If you have spent any time in the shop over the past few months, you have probably bumped into Freeland. He’s the tall, smiley kid that is helping you out at the counter or picking the right flies for when you are heading out fishing. When he isn’t on the sales floor, we have him locked away upstairs working on more web-based projects. He spends quite a bit of time writing fishing reports, fishing stories, product reviews, and other written content! We decided we wanted to take a moment to showcase our newest and one of the fishiest employees we have. We asked him a few questions- take a look!
Freeland, tell me about your first memory of fishing?
I’ve been fishing for just about as long as I can remember, and like many of us started with spinning gear. One of the first days that really sticks with me was an awesome day of throwing flies and clear bobbers with Ultralitespin gear on a high mountain lake in Colorado when I was probably 5 or 6. My dad could hardly keep up with assisting my brother and I release an endless number of small rainbows for several hours. I’d caught larger fish before, but had never experienced such action and was beyond excited about how many fish we were getting into. It was a beautiful summer day in a stunning mountain setting, and will definitely be a day I’ll remember forever.
How long have you been fly fishing?
My first experiences with a fly rod were when I was in middle school, probably 11 or 12 years old. My dad had several older rods that my brother and I started trying to fish on our trips to the streams and lakes that we frequented on camping trips with my parents and our family dog. Most of our attempts were pretty futile, but there was always something enchanting about the dynamics of throwing a fly. Through high school, I didn’t spend a lot of time with a fly rod in hand, and was more focused on big game hunting and throwing rapalas for pike in a lake close to my house. When I graduated, my parents encouraged my interests in the outdoors, and I was fortunate enough to take part in a month-long fly fishing focused backpacking NOLS trip through the Wind River Range of Wyoming. The course included several days of formal instruction from a casting instructor, then allowed us to test our skills on the incredible lakes and streams of the Wind Rivers. This trip has remained one of my most cherished experiences, and the incredible immersion in nature ignited a passion for the outdoors and fly fishing unlike anything else could. I carried this passion with me to Colorado State University, where I was able to meet others who shared my interests. Having talented friends to explore the rivers of Northern Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana with pushed me to improve my skills as an angler, and eventually work in the industry as a guide and fly shop employee at Kirk’s Fly Shop in Estes Park.
You are a college educated man… tell us what you went to school for and how it has helped you in your fly fishing career…
I spent four years in Fort Collins, CO studying Business and Economics, and graduated with a double major in 2016. My initial motivation to choose Business as a major was driven by my interests in working in the outdoor industry, as my dad had done through most of my upbringing. He has now worked for Osprey Packs for more than 20 years, and I’ve always enjoyed the strong company culture and shared values that are present throughout the outdoor industry. Upon graduation, a job I had accepted with Sierra Trading Post was eliminated through restructuring a few days before I was scheduled to start working. In a bit of a tough situation, I decided to look at the sudden change of plans as an opportunity to pursue my passions in fly fishing. Less than a week later I was working in the shop and beginning my guiding career at Kirk’s Fly shop in Estes Park, CO.
I value my education deeply, and while I wasn’t necessarily able to actively practice my technical business and economics skills on a daily basis, I did feel prepared for the professional communication and customer service focus that is essential to being part of a successful fly shop and guide service. I have enjoyed meeting incredible people from all walks of life through my retail and guide work, and am fortunate to have a well-rounded education that allows me to relate to, learn, and provide input on the wide variety of topics that come up on the water. Since my arrival in Oregon, I have been able to further apply my academic skills in an effort to contribute to the amazing team here at Fly and Field. I enjoy the wide array of responsibilities that accompany working in a small business environment, which requires flexibility to accomplish various retail, content, and operational functions at a moment’s notice. I’m happy to be partially responsible for managing inventories and to be working with the amazing fly fishing companies that put products on our shelves every day. As an added plus, I’m able to incorporate my interests in writing through much of what I do here at Fly and Field.
I know you have been putting some serious miles on your truck since you have relocated here. Where have you been fishing? Find a favorite fishery yet?
I’ve definitely had a bit of a field day trying to explore every corner of the beautiful state of Oregon since my arrival. Having lived in Colorado for my entire life, having such an incredible number of new fisheries to explore was one of the driving factors in the decision to make the move. This winter I spent most of my time chasing Steelhead on the Klamath, Rogue, and North Umpqua. The miles driven-fish ratio was not ideal, but the fish I landed and water I fished are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Upon settling in the Bend area, I’ve spent more time exploring the myriad of trout fisheries in Central Oregon with my girlfriend, Alex, and our dog, Lola. I’ve spent a lot of time on the Lower Deschutes and Metolius, and taken several trips toward the McKenzie, and into the Cascades to fish the Lakes and the Upper Deschutes. I get out to the Crooked and Fall when I can, and spend a fair amount of time fishing around town during the week. It’s difficult to name a favorite, but I tend to head North to the Lower Deschutes when I get the chance. I have yet to find a fishery that produces harder fighting trout than the Lower Deschutes. Each fish I hook amazes me with an incredible display of power, speed, and acrobatics that can shake even the most secure hook sets at any moment. I love the high desert environment and incredible setting that surrounds the Lower D, and I love getting my ass kicked by those big native Redbands.
This is a hard one… tell me about your favorite fishing story. The first one that comes to mind!
The last portion of the NOLS trip I was a part of involved a multi-day float down the upper stretches of the Green. It was a great few days of hanging out in a boat, fishing hopper droppers, and enjoying the luxuries of car camping after 25 days of backpacking. On the third or fourth day of the float, I was floating with another course participant and one of our instructors, Mark. I was a little upset after breaking off a nice brown close to the net, and we decided to anchor up so I could re-rig before passing along a nice long run below a cliff band. After finishing my last knot I dropped a couple of drifts through a narrow slot below the boat, and with no immediate action we brought up the anchor and began to continue towards the cliff band. As the anchor came up I took one last pass through the slot and set as the dry fly went down hard. I immediately felt a few big headshakes and knew this was one of the largest fish I’d hooked into at this point in my angling career.
Now moving towards the center of the river and faster riffles above the run we’d been planning to fish, I began scrambling to keep tension as the fish darted through boulders and shot downstream. We worked down a little way with the fish until we found a slow spot to pull into, where I proceeded to maneuver line around the various boulders and logs that littered the bank. I’d had a tough day up to this point and was determined not to let this battle end as the last one had. After failing to keep the fish from shooting under a log, I jumped from the boat and quickly worked down in an attempt to get any sort of angle that would alleviate the seemingly dire situation. I was maxing out confidence in my rigging as the fish was somehow pulled from its haven. Mark was a short ways behind and quickly netted the fish. I’d never held such a large trout at that point and briefly marveled at its power before returning it to the river. It was a definitive moment in my angling career, and I knew that fly fishing would be a major part of my life going forward.