Fly Fishing & Scratch Kitchens
Some say fly fishing is as much an art as it is a science. Exceptional anglers are masters of their craft. They understand weather, fish behavior and shifting tides. They are patient in their pursuit. They spend hours learning to cast, gracefully sending flies skipping across the water. Fly fishing is at once both simple and considered.
What scratch kitchens are to cooking, fly fishing is to the world of angling, so perhaps it’s not such an unlikely fit that one of our region’s only dedicated fly fishing retailers, Blackfly Outfitter, is also a companion enterprise to three scratch kitchens that share its name: a restaurant in St. Augustine, a fishing lodge in the Bahamas and a newly opened cafe and taproom in Jacksonville. They are, in fact, all part of the same family.
Blackfly is the brainchild of artist, former fly fishing guide and entrepreneur Vaughn Cochran. The Blackfly brand began as a retail fly fishing operation, but grew quickly to reflect its owner’s varied interests. Though food was always one part of the Blackfly concept, Cochran and his wife, Jean, never imagined they would one day own multiple restaurants.
“We have this really interesting dynamic where we have everybody in all of the Blackfly places working together to create menu items,” says Cochran, who feels this type of culinary collaboration is elevating the dining experience at each of their locations.
At the Bahamian Blackfly Lodge, for example, the kitchen opens onto a dining area, making it a place where guests can watch the lodge’s Chef Devon Roker prepare the day’s catch and gather in community. At Blackfly Restaurant in St. Augustine, locals dine under the gaze of Vaughn Cochran’s signature art -- bold, pop-style fish prints that reveal inspiration from time spent fishing and painting in Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Key West and the Bahamas. In everything Blackfly does, there are elements of community, travel, art and authentic eats.
So, not surprisingly, when the Blackfly Cafe & Taproom opened recently in Jacksonville, Cochran and his team set forth to bring all the qualities of Blackfly’s brand to the table, quite literally. Soft reggae music lends an island vibe, while the set menu and daily specials weave together Bahamian favorites with Northeast Florida flavors. (Chef Roker flew in from Abaco to make sure the conch fritters were up to snuff.) Paintings bring together a lifetime of art and fishing, as booths and cubbyholes filled with books and trinkets create a space that’s relaxed and inviting.
If wading knee deep through water on an intracoastal fly fishing adventure or a trip to Abaco isn’t your thing, don’t despair. A taste of both experiences might be easier to achieve than you think. Headover to Beach Boulevard and bring a friend. Perch yourselves at the new Blackfly Cafe & Taproom. Drink a beer, cast your line, then wait. It won’t be long til you hook the daily catch.
NOTE: The print version of this story incorrectly stated the location for Blackfly Cafe & Taproom. It is in Jacksonville, not Jacksonville Beach. Blackfly Cafe & Taproom, 11702 Beach Boulevard, Suite 109, Jacksonville, (904) 646-0007.