That phrase is overused. Personally, I just rolled my eyes as I sit writing this at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport hoping for a flight out. I’ve been delayed a day, and it harkens back to being stuck last year in the Belize City airport with a group of Dutch Marines. They were a bit better company than what I’ve got today, but it’s always entertaining.
But, surprisingly, I didn’t delete the title of this post after I typed it. I paused, looked at it, listened to the guy behind me talking about the tornadoes that ransacked Dallas a few days ago. The worst in 65 years, they’re saying. I spent the night with family, about 20 miles from the tornadoes, dodging rain and rum, listening to the alert siren going off all too frequently and the steady staccato beat of the rain against the windows. And it fit. Because, you know, it’s been a hell of a year.
The year started off slow; a cold, snowy winter in Vermont, steady work at Orvis and a busy run of articles and stories in magazines. Then came April and nearly three weeks back in Montana, shooting on my own time for a few magazine pieces, then the Orvis Guide Rendezvous in Missoula, and then a fashion / editorial shoot for Orvis. While prepping for the Orvis shoot, I got a call from Costa del Mar’s advertising agency. Did I want to go to a tiny atoll in the South Pacific in four weeks and shoot a campaign?
It wasn’t a hard question to answer. Two weeks back in Vermont and then I was off to the South Pacific with one of the coolest groups of anglers and industry professionals I’ve had a chance to work with. We chased bonefish, bluefin trevally, and a host of other species on the flats and reef edges. Dodged overly-friendly blacktop sharks, played soccer with the locals, ate raw fish in coconut milk at every meal, and learned to throw spears in the local’s sport of patia fa (throwing spears at a coconut suspended in the air on a pole). Met some incredible people along the way, and got my first trevally. Midway through my three-day trip back to the Northeast I sat in the Los Angeles airport, feet so swollen from a series of infected cuts they could barely fit into my flip-flops, and thought how awesome it all was. Sometimes life is unexpectedly grand.
I’d been back in Vermont less than 24 hours when I got an email asking if I’d like to travel to Alaska’s Bristol Bay Lodge in five weeks. Sometime in between French Polynesia and that trip, I headed to South Carolina to shoot several craftsmen for Orvis and then, before I knew it, I was traveling across the country and up to Alaska, where I was able to both fish and shoot images. The undisputed highlight of that trip was swinging mice for Dolly Varden and watching explosive takes, some from directions I never would have predicted. When you’re relaxed and just “seeing what happens,” that’s typically when it all comes together. Good company, killer fishing, photo-rich scenery, and a mellow black lab in the boat: that single day remains one of the best shooting (and fishing) sessions on the books.
Things mellowed for a few weeks after Alaska. Back in to the Orvis routine; August was spent managing pictures from the spring, catching up on writing, and getting some serious small-stream brookie fishing in. This work comes in phases; there’s the fun, short creating phase and then the much longer, much less sexy business side of things. Most of my time is spent trying to find a balance between the two.
September came in with a bang, bringing in unexpected job offer to join the American Fly Fishing Trade Association as their Communications Director, and the day after I was offered a position to manage Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventure’s social media. After two weeks of serious deliberation, the choice to head back West was made. Back to Bozeman and on to new challenges. It was unexpectedly hard to leave parts of Orvis, and I’m looking forward to a reunion with friends this January at the Somerset fly-fishing show.
Bozeman has been a blur of work and hustle and networking, and that doesn’t seem to be changing. It’s interesting being back in familiar territory, and fun to reconnect with old fishing buddies. We’ve cooked up some local fishing projects for this winter that should be rather interesting… stay tuned. I’m living in a house with three dogs and five people, and somehow it all works.
2016 is starting off well; I’ll be in Bozeman for a total of eight days in January; on the road the rest of the time for work. Trade shows in Denver and Somerset take up both ends of the month, and a short-notice trip to Cuba and photograph a new location for Yellow Dog takes up the middle part. The spring is already booking up, and I’m eager to see what pops up… it seems often the best adventures come up with short notice and it’s a scramble to make them happen. But somehow it’s always worth it.
Business-wise, it was a good year. My first large commercial shoot for a client other than Orvis, my first Australian cover, placing as a runner-up in the Moscow Photo Awards… the list goes on and on. But as I sit and write this, the “accomplishments” fade against the memories of good times with good people in strange corners of the world, and a curiosity to what the new year will bring.
Thanks to everyone who has provided opportunities and offered support this past year. I’ve encountered some of the most incredible people in the strangest places — from Alaskan fishing guides I’ve kept in touch with, to Anaa islanders who I exchanged Christmas messages with on Facebook (it’s a weird digital world we live in, isn’t it?), to the random people I’ve met in airports along the way. None of this could happen without the roster of awesome clients, anglers, and editors who are patient enough to put up with “the girl with the camera.” Thanks, team, and here’s to a wild one to come.