to someone just starting into fly fishing, what advice would you give them?

A: Spend time on the water. Learn from your mistakes, fish with those more skilled, and embrace every facet—from tying flies to understanding nature's dynamics. Join conservation groups, be active at the fly shop… do it all all the time.

Q: What is your most memorable fly fishing trip?

A: The first one with my stepdad on a small river in Salem, Oregon. It was the first time I saw the stress of life melt off of him. The first time I saw his type A hard nose exterior melt and he just became human and wild and goofy and fun.

Q: What is your most memorable fish caught?

A: Thats a very difficult question. I believe Andy Andrews of Trout Unlimited Clackamas chapter gave that to me. Maybe it was the letter he wrote me after reminding me to “cherish its fighting spirit”. It was on a small spring creek outside of Bend. Andy helped me identify the Slate Wing hatch, and he backed out of the run when the fishing heated up so as not to spook the fish. I didn’t even know what was happening. I just saw fish rising. I was wearing Hodgman neoprenes and casting some garage sale rode. I made a bad cast, the line piled up but the current took it just right, delivered it to the fish. It sucked the fly down and went berserk when I set the hook. I hooted and hollered. Andy came around the corner and coached me on the fight, took my picture & patted me on the back. He was so selfless. That was the beginning of me learning to guide. I really lucked out on so many levels with that fish and the ones that helped me catch it. I’m still humbled by that gift.

Q: What is your most memorable fish lost?

A: Perhaps those Montana browns years ago on a small stream—a reminiscence of missed opportunities before honing my skills. I’d didn’t know to wait to set the hook. I often dream of going back there and catching their offspring.