Not many folks can say that they knew what their life’s passion was from the time they could walk. April Vokey is lucky to be one of those people. She began fishing as a toddler, and has been hooked ever since. Now, fishing is her livelihood and love. One of the most respected anglers in the fly fishing world, April is making waves as a conservationist, tv host, writer, and host of her own podcast, ‘Anchored’. She founded her company, Fly Gal Ventures, at the young age of 24, and now she travels the world fishing, teaching, and spreading awareness about important conservation issues. Here, April opens up to us with some incredible insight into the fly fishing world today.
First of all, tell us a little about yourself and your relationship with fly fishing.
My relationship with fly fishing? I suppose for me fly fishing is like the relationship I had during college — it makes me feel alive, special, invigorated, and as one with nature. Even when said partner runs around with the other girls on campus, I still can’t help but come back for more. It can be a sickness, this fly-fishing thing.
When did you realize or decide that fly fishing was going to be something that you built your career, and, really, your life around?
I would have been 18 years old. I stumbled through the forest to find several fly-fishermen working a run. I just sat there and stared at them (creepy, I know). My dad says I came home in a daze muttering that, “there just has to be a way to make a living doing this”.
You are a very respected angler in the fly fishing world. To what do you attribute your success?
Hard work, hard work, little sleep, hard work, an absolute defiance to haters and bullies, and a whole lot more hard work. Being from BC didn’t hurt.
You started your company, Fly Gal Ventures when you were just 24 years old. That’s impressive! What was the hardest part about starting your own company? What aboutthe m ost rewarding part?
I’d started guiding several years before I started Fly Gal, and so I learned a lot by watching my boss at the time. I didn’t necessarily see eye to eye with his customer service or management tactics, so it was somewhat inevitable that I would break free. Factor in that I was originally a sturgeon guide (a lousy one at that), and I simply wanted the freedom to choose trips that appealed to me.
What is the best piece of advice that you have ever received in regards to fly fishing? How about in regards to building your career?
Best piece of advice in fly-fishing? To remember that fly-fishing is so much more than just catching fish. In regards to building my career? “If they can’t pick you up, then they can’t drop you”.
In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle or issue that the fly fishing world faces today?
We can all complain and mope about pressure, but the sad reality is that conservation battles are our major obstacle. We are rapidly losing both our priceless habitat and the passion of people who can help fix them. I know that I can’t always personally reach the corporate execs who make such decisions, but I know that I can reach the people who have a voice — we all have a voice.
What do you think is the greatest thing happening in the fly fishing world today?
That’s a catch 22. I think that connectivity is the greatest thing happening in the fly fishing world today. Communication often cures ignorance or, worse, indifference, but in order to use this connectivity efficiently we first need to recognize its power.
In a recent blog post, you talked about how the true fly fisher “seeks no recognition” or accolades, and instead “encourages uncelebrated triumphs” and that those were the ones that you consider heroes. You then go on to talk about your fear that sport is seeing an influx of anglers who seem to primarily be after glory and recognition, such as can be found on social media. This is such an interesting point, what with how big social media has become. Would you mind just sharing a bit more about your thoughts on this topic, and what consequences you think might result from this wave of “photogenic heroes”?
Hence the catch 22. Contrary to popular belief, I am all for social media — hell, look at my own accounts! As someone who is also an advocate for entrepreneurship, I can honestly say that social media can be important for sales. What I am sick to death of is people using social media to take, rather than to take and also give back. How the world has not yet figured out that one of the fundamentals to success is giving back, is beyond me. It’s cool that you want a free rod… I get it. But you know what’s cooler? Knowing that you posted something that selflessly reached someone else, or that reached a greater cause. The heroes are the people at the events, the fundraisers, the meetings, the rallies, the silent donations — if for one second the thought crosses your mind that “no one will ever know I helped, so what’s the point?”, then yes, I am 100% pointing my finger at you.
What is one thing that you wish the world knew or better understood about fly fishing?
That not all of us do it to relax. Some of us do it for the excitement — the bears, cougars, sharks, pirates, rapids, rafting, helicopters, cliffs — fly fishing is one of the few sports in the world where you can make it what you want it to be.
What about one thing that you wish the world knew or better understood about you?
That I existed before social media did. It’s a bit of a slap to hear anyone say that I’m new to fishing. Just because you only heard of me when you started to figure out the internet, doesn’t mean that I suddenly began fishing that same very year. I started saving an allowance at twelve years old to stock the Plano box my dad gave me as a toddler — I counted down the days for my driver’s license at 16, and I never looked back from there. Fishing has been my life for as long as I can remember.
Do you have a favorite fly fishing memory of all time?
They’re all special in their own way. One that immediately comes to mind was a warm fall day on the Chilliwack river. The sun glowed orange through my closed eyelids and the crisp air lightly blew on my eyelashes. I sat on a log with my dog, Colby, who was only 6 months old at the time, and I fed him strawberries — one for me, one for him. The day was perfectly simple and the river was in shape. I think I may have even seen a fish roll.
This might be a tough one, but what is your favorite thing about fly fishing?
That I never know everything — every time I think I’m really good, mother nature smiles in good spirit and throws me a whole new challenge. I love her all the more for it.
Check out April’s podcast “Anchored“, where she interviews some of fly-fishing’s most prominent figures about their lives and philosophies on the water.
All photos by Jeremy Koreski