Gian Lawrence “The Black Stonefly” shares his passion for fishing, hunting, and community
Since 1976, every U.S. president has designated February as Black History Month to celebrate and learn about the history, contributions, and accomplishments of Black Americans. Learn more in our recent blog post.
Diversity makes natural ecosystems more vibrant and resilient. The same is true of Washington’s conservation community. At WDFW, we’re committed to fostering an inclusive environment and believe science and conservation are best advanced by the leadership and contributions of people with widely diverse backgrounds, experiences, and identities, who reflect the communities they serve. We’re proud to highlight Washingtonians working to connect more People of Color with the outdoors and to share their stories of building community while enjoying nature.
Giancarlo Lawrence is a Washington angler, hunter, and chef with a growing following through his Instagram page TheBlackStonefly. We connected with Gian to chat about what time spent outdoors means to him, and his thoughts on connecting more Black Americans with fishing, hunting, and conservation.
WDFW: Would you tell us where you’re from, and what you do for work?
GL: Born and raised in the South Puget Sound. I grew up in the Puyallup–Tacoma area. I now reside in Tacoma. I work in the maritime industry as a ship inspector, specifically an Ultrasonic Technician testing the thickness of steel structure in the hulls of commercial vessels. I also own and operate a pop-up restaurant called Smokers Chop House specializing in slow-smoked meats and anything grilled over a fire.
How long have you been fishing and hunting? How did you get started?
I’ve been fishing since I was a kid but didn’t take it seriously till about age 21. I’ve been bow hunting for about four years now. I started fly fishing shortly after salmon fishing with terminal tackle for a bit. I remember fishing a small creek near Mount Rainier and being intrigued by another angler catching lots of fish (lots more than me) on his fly rod. The long casts were beautiful and hypnotizing. I purchased my first fly set up shortly after that trip.
Gian mentioned he especially enjoys chasing bull elk with his bow in Washington; a particularly challenging pursuit as any elk hunter knows.
What inspired your journey from getting started fishing to swinging flies for salmon and steelhead?
I think when I first began fishing, I didn’t understand what I was out there for. I grew to learn with fly fishing or swinging flies that I wasn’t out there for the fish but more for the solidarity and peace. I was looking for a sanctuary and I found it in fishing.
What do you enjoy most about being on the water or in the elk woods?
What I enjoy about the outdoors is the number of amazing friendships I’ve made and the community I’ve become part of. I also love being able to gather fresh food right in our own backyard. It is something I can pass down to my children and peers and something that will resonate for many years.
How have you grown personally, professionally or in community thanks to your passion for fishing and hunting?
My passion for fishing and the outdoors has opened a whole new world for me. I have gained amazing friends across the world. I have become involved with awesome companies or organizations doing great things for our forests and streams. I have become an advocate for conservation, and I’ve learned why I love where we live.
Who has inspired or mentored you?
When it comes to fishing and hunting, I’ve been inspired by the guys who came before me. The legends who put in the hard work and paved the way. There are many local fishing and hunting guides in the state who I admire, some of which are close friends. I’m also inspired by the youth I meet who have the bug just as bad as I did when I started. I love seeing young kids hungry for the outdoors. It brings me back to that feeling and relights a fire.
What advice do you have for folks looking to get started fishing or hunting in Washington?
Advice I have for anyone looking to step into the fishing or hunting world is to absolutely 100 percent go for it! I can almost guarantee there is a seat for you at the table. Whether it be clam digging, elk hunting or swinging flies for steelhead, there is a place for you to find enjoyment.
Is there anything you’d like to share as you think about the experience of Black Americans and People of Color in the outdoors?
Access is Number 1 when it comes to Black Americans and other People of Color getting involved with the outdoors. Lack of transportation, outdoor planning, encouragement of stewardship, seminars in urban and just basic education of conservation issues going on in our region are steps that can be made to provide more access.
Anything else that you’d like to share or celebrate?
Fishing, hunting, and other outdoor activities have no restrictions on who can participate. There is a space for all of us and the faster we can get together in the outdoors, the faster we can make a change to the health of our environment.
What projects, fishing trips or goals are you working on this year?
This year is a huge year for me. I have a short film coming out titled TheBlackStoneFly. It highlights my life growing up in the city and finding my way to the outdoors. I’ll be working alongside some awesome individuals to open a space for food, fly casting, and other activities. I’ll also be doing some work with different Native tribes up and down the Columbia River to raise awareness on salmon and steelhead populations as well as a few other things beneficial to our area. Lastly, I hope to be able to provide some amazing elk and black-tailed deer meat for my friends and family.
Thank you, Gian, and good luck on the water and in the woods this year!