Growing up, my wish was not for a Red Ryder BB Gun (Ralphie). It was for a flowing trout stream in my backyard. I wanted more trout at the end of my line, but it was more than that too.
With limited trout fishing opportunities in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, I’m not quite sure how I attached myself so deliberately to trout fishing. It was a springtime thing for us, mostly. But oh my, the places we would visit. We traveled swiftly through the predawn frost over unlined two lane roads, with the steamy scent of Dad’s hot tea filling the warmth of the old Buick. We camped within earshot of the riffles, along small streams in Pennsylvania’s northern tier. And every time we arrived, it felt like someone plugged me back in, like a piece of me was rightfully back in place.
I needed to fish. And like anything that you might love too, I wished for more of it.
Long ago, after my first attempt at college, I realized that my own path would be different than most. The things that made others content didn’t do it for me. And it took me some extra time — well into my mid-twenties — to sort out my values, to find a place and a purpose in life. After roaming around for a while, I knew I would no longer move somewhere for a job, but I would first choose a place that I loved and then build a life around it. I did the same when I returned to college, studying English and philosophy (readin’ and thinkin’ hard). And within a few months of meeting the captivating girl whom I shared a desk with during Advanced Literary Theory, my path toward being a husband and father became clear. We married and moved to central Pennsylvania after graduation. These were natural decisions.
My mother will tell you that I’ve always done whatever I wanted, and that I insisted on doing things my own way. And that sort of independence led me here — into Troutbitten. I started the blog in 2014 with no intentions but to share some stories and have a creative outlet for writing. Now it’s all of this. And I’m pretty happy about that. I’ve chosen the model of self-publishing, because these days having full ownership of your own creative work is an effective strategy if you’re dedicated to it and willing to dig into the technology side of things — if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty and wearing a dozen hats. I don’t mind.
Now I finally have that trout stream in my backyard. (It’s arguably the best one in the state.) I have the family that I dreamed of. And I have this Troutbitten business.
Thank you for that. Troutbitten succeeds because you take the time to read these words, because you return for the next article, because you contribute all the comments and encouraging thoughts across every media channel and in my inbox. Your growing presence not only lends me the inspiration to keep writing but has also attracted advertisers and industry partners to Troutbitten, allowing me to step into a new career as a business owner — as the Troutbitten guy. It’s a media company now. And it’s a fly fishing guide service.
I started guiding a year ago, because you asked me to. I figured I’d guide a couple of trips a month at first. But a few days ago I wrapped up my sixty-second trip for the year. I’ve always enjoyed teaching, but the quality of clients that have come from all over the country and beyond are an unexpected surprise. Thanks to each one of you who trusted me with all the hopes and dreams that you put into a fishing trip. I’ve made some wonderful friends along the way that I know will last a lifetime. Accordingly, I’ve allowed even more time for guiding next year.
What else for the new year? In 2019 you’ll see more Troutbitten ads from companies that I’m proud to partner with. That ad space drives the revenue to keep me writing, and every time you click through and buy something from one of those ads, you support this cause. I’ll keep honestly looking for good deals and good products to share with you.
In 2019, I’ll launch an online Troutbitten Shop. There you’ll find shirts, hats, stickers and who knows what else. I’m working on it — because you asked.
I also gave about twenty presentations last year. Most were in the Mid-Atlantic region, and I was fortunate enough to travel to Indianapolis and Johnson City, Tennessee, meeting (as always) die hard trout junkies, sharing and learning along the way. Thank you to every club and organization that brought me in.
Thanks too for the random packages that have ended up in my mailbox. It’s like there are a bunch of Secret Santa’s out there with the key to my P.O. Box lately. After I wrote the Troutbitten’s Favorite Books article, someone drop-shipped me Fisherman’s Summer, by Roderick Haig-Brown. A hearty thank you to that mystery giver — I’m on chapter four.
All of this Troutbitten progress is really quite humbling. I’m just a fisherman with a unique set of companion skills to keep this one-man-show clicking and humming along. It’s a good life. I have the trout stream that I always wanted, and now I have all of this too — a life on the water. And for that I’m forever grateful. I will not forget.
Merry Christmas, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N