My buddy, Gray and I used to walk through an abandoned quarry in Sausalito, California with little spinning rods, a tackle box with hooks, swivels and half-ounce tear-drop weights, towards Pier Four. We’d stop at Caruso’s, a fresh seafood and bait shop near the boat ramp for some pile worms. Then we’d hit the docks, fishing for perch and flounder. We were little hunter and gatherers even at five-years-old. Strange now, looking back on those days, my clearest memory is of olfactory senses. The powerful smell fish in Caruso’s. Low tide, barnacle-crusted exposed pilings reeking of mussels and salt water. That and the warm sun on skinny arms as the fog wind whistled in sailboat rigging. Oh, and sudden, electric pulse of a perch, unseen in the murky water.
When my son, Jasper was finishing high school, my second wife, Michelie and I were looking to escape California, unsure of where we might land. At that point, we were looking at some far flung places, mountain towns in Montana or Colorado, New Zealand, Italy. It really didn’t matter. Just somewhere other than California. Then we got pregnant after trying for, oh I don’t know, a decade! Actually, it was only four or five years, the first two of which were a blast. When it finally stuck, so to speak, we began to narrow our relocation search as we’re both pretty close with our families and didn’t want to raise our kid too far from them. When Jasper was accepted at the schools here in Oregon, that helped narrow the search further. Some friends who know Michelie and I pretty well suggested Bend. We came, with our newborn little girl, Lola, sniffed around the then financially depressed town and fell in love right away, mostly with the attitude and outlook of the people we met. I was aware of a fishing scene here, but at the time didn’t remotely envision what lay ahead. It’s been a blessed and wild ride for sure.
Well, at fifty-two years old you might imagine there have been a few jobs before this one. I spent nearly twenty years in the film business, working from the bottom on up, eventually owning and running a business that involved managing a large number of people doing bunches of different jobs. Getting a hundred people from every conceivable walk of life, plying dozens of detailed crafts, to all pull in one direction for a film shoot was always a rush and deeply rewarding. So that’s the managerial side. To have found a gig in the fly-fishing industry that provides a similar sense is actually pretty crazy. I would never have imagined this job ten years ago. Along the way I also worked as a fly-fishing guide some in California, learning from some amazing people along the way. I also did some website content creation and that has proved really helpful in vaulting Fly and Field into the next realm. This is an amazing company. It already was before I got here. So, again, I’ve been really lucky to get here when I did. Timing is everything!
Well, as I just mentioned, the feeling of getting a bunch of people to work really hard to both make some money but also create an atmosphere of accomplishment is the coolest thing. From that comes everything. The client and customer experience will always be a direct reflection of how hard we work and how seriously we take our job. Whether it’s on the water, trying to get a bent rod in someone’s hand, or helping a customer here in the shop dial in the rigging, flies and how-to’s for any of our waters around here, there’s great satisfaction in the interaction. This has been a passion for me, in one way or another, since I was a little boy. The fly-fishing thing came a little bit later, but I’ve been at it for over three decades and being able to pass along bits and pieces to other anglers is the coolest thing.
So I’ve got two books out. The first, The Middle Fork-Trout Tales, was primarily journal entries fleshed out into stories. As much as those memories are still special to me and I’m glad they were compiled into a book, I think of that book as classic “trout porn” in the sense that the stories are meant to inspire that rush of blood, the impulse to get that feeling for yourself. The second book, My Mistress Whispers and Roars is more a retracing of the impactful rivers in my life. The ongoing metaphor of rivers as seductresses, sirens, and muses was so fun to write and I’m very proud of it. They’re both available through Fly and Field by the way! And I’ll get you one someday, Kyle. Don’t you worry. As for how I got started writing, that goes back to my high school freshman English teacher, Patrick Gaynor. He read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, cover to cover, to the whole class that year. I was blown away. I knew right then I wanted to write stories. I have ever since. Just took a while to get here. I’ve also written a hundred songs, a screenplay and currently working on a novel.
It’s probably the one told in the last chapter of my first book. There was a day on a lake when some friends and I got hammered by a truly frightening storm. There were long minutes, out in the open, getting pounded by hail as lightning cracked and thunder roared when I felt as small as I ever have. Later that day, after everyone had left and the storm had moved on, I caught the biggest trout of my life and in that moment, having endured the storm, felt somehow larger than I can remember. It was a day of the most dramatic, wildly swinging emotions, all involving one patch of earth and four hours. That, and my first steelhead, on the Trinity River. That story is in the first book too!
What it’s always meant! I want to be amongst fish. I want to be where they live. And as I mentioned in the first book, I want to live like they do, simply, in harmony with my surroundings, honoring all the elements necessary for life to go on, not just for me but for the generations that follow. River trout, in particular, represent Nature at her finest. So fishing means that I get to cohabitate with that. It’s a gift. And something I’ve never once taken for granted.