Fork In the Road

"What if"?  The question of a lifetime.  Recently a buddy and I have the conversation of "where would we be if we weren't fly fishing?"  I had to stop and think about that and honestly I can't answer.  Most of the close friends I have come from two places in my life: college and fly fishing.  I have surrounded myself with individuals who have the same goals, ambitions and interests as I do and I wouldn't ever change that, period.  

My dad is the one who first introduced me to the world of fly fishing, we would cast into the pond at my grandmothers house trying to pull out bucket mouth bass.  I wouldn't say I was “into” it by any means, but I tried.  I wasn't really even into fishing at that time.  I was a rebel of a teenager and all I could think about was one thing...girls.  As I grew older and went off to college in the mountains of North Carolina, I picked up the fly rod more and more.  I was still chasing the ladies, but made some time for myself by spending random afternoons out with some buddies on the river.  We would catch stocker rainbows and some ok-ish brown trout, but all we needed were a few cold beers and some high fives to make the day.  For my college graduation gift, my dad took me to Alaska for a 10 day float trip down the Salmon River... yes I know, there are 1,000 Salmon Rivers in Alaska so I can't be to specific.  We flew into Anchorage, from there we took a small plane to Aniak and then jumped on one by one to fly somewhere up into the mountains to start fishing.  We caught fish... and I mean PLENTY of fish.  In 10 days we caught ever species of salmon that there was there and then some.  It's probably the reason why I don't enjoy eating salmon much these days, I think it was the salmon and eggs every morning for breakfast.  

I can say whole heartedly that the passion I have for what I do today comes from what I experienced while living in Colorado.  One day, I decided the heck with it, I'm moving west and becoming a ski bum.  My older brother moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a ski season and I was always jealous when he posted pictures or told me about how epic each day was.  I wanted that in my life, a little spontaneity, a little adventure.  So I loaded the truck and made the drive, simple as that.  Yes, the ski season was INCREDIBLE, but it wasn't until I got a taste of spring that I dusted off the old fly rod.  I applied for a staff position at a local fly shop, Gore Creek Fly Fisherman and didn't get the job right off the bat so I took a position mowing grass at one of the golf courses in town.  However, that didn't last long once I got the call to move down the the fly shop.  It was there that I fully immersed myself in this crazy world.  I stayed at Gore Creek for four years and wouldn't change a thing about it, well maybe more days on the water and less in the shop but that's not exactly how a job works I guess.  The guys and girls at the shop became an extended family of mine, its who I hung out with, spent my days on the river and nights getting pizza beers at the pizzeria around the corner from the shop.  They're who I went skiing with when winter came around, hell, I even was the best man in a wedding for one of the guys I met there who is now my best friend.  

Where would you be if it wasn’t for fishing? Would you be at some desk job pushing papers every day staring out the window waiting for the day to be over? Would you enjoy the every day? Would you even be remotely close to the type of person you are right now? Maybe your circle of friends would be different, your home base would be somewhere else in the world, even your outlook on life could be a total 180 from what it is now.

Fly fishing is what pushed me to learn about the outdoors, to enjoy watching and really experiencing parts of life.  It taught me to take my time, be patient and learn from others. There’s more to fishing than catching fish. It was a decision that I had no control over, when I got to the fork in the road, I chose the path that went towards the water and didn’t look back.

Andrew McDougald