John Jackson began snowboarding as a preteen on the powder-strewn spines of the Eastern Sierras, near his hometown in Crowley Lake, California. Soon after, he cast his first flies in that same backyard—in places with legendary names like Inyo, Sierra, Yosemite, and King’s. Fifteen years later and the basic ingredients haven’t changed, just the stakes. He’s still riding snowboards—though he no longer shares one with his sister—and today he logs long hours chasing storms, sourcing untapped descents, and nailing burly backcountry drops as a pro rider for Forum Snowboards. When the season’s over, he fishes: the East Walker and Hot Creek; the Truckee River in his new backyard; northern California’s coastal steelhead streams, or somewhere totally off the grid, just to fuel the wanderlust.
In January, during a night of Denver debauchery, Jackson scooped top honors at the 11th Annual Transworld Snowboarding Riders’ Poll—voted Men’s Rider of the Year and clinching Men’s Video Part of the Year for his backcountry segment in Forum’s DVD, Forever.
As another snow season disappears, how does this mellow kid from Crowley plan on celebrating a year of monumental achievements? By “swinging some flies,” reflecting and relaxing on the water, and maybe catching a steelhead or two.
Drake Magazine: Tell us how your upbringing led to your current career path?
John Jackson: I was born in a house at the intersection of Hilton Creek and Crowley Lake Drive, and my parent’s restaurant was right next door. I had the Crowley mountains in the backyard, and out the front, a trail of water to follow down to the lake. Not to mention the best home-style and Cajun cooking 50 yards away.
DM: Your last pro-model snowboard featured a fishy theme. How did the design come about?
JJ: Forum did a pro model right away when I signed, and I had no time to plan a graphic. They knew I was into fishing and mocked up a quick trout across the board. It was pretty beat, so I went to the office to throw some last-minute ideas. I’d thought about having a board that looked like a fly box, and my box was in my car, so we did a quick scan of it, and there was my graphic in two minutes flat.
DM: When the season’s over and you’re off the mountain, do you have a specific homewater?
JJ: I live in Truckee, and the Truckee River’s fun, but I love going back to Crowley and fishing where I grew up: the East Walker, Hot Creek, Owens, McGee. And I love backpacking when the snow melts.
DM: We’re seeing a growing crossover faction of those who both ride and fly fish. Obviously, most mountain resort towns are close to good water, but is there more to it? How do the two sports compliment each other in your life?
JJ: The main qualities are the same, you go out in similar elements where you’re surrounded by beauty, and you just get in your zone and forget about everything else. There’s always technique to work on and new things to learn, info to take in. You’re always searching for the new perfect run, or the perfect jump or line that’s never been hit. There’s a drive for the same goal—landing some trick you’ve been working on, or landing that fish you’ve been watching rise. And even when you don’t accomplish this, it’s still a blessing being out, and it’s always a good time.
DM: Describe your most memorable fishing moment. An epic catch? River mishap? Or just something funny you’ve experienced while on the water?
JJ: Probably fishing the North Umpqua. I was working hard for steelies and I hadn’t hooked one yet. I waded out to this run that was calling my name, and just started feeling it. It was nearing the end of the day and I finally hooked. Thing tooled on me for about five minutes, and then took a mean run toward some heavy rapids. Luckily I was wet wading, so I charged downstream chasing him. I didn’t have the right shoes on, in fact I think they were Crocs, so the slick rock had a little extra snot to it. I was basically swimming and bouncing down the river trying to hold this fish, and it wasn’t long before he was gone. Excited and full of adrenaline, yet a little bummed after losing my first fish, I walked back up to the run, tied on a stone pattern, and first cast back in the run I got bent again. This one I landed.