My interview with Rhode Island’s youngest tackle store owner who builds custom rods and has big dreams
This is the second edition in our new series “What They Know” here at the fish wrap. You can view our first edition, at this link.
Rosie Clifton of Rosie’s Bait and Tackle talks custom rods & big dreams, flies and fish, fluke, and quahogs. It’s always a pleasure to speak with tackle store owners, especially those new to the business. Rosie and her family offer hand tied fresh and saltwater flies, fluke and tautog rigs and some beautiful custom rods. Their product list is growing with a long ball vision of growing a business at a reasonable pace. Rosie is a young entrepreneur with a natural passion for fishing and a level of craft far beyond her years. “I caught my first fish when I was younger,” she said, “Four years ago, when I was four.”
“Hello Mr. Todd, it’s really nice to see you,” Rosie said, beginning a first conversation about her business for our “What They Know” series. A few months earlier, we had met at the Crafty One Customs R.I. Tautog Classic when she appeared on stage holding a stout blackfish with her father, Hugh. In a sea of dirty shirts and orange Grundens, Rosie weighed her catch wearing classic Vans and pigtails, unfazed by a crowd and so much grownup competition. When you set a course to interview an eight year old who speaks with such confidence and poise, it takes just a moment to realize she is exceptional.
Rosie Has Big Dreams and a Road To Success
“Do you want to know what lure I caught that fluke on?” Rosie asked, sidestepping her role as interviewee. “It was very, very surprising. I caught it on an SP Minnow.” Her slightly higher pitch reminded the table of how purely excited she is to find and catch fish. At age two, her family would jig up mackerel from the Maine State Pier in Portland and she would whirl around the buckets, dancing with the fish, so he comes to her knowledge honestly. Rosie can ride a horse, play soccer, tie Surf Candy flies, wrap guides on a surf rod, play a little piano and apparently catch fluke with a striper plug. Jigging lead to stripers in the Scarborough Marsh, buying her own kayak and learning about building her own fishing rods. “I’ve always been fishing but it only took one or two times hanging with me and she just decided from then on she needed her own rod and her own tackle box,” Hugh said. He ends many sentences with, “And she did,” because when Rosie sets something in her sights, she masters it.
“Well, I used a sandworm and I caught a good sized striper but it wasn’t really a keeper,” she said, when asked about any recent catches. Sitting with her Mom, Jeanette and younger brother Everest, Rosie began most answers with, “Well,” because even at her age, she contemplates, she thinks then speaks with a rare youthful wisdom. She has a love for water and fish, for family and fresh air that seems not to be a brief childhood fancy, soon to be replaced. She also seems grateful for those who have taught her about the outdoors. “I miss Ms. Maggie. She was very, very kind,” Rosie said of a riding instructor friend, almost wistfully. Her slow, clear cadence reveals thoughtfulness and consideration.
Custom rods are only part of Rosie’s story
“Well, this is the initial design,” she said, when asked about a new 7’ spinning rod she and Hugh are building. She easily explained guide placement, marbling details and her choice of reel seat. Hugh has a background in mathematics so details are never overlooked or undervalued. True to course, Rosie mixes her own epoxy colors and names each rod with a flower theme, complementing her creativity and thought. Among others, they have crafted a Rainbow Rose, Golden Rose and Fire Rose with an American Beauty in the works. Creating as a team, they started with species specific blanks for inshore casting rods, solid jigging setups and surf rods and have begun building fly rods. They carefully discuss new rod builds with customers, absorbing each expectation and nuance, because everything has to be right, because they love catching fish also.
Despite her evolving mastery of all things fishing, Rosie has developed a common angler malady of misstating catch sizes. Hugh regularly corrects her proclivity to minimize length and girth. It’s doubtful Rosie does this intentionally or to keep other anglers from her secret spots because she would more likely share the intel. She’s happy to chat about her brilliant cinder worm patterns, lend a hand to those learning to tie their own flies or show off a few painted clam shells, in various, realistic fish prints of course. Highly recommended are her Clouser patterns and Mahi Mahi quahogs. Rosie indeed is blessed with exceptional skills, dreams and motivations but everything blossoms from her family, who easily nurtures her creative spirits, encourages new paths, praises and teaches at every opportunity. “She learns at a completely different pace,” Hugh said.
“Is there anything you can’t do,” I asked. Without hesitation, Hugh looked up and said, “Just anything she hasn’t tried yet. But once she tries something, she’ll figure it out.” “I feel like it’s the perfect sport for me,” Rosie said with a smile. You can find Rosie’s Bait & Tackle on Instagram at rosies_baitandtackle and contact them about some new flies, a new rod or even a cool clam shell painted precisely like a tautog.