by Chris Santella
HARD-DRIVING FLY fishing guides and wandering trout bums are generally overlooked as bellwethers of fashion. But check out your guide’s or angling buddy’s wrists, and you might notice a handsome leather cuff, emblazoned with a distinctive laser-cut metallic trout, the work of Austin-Texas-based Edgar Diaz and Sight Line Provisions.
It was a mix of passion and pragmatism that led Diaz to Sight Line. His early artistic ventures were sculptures— primarily cityscapes—fashioned from aluminum cans. After relocating from Orange County, California, to the Texas Hill Country, Diaz began making one-ofa-kind leather bracelets decorated with found antique pieces. This led to the establishment of his first company, Vintage Ware by EMD. It also helped foster his evolution from artist to designer.
“The pieces I was creating with Vintage Ware were very satisfying,” Diaz said. “But it was becoming a challenge to find interesting objects to work with. And I wasn’t always able to express my vision. It was more an exercise of working to highlight the qualities of the object I’d found.”
Diaz made the rounds of juried national art festivals to sell his pieces, and would take on the occasional commission. But he longed to develop a line that could be sold through retail outlets, which would allow him to make a living by staying at home and not be dependent on the constant traveling of the art festival circuit.
Enter Sight Line Provisions.
“People have asked me if I was inspired to start Sight Line Provisions by a deep love of fishing,” Diaz continued. “That wasn’t really the case. From a young age, I’ve always felt a close connection to the outdoors. Growing up, my family did a lot of camping around the L.A. County area, and the occasional trip to the Sierras. I always loved fishing, but I used mostly conventional gear. I’ve really embraced fly fishing in the last few years and I’m all in now, thanks to all the great people I’ve gotten to know in the industry. But if you were to give me a cold beer, a sunny day, and a spinning rod, I could be happy casting for any kind of fish.”
Initially, Diaz imagined Sight Line Provisions as a brand for people who enjoyed the outdoors. “But that market was so vast, I realized I needed to focus on a smaller segment,” he recalled. “I turned toward fly fishing because of my love of the sport. If I’m going to start something big, I figured I might as well have fun doing it. One of the main challenges was bringing the price point down to where the cuffs could be sold at retail. I’d been selling leather cuffs at a premium price point for some time. I felt that if I could talk to someone one-on-one about a particular piece, the sell was easy. I needed to create a simplified object that any shopkeeper could sell.”
Given the demands of the market, it was natural for Diaz to focus his first designs on trout. Though he hails from the land of redfish, gar, and Guadalupe bass, fashioning a trout die was not a difficult stretch. “Since I was a little kid, I’ve been obsessed with trout,” Diaz shared. “They seemed exotic; there aren’t too many around Orange County. To be in a small stream with a 4-weight, discovering deep pools and casting to rising trout—that’s an ideal scenario for me.” While the Trout 2.0 and Dry Fly 2.0 designs continue to be best sellers, Sight Line offers 30 different designs, including tarpon, bonefish, redfish, and permit. “People are always asking me to develop designs for other species,” he added. “It’s fun to do, but they’re probably not going to sell like the trout stuff.
To keep retailers—over 95 worldwide and counting—in product, Diaz has hired assistants to help create his handsome cuffs, which retail between $50 and $110. “My first assistant came to me through a friend. She had no experience working with leather products, and I had never had anyone working with me—so it was a clean slate. My art studio [which is housed in a converted garage on the property] morphed into a design and production studio. I taught her what I knew about working with leather, and she developed some of her own techniques. She and another new assistant are making most of the cuffs now. As an artist, you’re stubborn. You develop an aesthetic and stick to it. It’s been an adjustment going from being a maker to a supervisor and businessman. We’re trying to make money and to meet deadlines, but I do my best to keep things light and fun in the studio.”
Building off its success in the fly fishing community, Sight Line Provisions will be expanding its line in 2019, by focusing on the Lost Cast Collection of bronze cast badges in more outdoor-oriented styles.
Though business—plus the duties of parenting two teenagers—keeps Edgar Diaz jumping, he still finds time to wet a line. “Living in Texas, there are rivers and lakes everywhere,” he said. “If I need to get a quick fix, I can go two miles away and catch a couple sunfish or bass. And I’m only an hour from the southernmost trout fishery in the United States, the Guadalupe River. I can leave home at five thirty a.m., get a solid two or three hours of fishing in, and be at the studio before eleven a.m. I get to fish more than many, though there have been times since I started Sight Line when I haven’t fished for three months. I take it when I can get it.”
In 2019, Diaz will head a bit farther south to trout-fish—namely Jurassic Lake in Patagonia. “Anytime I’m out fishing wearing one of my cuffs, I’m extending the brand. Though I have to say that I didn’t even try to spin this as a business trip to my wife. It’s a fishing trip.”