Artistry behind the fly – Brian Chou ” The Rip City”

This month At Soul River Space
Featuring Brian Chou “Artistry behind the fly”

ärt/ noun 1. the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

Up close and personal! I had the opportunity to learn and capture Brian Chou’s art of tying on the vice. Every tier has their own approach on the vice. For Brian there is a ritualistic approach like an artist selecting the right palette of colors to paint their canvas. Brian creates with a mix of theory, science, artistic talent, and river experience from being out on the river. “Somebody said to me one day ‘fly tying is a craft not an art.'” This is a bold and interesting statement when you actually look at what art is, think about the process of a creation, and the execution of a skill set that dates back thousands of years in indigenous cultures worldwide. Relying on creativity and art in the hunt for survival to ritualistic ceremonies and forms of communications which all play a purpose in the process like an artist palette of nature. The statement that a person said was a bit bold but yet has no substance to the nature of knowing art especially when one knows the true definition of art.

There are three different fly tiers where the skill set and tools are almost always the same but different in the end product – the tier who ties for functionality, the tier who ties for classicism, and the tier who breaks the mold learning outside of the box displaying artistic expressionism and functional application.

In my observation, Brian’s approach is innovative, artistic but functional as well as scientific. In simple words, Brian’s flies are tried and true! Brian has many years under his belt from fishing throughout the Northwest to saltwater fly fishing along the Pacific. In his experience, Brian has been able to succeed at fly line design and fly rod design for various respected companies and holds a certification as an Federation of Fly Fishers casting instructor. In his pastime, he serves as a Soul River ambassador helping propel the sport to newer audiences, connecting youth to the outdoors, and working with veterans. Most importantly he is a father and husband.

As one of my graduate school professor’s once said to me, “Know the rules first, then you can break them.” Brian knows the rules and he breaks them.

Come to the Soul River retail space and purchase Brian Chou’s flies. His latest flies featured feed the appetite of a Portland Trail Blazer fan, whether it’s to go fishing or just wanting to have another affiliation to the Blazers. The bonus is it catches fish! And the fly name is the ” The Rip City”

Brian Chou on the vice in his studio tying ” The Rip City”!





Interesting to watch some of the little techniques Brian has under his sleeve working with materials.







Adding the glue! Final touches!



A few of Brian fly creations! A sneak peak in his fly box!






” The Rip City”


Tight lines!


Brian Chou Sneak Preview!

Here is another sneak preview of Brian Chou’s flies coming soon to the Soul River retail space!
In addition to his flies, we are gearing up for a profile feature about this good friend of Soul River’s, angler, and soul river ambassador, showcasing his work on the vise behind the scenes, sharing his techniques, process, and philosophy behind transforming a bare hook into a masterful piece of functional art!

Stay tuned and review some of his work below!


“The Patriot” by Brian Chou – Honoring 9/11 Families and everyone coming together and standing together as one!



“Rip City” By Brian Chou – Representing the Portland Blazers – Inspired by the old classic steelhead pattern, The Red Winged Blackbird.

Tight Lines,




The LoFly

Now featuring in the space of Soul River. Come out and check these out!

Tier-Josh Mills Presents from Spokane, Washington
The words spoken from Josh Mills – The outdoors have always been my home, but the galvanizing moment of fishing life was when I was 19 and I picked up a fly rod for the first time.   That first Cutthroat Trout on the Elk River that ate my Royal Wulf set in motion a life that is all about fly fishing.  Married with two young boys, I am a dedicated family man, steelhead addict and serve on the Wild Steelhead Coalition board of directors.  To me, the coolest thing with fly tying is sitting down in front of a mess of materials, dreaming something up and producing a fly that has the juice.
This particular fly I’ve submitted is called the LoFly, named after a good friend who runs a non profit group that takes disadvantaged youth into the outdoors, Peak 7, which is based in Spokane as well.



Tight Lines
Chad B.


River Ink


Our lives are journeys. Oftentimes, we are not fully aware of our surroundings and how they alter and influence us physically, mentally and spiritually, but we naturally take the journey even if the path seems unclear. Many of us are fortunate to have the lifestyle to get outdoors and explore a variety of recreational activities. It’s easy to take this part of our journey for granted and see the sport as one of pursuit not realizing what is right in front of us. Then again, there is also a handful of people who do not have the lifestyle to do such a thing. For me, getting outdoors has become not only a journey but a pursuit of opportunity waiting to be discovered and even challenged. I take this journey every chance I get when I go to the river to fish. I appreciate what is around me and in the water of what I may be chasing at that time; fishing simply becomes the by-product. The vehicle of exploration leads me to a self-discovery of “change” which is my transformation, my balance, and my church as an angler. On the other hand as a Creative Director/ Designer my journey has lead me down various professional paths through design, fashion and photography working in various design firms and agency’s throughout NYC, LA and Hong Kong. These various paths of opportunity to design has also lead me around the world, as an outdoorsman backpacking, seeking and embarking life into the now, to feel what it is like to live in the now.  To be shaped over time in the world is like moving through experiences in real-time, adopting an anthropologist’s personality of design weaving in and out of cultures. To experience human connections around the globe of music, art, language and various story tellings.


At one point in my journey I embarked on a 3-month backpacking discovery through Japan. I began my trek in Kummoto and eventually reaching Oturo. My passion of design, adventure, outdoors, and cultural experiences led me into doing some unique creative exercises of collecting symbols along my journey, snap-shooting my findings, and ultimately using this as a symbolic, creative exercise. I cataloged these captured, symbolic images into an archive mixed of Japanese design such as shapes, lines, typography, cool Kanji writings with hair brushed on paper, and, of course, some anime.

At one point, my path eventually crossed into the forbidden world of the Yakuza. Stumbling across some members I noticed their tattoo designs opened the door to them showing me a different perspective of how design impacts and embodies their culture and society presenting the deepest meaning and honor of the Yakuza. This greatly influenced me to see and learn their art, to hear their story telling, and to capture their culture and see how it ties into Mother Nature. Water, koi, nature, and mythical dragons are all but symbols that hold deep-rooted value in the Yakuza culture. Tattoo design was forbidden in Japan for quite some time and most places still today do not accept the art into a place of service, such as traditional restaurants or establishments.

Being influenced by our surroundings and what we are exposed to in life leads me into today as an angler sharing the water with friends by passion and seeing change around me and in this sport. More individualism is coming out from the neutral tan- and brown-colored cloth uniform. The fly fishing vest is exchanged by a hoodie, the face is getting covered with a buff and a trucker hat looking like an outlaw in character yet still passionate of the sport and appreciative of the culture. Mesh culture is in the making and has been almost underground for quite some time. Every year mesh culture is coming on stronger, faster, smarter. Where there was once not the acceptance, there is now some acceptance as the norm is abnormally mixed with vibrant color and equality of differences, regardless of socioeconomic status, practically abandons the elite standing still in time and place.

I was commissioned to design a custom tattoo for another young angler who identified with the outdoors and river. He gave me the creative license to move forward on a design for his arm as a sleeve. The client shared with me his interest and I added to it to develop and customize the design for him. The design connected with the client on a deeper meaning in some way, deep within his soul, and the biggest portion of who he identified himself as was an angler spending time on the water.

About the customized design:

Inspired by fresh-water nymph, the Naiad who inhabited the rivers, streams, lakes, marshes, fountains and springs of the earth. Injected with a flare of Yakuza design, water-style scene. Balanced by Greek mythology and Japanese culture, combined into one tattoo design of technique and style both having the balance of the river (water) and rich culture of beauty spirited by the Naiad protecting water masses, stretched and integrated with formed, dramatic  water. Displayed the moving of life species feeding through one energy source to infinity.

Medium: Pen and ink
Application: Tattoo Design (sleeve)

Screen shot 2014-03-17 at 4.34.19 PM



Tight Lines,
Chad Brown

Partners shares their talent as ONE. “Soul Search”

Three talented partners collaborate as one artistic arsenal to tell short stories with impact and emotion. Guided through high-quality direction and shooting style in the outdoors. Through the stories we pursue and tell, each partner strives to infuse masterful talent through professional execution in order to give a breath of fresh air and to keep you craving more. A short does not compromise the production of quality and quality does not compromise a short story! A unique visual perspective in storytelling.

Partners: Northwestern Exposure   Aerial Media Works & Soul River Runs Deep

We are always looking for the next collaboration!

Soul Search from AerialMediaWorks on Vimeo.

Tight Lines!


The word “tattoo” is derived from two languages – the Polynesian word ‘ta’, meaning to strike something and the Tahitian word ‘tatau’ meaning to mark something


The history of tattoo art began over 5000 years ago and is as diverse as the people who wear them. The first tattoo is rumored to have been an accident which took place when someone had a small wound and rubbed it with soot and ash from a fire pit for relief and healing. Once the wound had healed, they noticed a permanent mark. Despite the society’s growing fascination and immense popularity of tattoo art, the art and practice doesn’t hold much of an historical record. According to the historical records we do have, tattoo art spans from the ages (Bronze Age and Edo Period) to different cultural influences (Pazyryk culture, Celts, Vikings, and Polynesian) to different regions and countries (Egypt, Japan, Indonesia, New Zealand, Thailand, Africa, England, South America, and North America.)

Today, tattoo art is still an unwritten language which encompasses our personal interests yet is a personal sanctuary of memories we hold close to ourselves illustrating life’s experiences or showing something we identify as what inspires us, drives our passion, or demonstrates the things or people we love. Today, tattoo art is created by inserting colored materials beneath the surface. And where you think you may not find it or may not expect to see it even in the fly fishing world. Personally, fly fishing just happened to be a passion. The sport is full of conservative ideals yet has an under layer culture of people who walk a different walk or have a different background, a depth to the sport, a unique story or blanket of uniqueness of what introduced them into the sport and lifestyle of fly fishing. And yet we are all anglers pursuing that one moment of contentment and happiness on the water – but once the shirt is rolled up or the shirt has been taken off on a hot day, that is when a layer of individualistic spirit is revealed by marks, symbols and illustrations presenting honor, memoir, death or a personal sacred of something about themselves revealing the depth of another person’s DNA code, a road map, a journey to which that soul has experienced. Regardless in how you may feel against this ancient artisan language of coded symbols of tattoo art, of self expression that goes back historically before you and I were conceived, holding rich practice in various societies and cultures which is the fabric of community and growth to adulthood around the world. The art is real, the nature of this person is still just as equal and unique as you are, and it is here to stay even in the fly fishing world.


I recently was approached with an awesome opportunity to design a tattoo for a fellow angler and U.S. Army veteran that tied back to where he served (in Oahu) and where he met his wife. It was an honor to have this opportunity do some design work for someone who was not just a fan of Soul River, but respectfully dug my style as a designer to the point of where he commissioned me to create an artistic tattoo for his back. Awesome! I always welcome the opportunity to do custom design work for companies and individuals today, whether it is to help develop and solve a communication design problem, branding/rebranding, or designing new images. This was an opportunity to work with an Army veteran and his wife by developing a tattoo design that embodied the elements of what they both love, the place where they met, mixed with an Polynesian-style, infused with the sport and life that they love in fly fishing! Having the opportunity to design for a wonderful couple, I was honored to learn their story of encounter, love, and history and then bring everything full-circle by giving a commitment to capture the essence of what they cherished most.

Behind the walls of Soul River I still find myself doing contract commission work for individuals, returning past clients and businesses seeking to build or develop their brand. Before I started Soul River I was blessed to study art and communication design traditionally within the walls of the highly esteemed Pratt Institute in New York City. I learned the art of visual communication design and had the opportunity to study under some of the most respected professors including Mr. Tony Dispinga, a master and expert who has made such an impact in the area of design not only in American history but throughout the world. Neville Brody, Milton Glacier, Saul Bass, Paul Rand, David Carlson, Barbara Kruger, and Stefan Sagmeister, to respectfully name a few world-renowned creative professionals happen also to be on my list of favorite designers who heavily influence me as I study their writings and designs. These creative souls are known mavericks in the history of design.


Most of my past work has been developing company brand images, spearheading creative teams, developing campaigns and creating editorial stories through film/video and product/fashion photography shoots around the world. My favorite mediums of design are through fashion, symbolism, and iconography building and developing ideas around ancient symbols and hieroglyphics from our Egyptian, Native American, and Edo Period pasts. It is interesting in how a mark is formed from a deeper meaning into a brand we see today which was once tribal and acted as a mark of survival or spiritual interpretation of telling a story of a particular clan or time. Today, this moves into the fundamentals of design and how we perceive or read into the underlying message of what is being presented whether it is a brand or specific advertisement. Another interest dwells in indigenous culture which is layered by rich history, deep meaning of life, and spiritual realms where nothing is taken for granted and details translate into a different meaning once the layers are pulled back to reveal symbolic design. This concept intrigues me on so many levels and flourishes deeper human connections. This also translates into fashion and textiles, print design we see today in our silk screen or patterns in our shirts and not knowing or realizing how a symbol can be depicted and translated back to a Greek cross or a Chinese monk.


As a designer, creative director, entrepreneur, and founder of Soul River Runs Deep, LLC, I conceptualize, develop, design, and practice out of my humble Soul River office studio in Northwest Portland. I am also a lead photographer and internationally-recognized designer in Asia, having been commissioned numerous times by long standing clients established in Hong Kong, Vietnam and Bangladesh. A most memorable venture was when I worked alongside the government of Bangladesh to design and develop campaign poster advertisements for the Bangladesh Independence Day campaign celebration holiday. Design is meant to live simply, derived from chaotic thoughts and wild fire ideas while channeling back to a simple flow or form of communication which all can respond through emotion, understanding, and appreciation. As a creative professional and anthropologist through design, my passion is to connect your idea to your goal in order to create a meaningful and tangible communication design piece. If you (personally or professionally) are interested in collaborating on projects that you may have, feel free to contact me as I am always willing to find time to connect with new clients.

Tight Lines!