#5 - Dave McCoy - Emerald Water Anglers, Patagonia Ambassador

What do we do when we love something too much? Dave McCoy is a Patagonia ambassador, fly fishing guide, and founder of Emerald Water Anglers. Dave shares how he enjoys the fishing experience without ever taking anything out of the water. "Keep fish wet" is the motto.
Check out Dave McCoy and his work:⁣

Save What You Love with Mark Titus:⁣
Produced: Tyler White⁣
Edited: Patrick Troll⁣
Music: Whiskey Class⁣
Instagram: @savewhatyoulovepodcast
Website: savewhatyoulove.evaswild.com
Support wild salmon at evaswild.com

Episode Transcript:⁣

Mark Titus  0:00  
Welcome to Save What You Love. I'm Mark Titus. Today's episode we spend time with Dave McCoy. Dave is a Seattle based, Patagonia ambassador. He is a fly fishing expert and guide. He takes people all around the world to see incredible places and connect with wild fish on a fly. And he is one of the most empathic humans I know. Diving into this idea about connecting to what we love and maybe sometimes thinking about do we love it too much. we dive into all that and more on this episode of Save What You Love. If you're enjoying the podcast and you listen to it on Apple podcasts, consider giving us a rating or writing a review, or both. It really helps us a bunch to get the word out and keep these podcasts coming to you. Enjoy the show.

Whiskey Class  0:55  
Music: How do you save what you love?

Mark Titus  1:24  
Dave McCoy

Dave McCoy  1:26  
Hey Mark, hey.

Mark Titus  1:28  
Travel and adventure guide, entrepreneur, fly fishing pro, Patagonia ambassador and owner of Seattle's premier fly fishing mercantile, Emerald Water Anglers, how the hell are you today? 

Dave McCoy  1:42  
I could not possibly be better, all things considered. 

Mark Titus  1:47  
All things considered. That's right. That seems to be the operative term here of late. I know you're coming to us from beautiful sunny Seattle today. We are in the throes of spring time. And I think we'll dive right into it with this thing that we both share a total passionate love for and I know from your history, this is kind of where it all started. But can you tell me a little bit and talk to our listeners about one word? Water? Why water? Why did that? Just invade your imagination and continue to sustain your imagination to this day?

Dave McCoy  2:30  
Wow, water. Ironically, of all the podcasts I've done. That is or this is the first time I've actually been asked that question. So cool. It is it's super cool. And as refreshing and scary is, as everyone listening can probably imagine.

Dave McCoy  2:50  
Water? Well, I think it's natural for kids. As soon as they start to gain a personality for themselves to be infatuated, but you don't have to. You don't have to fish or any of the things that we're probably going to get into regularly to be enamored with it. We drink it, we play in it, we bathe in it. And so naturally I believe that given given most circumstances that would hopefully be normal. You wouldn't you would want to explore what it brings to you a little bit more. And for me having a dad that was a PE teacher that literally wanted to spend his summers on water itself in water itself. I I am the walking talking, living breathing example of someone who became overly infatuated with it. Skipping rocks catching frogs catching little fish swimming diving cannon balling you name it, I've always loved exploring it so.

Mark Titus  4:12  
Can you, do you have one seminal moment that you can think of that kind of lit off the fireworks for you for for this obsession with water? I share all those things you said by the way and I bet you most of our listeners do too. But I know you you talk about it as the catalyst early on for your love of wild and agile is fish and all the work that you do the great work that you do but is there one incident or was it kind of accumulation of all those things?

Dave McCoy  4:43  
I think it's collectively accumulation I think as you as I spent more time around and in water from learning to rowboat when I was probably five or six to catching water. Snakes and slinging them into Davis lake and having them swim back to me for hours at a time to fishing, to skipping rocks to learning to try to skip rocks with a slingshot my dad made to making rats out of dad's beer cans and making little mini rapids on the side of the river to send them through led me to want to put a real boat in similar sized rapids and do the same thing. I just at some point in time, I think the scale just tipped and I realized that water and all of its forms were something that I wanted to spend the rest of my life involved with. So

Mark Titus  5:43  
I know you and I also share a similar path in that somewhere in your teen years or early adolescence, you kind of drifted away from fishing and in that sort of stuff and kind of moved into some other things. And we both played soccer for one thing. But can you tell me a little bit about that gap time what between that early fascination and then and then tell us how that, you know, evolved into what you do now?

Dave McCoy  6:14  
Well, that gap time gave me the opportunity to test my fortitude as a human. I pressed my limits and a number of different ways. And I'm lucky to be sitting here talking to you. So I think were so one of the things and when I said water in all forms, I coached ski racing for a number of years and was really infatuated with frozen water I still in our rivers depend on that frozen water for their lifeblood. It's part of what is considered Coldwater sanctuaries for our natural Miss fish in the Pacific Northwest and all well, everywhere. There's an anatomist fish, they're going to rely on that some degree. For me, coincidentally, having been raised in that fly fishing world from both of my grandparents and a bunch of my uncles and my dad and my mom and everybody else, and throw myself headlong into skiing and ski racing, moving to Colorado and having to find a job to coincide with ski racing. This just landed in my lap one day, and it was evident almost immediately that this was where I was probably going to spend the rest of my life.

Mark Titus  7:36  
So you're saying this landed in your lap did

Dave McCoy  7:39  
fly fishing and guiding rowing boats. 

Mark Titus  7:43  
And did you get a job right away in fly fishing?

Dave McCoy  7:47  

Mark Titus  7:48  
Hmm. It's kind of a dream dreamy idea. 

Dave McCoy  7:51  
Yeah. So it was just it was a very, you just, I don't know how much humans had a lot of people have the opportunity to look introspectively at what they've unconsciously absorbed through just being present and around things. But I was never just really in to fly fishing, or even fishing. I love being around it. I love the fish. I again, I love the water. And being around the water. That was probably the pinnacle of my excitement among that those early years. But from being around it as much as I was the fly fishing came very naturally. Once I realized I needed to tap that sort of untouched resource in my in my subconscious and start relying on it for income and a job. So it was it was a fairly natural transition. Actually, quick, but natural.

Mark Titus  8:54  
Do you feel like cuz I've guided as well and understand what that world is? And do you feel like there was a trade off between the purity of your passion for water and your passion for fish? And having to create an economic reality out of that?

Dave McCoy  9:18  
At that time? No, no, no. And I and I think that leads to what we'll end up talking more about, but I think when you're in your early 20s and you and you start doing that, for me, it was a cool job. I was very much into having the cool job when I was in my you know when I was 20 in my early 20s I I didn't really care that I made a little bit of money or a lot of money. I just wanted a cool job.

Mark Titus  9:45  
Yeah, I so I had the same same experience same motivations, it was best thing I had ever done or done or could have dreamt of doing so. Alright, well so we know that What you do is revolving around fish and bringing other people to that, that fish and that sense of wonder. I'm going to start out with some really crucial life important questions here like this one. for fishing, in particular, and the outdoor in general, people that do it a lot and get out, tend to hold secrets about places that are special to them, or they've caught fish, or they've done well that. So the question I posed to you, and the bigger topic will reveal itself is secrets, to share or not to share? What is your general philosophy on sharing secrets about special places and special fish and things that you encounter in the wild?

Dave McCoy  10:57  
Well, general philosophy is I don't own any of those places I don't personally possess the private access to any of them. So therefore, while they may not be obvious by looking at Google Maps, or to Gaza tear anything like that, if they were, if it was a space that was formative enough to me, then I can only imagine how it could possibly be the same for somebody else. And in the spirit of what I do. Professionally, I guess, I mean, in the spirit of what I do, if I think that that place could share that, you know, same impact with somebody else, I think they should know about it.

Mark Titus  11:48  
I wrestle with this, and I tend to agree. And, you know, really, the bigger question here, from my perspective, is, what is best for the resource, and what is best for the human experience interacting with the resource,

Dave McCoy  12:09  

Mark Titus  12:10  
And so, you know, I can just speaking from a human perspective, I know that going out to places that are wild, and free, and in in nature are medicine for me, and I feel a certain sense of calling to be helpful observers to others. And yet, we can also love something to death. And so there is that wrestling with, you know, telling somebody privately, either through your friends or family, or through your, your guide business, and I think that's a legitimate argument to be made that, you know, you've put in the time, tons of it, you invested in it, why should you give everything away. But then there's also social media, like people get in all sorts of hot water by posting pictures of, you know, really cool places, that not everybody who uses those places wants to be out into the general public. So I don't know, where do you draw the line with that stuff?

Dave McCoy  13:17  
It's a great question. I mean, I obviously I deal with that every day, I I personally managed, like 11 social media accounts. So I kind of rely on on beta, if you will, to, to supply that, that sort of constant stream to all those channels. There comes with that knowledge, obviously a responsibility to care for it. And like you already have mentioned, we can love something to death, and we're living among that situation right now. are within that situation right now. So I wouldn't say that it's, I don't, I'm not going to have an answer that's gonna, that's gonna paint a clear picture on this. I think that I'd like to believe everybody can be socially responsible and absorb something without feeling like they need to go reshare it and reshare it again and reshare it again, to the point where, you know, it gets over shared and then theoretically gets over fished or over loved. Where do you go with that? I mean, I think it's a great question mark. It's and it's, like I said, there's not a clear and easy answer to it.

Mark Titus  14:46  
I wrestle with it. You know, I mean, like, I've been filming little John's out on hikes that I like to do and I filmed one you know, going out cutthroat fishing, as you know, the You know, two weeks ago and and yeah, I didn't mention exactly where that was, I mentioned it was in Puget Sound, but one of the reasons is my, my dad is experiencing limited mobility, he had a back injury and you know, people like my dad get a sense of being able to participate by seeing these things, and it feels like it. Its intention at its best is to be of service, and to provide some cool, you know, experience for folks. At the same time, you know, I really wrestle like, man. You know, is it going to serve, the greater good to have everybody showing up here, but then again, it's not for everybody, either.

Dave McCoy  15:47  
So let me let me interrupt you really quick. This is something I've been wrestling with two things, I've been wrestling with one for a long period of time. And the second one, sort of recently, as we morphed into talking about what I know is inevitable in our conversation. The first is so many people in our industry. I'm just, it's gonna, I'm gonna sound like an asshole. So many people in our industry, and I'm going to sound like a hypocrite to some degree to rely upon a lot of these places, and exploiting them for money. I'm not gonna lie, I run I operate a guide service, I own a business that depends on people going out fishing, to buy stuff in order to enable them to go do that. Right. Yep. But if you just look critically at all the media out there that's put out there in an effort, at least from people in my position, how many of them are obviously or even semi, obviously charging the consumer with the idea of being responsible in their endeavors out there? Not many. And in a consumer driven market, like we are the big players, the people that have the most eyes on whether they want to admit it or not. They're a role model. This goes back to Charles Barkley back in the 80s. Talking about him not being a role model. Both Yeah, you are a role model. And therefore, knowing that your business is reliant upon the use of all these resources, you need to be being more of an advocate for Responsible engagement. It's not there yet, we're not there yet.

Mark Titus  18:08  
How do we get there? You are? Honestly, just I know, a lot of fishermen. And I know a lot of people that are into this sport, and lodge owners and friends that are I consider very well respected people in the industry. And they, they all hold you in high regard for this. How do we move the needle toward the rest of us, really carrying that mantle as well? And, and walking the walk, like, like you're describing?

Dave McCoy  18:41  
That's, that's hard. I mean, you're really talking about, you're talking about one of a number of different ways and probably a collection of them together. One is it's got to be grassroots, there has to be a base of consumers that realize, and this kind of feeds into the second item that I wanted to mention. There needs to be a base of consumers that are going to finally decide they've had enough and are going to be vocal enough to start making these people. These are these companies be more responsible in how they market in what they market? And to eventually, you're going to have this generational change in the people managing and owning these businesses are going to have come up through this sport at our time now, where resources are diminishing. And yet, we're still trying we're still talking as a as a industry about growth. How do we grow this was a huge growth year. Well How do we consciously talk about that, and in the same breath, recognize that we're trying to bring more people to the sport while watching through privatization through mineral extraction through esa listing of species? How do we, how do we, in good conscience, bring more people into the sport in order to achieve that growth, realizing that there's fewer and fewer places for them to actually go to enjoy it. And eventually, you're going to have people come through that, this timeframe and the industry that will then be in charge of running these companies or their marketing arms. And I think we'll start to see that change. Unfortunately, like everything else, it's going to take time, it's going to be a reactionary thing, a little bit like government.

Mark Titus  20:55  
This is a fantastic topic. And it's definitely going to play into one of my last questions I have for today. But you know, we're in this time of transformation, there's going to be pre COVID, and post COVID. PC, you know, in the history books, and we have all had to pivot, we have all had to sacrifice to some degree, we've all had to dig in and find ways to be resilient. How is this shaped you in 2020? And in really, in the framework of what you were talking about, in the bigger picture of how do you how do you find a way to be resilient, and, you know, profitable, still sustainable in a business sense, with a resource that's seems to be only growing smaller or not? Certainly not getting bigger at the moment. But what is your personal compass, Ben in this last year, which has been so challenging, I know as for your business, from your location in in a part of Seattle that got, you know, cut off from the rest of Seattle during a pandemic? But what how have you sort of navigated these waters? And how does that look and affect your, your view on sustainability moving forward?

Dave McCoy  22:26  
Well, it's how to, it's had an considerable impact. During this last 12 months, we've had the time to look fairly, fairly critically at who and what we are, as a business, we there's fisheries in this region that I don't feel like should be open. And so therefore, we really backed off of advertising that were even guiding them at all. Because I don't want to be a party to the to the hammering the nap, last nail and knees, fisheries coffin. And I've had to have fairly colorful conversations with people that argue that our presence there, during even during these times is necessary in order to gallows the term they used in order to sort of keep the order and, and anyway, regardless of how they said it, at the end of the day, it's my feeling on those comments towards us deciding that we didn't want to guide certain fisheries was really a view from from where I said that those people are a little bit worried that if someone like us decides to stop guiding is that a cascade effect and more people decide to do the same. The state sees this from, you know, what should be a support of their management policies in favor of closing fisheries that should be closed based on NOAA and escapement. Anyway. So we did, we did a lot of internal searching. And I felt like the way that a number of things I'll try to cut to the chase. One we went, we went carbon slash Climate Neutral as a company this year. I feel like this is a way for us to, as a business constantly continue to do what we do in an urban area on fisheries that are heavily impacted by that proximity to the urban area and the interest in fly fishing. By not contributing to some of the factors that are negatively impacting them. To I didn't hire some staff back after COVID for the sake of of trying to reshape how the people that work for me think about the about the industry to My take is I don't necessarily need to grow, like have this percentage of growth in sales in order to be sustainable. I'm in a space where I can be sustainable based on our outlook and how we operate as a business. As long as I can manage to maintain what we're currently doing, which I believe we can. My wrestling matches that I believe we've got a slightly different view of the world and our fisheries and how to operate within them as a as a business like ours, that I want to have an impact on more people with that perspective. That's a problem. Yep. Hence, podcast.

Mark Titus  26:12  
Yeah. So this is, this is all heady stuff. And it's important stuff in you know, especially if you're gonna keep going and doing and, you know, serving the people that get so much out of what you offer. But you've already been doing things. You've been spearheading efforts, that man back when we grew up would have been, you know, preposterous. Catch, and release was such a thing. When we were growing up, it was like, why would you do that you've got a perfectly good stringer. And now, you've recently, you have really led the way. Lots of other people are as well advocating for this, but you've really been vocal about three words, keep fish wet, that water thing. And what is that? How did it evolve? And why should we do it?

Dave McCoy  27:10  
Well, you already alluded to it. The whole idea of having a perfectly good stringer and a lot of places, has kind of led us to this diminished resource. So that was talking about, we've just got fewer fish in a lot of places. And we just have to recognize even as catch and release, it's a Bloodsport, we do have mortality from catch and release fishing. That mortality rate will increase. The longer you play a fish with too light of a rod, and then hold them out of water for too long a period of time. And we can get into a tit for tat argument over exactly how many seconds that might be. But let's just agree to agree here that the fish don't breathe oxygen like we do, they can only breathe when they're in the water. And in the spirit of knowing that we're doing what we're doing as a catch and release angler. Who we shouldn't be in spirit of conquest and having achieved our goal, we landed a fish, we tricked it into eating our fly and we won, we should be good sports, we should just get them back on their way as quickly and as as gently as possible if that's going to be the intention. So there is no reason for us to be holding them out of the water, landing them on rocks, doing all the other things that have been the norm and been acceptable for generations. It's, it's it's one simple little little change of of manner, and how we continue to be impactful on our on our fisheries. It's really not that hard.

Mark Titus  28:58  
So just help me fill in the blanks and paint the picture here. I'm standing in a river and I'm casting to trout, and I hook one what happens next? What do I do?

Dave McCoy  29:13  
Well, hopefully you landed Yeah, we're not I mean, I've gotten to this place now where I really honestly truly for myself, personally, I don't really care if I catch fish anymore. I I really enjoy just being on and in the water. That's why guiding is still so much fun for me because I get to it's more fun living through somebody else's rod than mine anymore, almost so and then capturing it with the camera, even if it's not the fish if it's just the scenery and little, little things going on around lambda and lambda quickly and I think that there's ways to still make the fish the hero and capture that essence of that of that fish in a way that keeps it wet, keeps it in the water and doesn't and doesn't require the possibility of the fish flop Friday if that could go away make me so happy.

Mark Titus  30:15  
And tell us tell us what the fish flop Friday is all about.

Dave McCoy  30:18  
It's this right here where you see if I've got something I can do that with you land your fish and you're like hugging it like this and it goes. 

Mark Titus  30:30  
Okay, yeah, fish fly Friday. Got it.

Dave McCoy  30:32  
Yeah. So there's, there's a way for us to like not do that anymore and still give the fish the credit there do with regards to you know, capturing, being able to show friends that you you know that you did catch a fish. And then it was a pretty one.

Mark Titus  30:50  
We're going to go ahead and check out our Instagram feed at save what you love podcast. And you can check out Dave's Instagram feed which is @ewaflyshop_seattle

Dave McCoy  31:03  
Well, @ewaflyshop_seattle or @davemccoyewa,

Mark Titus  31:10  
There are great photos and we'll post them in all three of those showing underwater shots of fish. And if I'm if I'm following the story correctly, and looking at the images correctly, basically, instead of a fish flop Friday scenario that you put painted nicely, we're talking about netting the fish gently and rubber net, and then perhaps taking an underwater photo with a GoPro or something similar and gently letting that fish go is that sound about right? 

Dave McCoy  31:42  
And granted, I walk around with $30,000 worth of camera gear every day. And I don't expect everybody to do that. I don't expect everyone to even have an underwater capable iPhone. But there are some some very creative ways that are compositionally very attractive to photograph a fish without having to lift it out of the water. Even if you want your face in the photo with it, there's there's ways to do it.

Mark Titus  32:17  
How far of lifting a fish out of the water is acceptable in your mind. I mean, at all or it's like...

Dave McCoy  32:25  
If you just, I... this gets into a creative space for me or you know, keep fish wet talks about fish and dripping. And I know that they're trying to find a place where they've got the path of least resistance for acceptance among our among our sport constituents. I just prefer not to remove them fully guild from the water if that's possible. I like having the I ride out of water level, I think you get some really cool reflections, WI and coloration throughout the frame of keeping that fish right there at water level, it slips out of your hand, you can taco shell it in a way that you're not putting your hand all the way around it. In general, it just lends to a better handling of the fish period. So.

Mark Titus  33:17  
That makes sense. So I think all of this is driving toward doing what we can with our own actions and our own behaviors, to venerate and protect and hopefully recover the fish that we have left the fish that we love. So with that in mind. I'd love for you first of all, because we've been slinging around this word anatomist. Can you give us a definition of anatomists fish? What does that mean? You know, for those who aren't necessarily from the Pacific Northwest or have those kinds of fish in their watersheds, 

Mark Titus  33:54  
Simply put, it is a fish that goes to born in freshwater goes to saltwater and comes back to spawn again. And in that same fat in that same freshwater, migrating up rivers from the sea to spawn as it is said so eloquently in the dictionary.com app.

Mark Titus  34:20  
Perfect. So in this part of the world in the pacific northwest of the United States, we are facing unparalleled challenges for our anonymous fish here, Pacific salmon and steelhead, which are a sea run rainbow trout. This is a hot topic, it can go on forever. We could talk for three hours and not even scratch the surface. But I would love to know from you. What do you identify as the top three challenges we currently face in their survival and recovery here on the west coast and salmon nation from Northern California, clear up to top of Alaska.

Dave McCoy  35:05  
Top three? Well, in the spirit of being controversial, I would say that we, as a angling community can't even agree on, on the science behind what numbers are right, what numbers are wrong, and what really is the cause behind their decline. So first and foremost, the angling community is going to have to be able to come together, and agree that this has gotten to a point where we have almost loved them to death. And that opportunity is going to have to take a backseat, if we want to have this opportunity, at least the immediate opportunity, it's gonna have to take a backseat, if we're going to want this opportunity in the future for wild fish. So that's, that's one fairly substantial part to because at the end of the day, we're gonna all have to be able to voice again, a very grassroots concern for how they're managed and provide the latitude for managing agencies to do the right, do the right thing, make the appropriate decisions on behalf of keeping these wild fish around. Currently, we kind of barely have that, if, if at all. Because we still want to point at each other and be pissed off that that guy throws spoons, that that guy is throwing a float that that guy's bought, or fishing and that I'm swinging. And then we can almost barely even talk to each other a lot of times, because of that sort of animosity among you know, how we feel internally about how we fish and the end of the day, my God, if the fish aren't there, who cares how you fish for them?

Mark Titus  36:54  
that's brilliant, and

Dave McCoy  36:56  
Jesus Christ, we need to get over ourselves a little bit.

Mark Titus  36:59  
Well, and then you get outside of that bubble of our angling bubble. And then you're moving into commercial fishermen and the generations of prosperity, that that's broad and livelihoods that that that that is brought in. Moreover, a lifestyle of being in tune with the ocean and, and fish. And that's just as legit as a sport fishers perspective. And then you talk about the tribes, they'll go even further back. I mean, I just was I had the privilege of being on this gadget with upper Skagit tribe and some folks there that, you know, saw a young woman out for the first time in her life fishing for steelhead in her tribal waters that, you know, this is a 10,000 year legacy there. So it's, it's seems kind of absurd to me that any one group can have any kind of a claim of superiority or ownership in these watersheds. But you concur with that.

Dave McCoy  38:08  
Yeah, I mean, it's appropriate to probably go down this path right now. But if you want to go back far enough to talk about, you know, what is really impacting our stocks right now. You know, all the big ones that that people want point at from habitat, dams, and overharvest. and stuff like that. Weren't, as far as I can recollect, from my reading of history, an issue until us lovely white folk showed up in the Pacific Northwest. That would be true. So the fact that we're, all of a sudden, on a soapbox talking about how this goes down to real, real hot button topic, for sure. But it's all hot button. It just just only cascades from here. But I don't see how it all I'll try to touch it as delicately as I can, but to get upset at the tribes under their Treaty, taking half of the fish that return knowing that we had as much of an impact or probably more of an impact on the reason why the half as small as it is now is hypocritical in and of itself. tribes, a lot of them not all of them, but a lot of them are reticent to really work with us to and or trust us enough to really go down the path of me maybe stepping back their harvest in the hopes of allowing more fish to come up and actually spawn and a lot of that's because by and large, most The time we haven't taken maybe the hate this word, haven't taken the word, the best first step in trying to mend bridges with, you know with them in that in that co managing relationship. It's still very abrasive, and a lot of ways, and that is gonna have to change to.

Mark Titus  40:22  
Yeah, I agree with everything you said. And I think ultimately, again, you know, we could talk about this and it goes down to so many braids of channels here that it really is unending. But we are in a place that is unparalleled. I mean, here in Puget Sound, and the sailors sea. Chinook are right on the border of an endangered species listing. And that, of course, affects orcas that affects our identity as people here. So what do we do? Where do where do we go? And what are the sacrifices we're willing to make from this point forward? I don't think our population is going to decrease anytime soon. Washington just got voted yesterday, apparently, as the best state in the nation to live in by someone and just I think, you know, without a doubt, our population is not going down. So like, on a individual level, from an individual business perspective, like your business, Emerald water anglers, from a guide perspective, you guide people on the river, you guide people around the world.

Mark Titus  41:47  
What, What can we do to save this thing that we love so much? And with the the tools that we have at our disposal right now?

Dave McCoy  41:57  
Wow. Well, I had, so this is gonna sound like a complete pivot on that question. But it really isn't. It really does go right to the core of what I was saying earlier. And that is to look, you know, at the optic we currently have of our fisheries and what gets celebrated and promoted so heavily by everybody is going to have to change. Or we're gonna have to quit fishing. If we want to continue to fish, we're going to have to make the carp King, we're going to have to make bass on a flyrod, the coolest freakin thing you've ever targeted. We're gonna have to diversify how we utilize a flyrod to engage in water and glean that enjoyment, that soulful, spiritual sort of cleansing that water can bring us in those moments, we're gonna have to just shift how we utilize those things together in order to provide the space for those fish that are in trouble to be able to try to regain their their stronghold again.

Mark Titus  43:17  
I don't think that's a pivot at all. I think that is a legit answer to that, and one coming from your heart and from your experience. And I think you're veering suspiciously close to storytelling, being a big part of what we do and how we not only tell our customers and our friends and our family, but the next generation, you know, how to move forward in this space that we're in, and how much storytelling is involved in in the work that you do.

Dave McCoy  43:59  
I work in a fly shop. We have people come in and they want to show us the fish they got. I will I'm happy to say that more times than not when somebody comes in to tell us a story about or talk to us about fishing where they were whatever. Am I am I challenged people with this all the time? Like, yes, you may go, Hey, check out my fish. Look at this. Isn't that awesome? But then that story unfolds and you realize that if you wasted two minutes of oxygen on the story, how much of it was really the fish? Think about that. What rods did you break? What near car accident or a speeding ticket or whatever did you get into or almost into or out of? Who are you with? What were the jokes that were told what You know, birds Did you see? And how close were you to flipping the boat when the orb broke and how much flesh came off of that, you know, on barbed hook that your buddy forgot to pinch down when you were taking it out of the middle of his back, I mean, all the things that that provide that color and richness to your fish at the end of the day. That's really why we're going to do it. And a very good friend of mine asked a great question the other day, if there was not a single fish in the river, would you still go out and spray cast? completely fair question. Answer is probably not right. I mean, like most people, if you're going to be honest with yourself, if you knew there wasn't a fish to catch there would just still go fish, would you still go swimming? fly? 99.9% of people are going to say no. And I get that. But our fish are so depraved. Now there's, there's so few of them now that that we are effectively going fishing, knowing we're not catching anything. And so there's got to be something else that continues to draw us down that path. Even when we don't catch the fish, did you still have a good time I had a blast. Well, let's, let's highlight that, let's highlight why that was so fun in the in the process of not catching a fish, why you still want to go do it again. And like he said, that is storytelling. And that is what we need to spend more time helping people to understand that the result is is really not as glorious as the path you choose to walk towards it.

Mark Titus  46:50  
Absolutely, I think you and I have talked at length before about the sort of matriculation you go through as a fisherman and as a person growing up who gets into the sport, it's in the beginning, it's all about catching as much as you can, and touching all of it and and somehow possessing it and you grow out of that after a while. And it doesn't consume you. I think that you bring on a great point about observing what's around you. And that story leading up to that moment of connection with a fish. I got to go out on the schedule yesterday and continue to flail away and learn you know, this craft of spey casting that I have now Thank you, Dave, hopelessly enamored of, and, you know, didn't touch fish all day. absolutely loved it. I'd be there doing it 100 times right now, if I could, but I remember the way the light looked on the water coming through the clouds. I remember hearing a grouse thump, thumbing and hearing that evidence of spring come out in the creeks. And it is this experiencial thing. So with that in mind, I wonder, you know, I know a part of your work is in adventure, guiding and taking people traveling around the world and to various incredibly cool places. And how do you see that experience and that product that you offer? growing, changing, augmenting, given the the world that we're in right now, given the environmental impacts that we're dealing with? And why, you know, why? Why do people want to do that in the first place?

Dave McCoy  48:54  
Those are those were all great questions, too. I think it's, I think it's had a COVID had a really rough impact on the travel industry. And I mean, just on just on every industry. I'm it's, it's really sad to just see where we are currently, you know, within our sport and understanding how the greater world is dealing with with everything that happens in this in this event of the pandemic. We just have products we're not gonna be able to get for months, and I've slowly seeing emails come from manufacturers talking through and around the topic of in case you were hoping to get a size 12 boot in that you might see it in August type of thing and like it's a it's a bigger picture. It's a bigger picture question in that. I think the for me, it tells you you already hit on it's the travel part. It's a story I look at as an opportunity to take this little tiny globe that we have thanks to social media, and make face to face personal connections with all the people that are revered globally. And I'm honored to be able to say that many of them are personal friends, because I've chosen to go see them, where they grew up, where they guide where they operate businesses, and I think there's something really refreshing and stepping out of your comfort zone into a place where you feel awkward, do you feel tested, do you feel uncomfortable, and then you meet somebody that is so closely aligned with your values, but it's on their terms, as far as watershed governments, natural resources, the topography, the all the different thing, all the places that make it different, because it's a different part of the world, and see them looking at the sport through exactly the same lens that you are. It I get chills up my spine thinking about it. There's some unbelievable people in our world, in our sport, doing exactly what we're trying to do here wrestling with all the same issues. And it gives me hope that we really can as a, as an industry, facilitate a positive change on on, so much that we rely upon that the rest of the world will actually at some point have to thank the fly fishing industry for caring so much.

Mark Titus  51:43  
I think that there is no question you can see the data reflect this, that folks that are in the sport, fishing and hunting communities are contributing tremendously to conservation efforts, in terms of protecting land, protecting watersheds protecting wetlands. And so that's why I asked this question, you know, about travel and about fishing and about touching fish and about, you know, still doing these things that have very real consequences for the fish. You're burning fuel when you're traveling. That's, that's a carbon emissions issue. But what is the bigger picture? What is the bigger advantage of creating these experiences and sharing these experiences it with reasonable limitations, you know, not not jet setting around the world all all the time every day? You obviously can't do that right now anyways, but, you know, I've been asking folks, why why keep fishing? You know, why keep meeting people in other places, other parts of the world in person? And how can we, with technology now augment and enhance those experiences and maybe reduce our harm to the resource to the fish and the carbon footprint as well? Can you speak to that a little bit? What what are your ideas? Your visionary? What are your ideas in that space?

Dave McCoy  53:35  
Well, you're a filmmaker. And I think when you put when you put stories and situations, people in the place where you've got maximum exposure with limited amount of footprint involved, such as that you take a movie you make it Yeah, you traveled to do it, as did the people that helped you. But you, you do it in earnest, and with the right intention, then you come back, you make a film that gets to touch 1000s and 1000s of people. It's a little bit what I said earlier, I i understand that I'm what I am as a business, you know, the part of my business selling trips and selling product is hypocritical to some degree, in the grand scheme of trying to not impact our fisheries any further, right? I just believe that there's a way to tell the story to people through the lens of a camera for video or still and help them want to go engage more responsibly, then what you're seeing in the average advertisement for somebody that's trying to just like Travelocity is saying, hey, you should go to Seattle and go fish.

Mark Titus  55:07  
I really like that.

Dave McCoy  55:08  
Does that resonate?

Mark Titus  55:10  
It totally does. And I got two other thoughts. One is you've already touched on and I really liked the picture you painted of. Let's make carp sexy. Yeah, let's make, you know, bass, Pike, other, you know, fish that are not necessarily as threatened as an agile Miss fish. And I grew up duck hunting with my dad. And we would go over to the potholes in eastern Washington, and there were carp scare the living shit out of you first thing in the morning, you're putting out the decoys. And this thing would bump your leg and you know, you're thinking Jaws, and it's the golden ghost. But boy, those things will, you know, those things will give you a run for your money. And you're still out in nature, and you're still connecting with your loved ones. And so that's that's one thing like alternate the storytelling to another lens, and another different version of, of that way of doing things. And then the second thing is, can you see you mentioned using a lens filmmaking is is one part of that, can you see any application of, of augmented reality or virtual reality, or these emerging technologies to enhance, not replace, but augment and enhance our desire for connection to the natural world to each other? And to the let's face it the cool stuff that you sell at your fly shop?

Dave McCoy  56:46  
Well, I mean, I think we're headed there, whether we like it or not. Yeah, I think it's common. In fact, I'm sure there's some people right here and in Seattle Bellevue that are working on it as we speak. some degree of Neil, find a little bit of sadness in the idea that you engage with this in in from the comfort of your living room. But how is that different than just watching a really well done TV show that inspires you to, to all of a sudden buy a reusable water bottle and not use plastic anymore? It's, I think it's kind of the same to be completely honest, I do too. And if that's a place where sect of the of those that want to engage with it can do so. And, and still be within the, the confines of a house, you're eliminating the carbon footprint, you're if you can set it up well enough, because one of the things I was going to mention is the whole skill set and you know, wrapped up in fly fishing is why we do it. If it was about tossing bait, and just drinking a beer. You've chosen the wrong facet of fishing to to pursue, we're more engaged here, we're worth thinking and employing so many different elements of where the fish are, what time of year, is it? What's the water temp? clarity? turbidity? What bugs are hatching? What bait fish are in the water? Are they in spawn mode? Are they migration mode? Are they fresh from the salt have they been in the fresh for a long time? how you approach that water based on where you think the fish are going to be? All you know, we've got a myriad of different little tidbits of data points that we're employing all at the same time to try to catch that fish. And that's why we do it as fly fly anglers. It really, truly is. And so going back to your earlier question, that's why we try why I travel because taking what I've accrued as my skill set and putting it to test again, something I don't get to go do every day. Now we're talking about fun. I again, I don't necessarily give a crap if I catch a fish or not. But it is really fun to see if I can hold my own with what I possess against something that I have never had the opportunity to practice for before. And so if you take somebody to a place where you can inspire them through augmented reality, or a movie or a single picture, and can paint that picture well enough for them to find that same inspiration as close to home as possible. Then we're then we're doing right by the sport and right by the fish. I believe

Mark Titus  59:55  
We had Chad Brown on the podcast here and he He's a fisherman whose work involves bringing kids from the inner city kids that have had tough times growing up some trauma and also socio economic background that wouldn't allow them necessarily to get into the sport. And he's putting them in that position harkening back to what you're talking about, about the paradox and the conundrum of how do I keep a sustainable business going and grow it? And understand also that there is certainly a segment of the population that can't necessarily afford to get into the sport is there is there a space that you can see, or visualize for bringing more people into the sport into this consciousness and more ways to connect people in a meaningful way, that will then help create the the champions for the resource for the environment for the stewardship of the land and the rivers and the Salish Sea? moving forward in the future?

Dave McCoy  1:01:13  
Yeah, I actually believe I can. And I think when you, at least when I look at what, what I would throw out there as a possibility, there's gonna be a ton of people there and shake their head and be like, no, that's ridiculous. That sounds really stupid. Again, fly fishing has so much depth to it, it's the proverbial black hole for anybody who thinks that they want to be perfect in any endeavor, or be the best. Again, I hate the word best in any endeavor, they will find that the carrot is always just out of reach in front of them as they excel and grow their own skill set. And in the spirit of that, I don't know that your talk, you know, first and foremost, love is king. Chad Browns leading comment. I love that Me too. And I love what he does a lover, His heart is with that good for him. In the spirit of what he's trying to do, we all know the impact that the natural world can have on even those of us that are privileged enough to see it as often as we do. But fly fishing, and the skills that we employ to do it don't necessarily have to be employed in towards an actual fish per se, with somebody who's never who doesn't even get to go outside that often. Like if you can just get people in a place where they can challenge themselves with what we do fly casting, I think that provides a fairly sizable space for people to feel like they can either shrug the weight of everything that's going on in their day to day life by having this focus so intently on on that piece of the sport, to being in a in a field or on a lake, somewhere where the fishing isn't your fly casting, not fly fishing, and therefore you're just you're just enjoying the skill set. It's like going and throwing a baseball with a buddy, you know, playing the game, but you're enjoying all of those a bunch of the different aspects of that sport by just tossing the ball between between the two of you. Right?

Mark Titus  1:03:51  
Yeah, so so you're suggesting and painting a picture of actually using the skills that flyfishing has to offer and stretching your skills by going through the exercise and doing the thing I mean, I was actually thinking about that this morning, you know, of just the like the example of yesterday going out on this gadget again, and I don't know how many casts I made. And I sure don't know how many I made well, I know how many I made poorly. A lot But um, I love the motion of it and I love the the way that it feels when you suck sex, you successfully release the line and it it hits and it you know, extends and shoots all the way out and if there is a challenge involved in that it is still experiential. And and I think that there is some absolute draw to that for sure.

Dave McCoy  1:04:58  
Yeah, and and I know. That's like, again, it's a, it's a mindset that would have to be thoughtfully sort of put in front of people. But we have a ton of people sign up for casting classes. And at the end of the casting class, there, yeah, some of them are talking about what it's like to actually go fish, but a lot, a lot of them, they just like to cast. So if you just extend the idea of that, and we already do it, we have fly casting competitions. We have accuracy competitions, we have an FFA exam that requires you to be extremely proficient at a number of different things that you can do by doing this for the flra. You know, I think I think that we've got more aptitude than we give ourselves credit for, we just haven't been put in a place where we have to tap into it as fully as we may have to in the near future.

Mark Titus  1:06:03  
Well, coming back to the, you know, the three things that you identify as the top three challenges we're facing, I think, is a general summation, the best thing I've always heard is from my friend, Ann Shaffer, at the Elwha. And, you know, she says, protect the best and restore the rest. And she's, of course, referring to habitat, and there are certainly things that we can't control out in the ocean. And there are an infinite number of things to argue about in terms of catching fish retaining fish handling fish, allocation of fish, by humans. But just in terms of habitat, how would you look at where we are? And what do you think that are? What do you think are the most important things that we need to address in the next 10 years? For habitat for an address fish?

Dave McCoy  1:07:04  
Well, I'm not a scientist, so I'm not even gonna go there with that. But I would say that when people come into the store, this might sound long winded, but I'll get to the meat of your question. When people come into the store and ask the question, you know, why are fish in this shape? And what are the causes that's, you know, God causes. There's a fairly long list of things that have an impact on dams, old timber practices, mining practices, commercial bycatch, poaching, catching kill sport fishing. As ocean acidification decrease in top predators, apex predators, like the Orca have allowed an increase in secondary predators like seals and sea lions that predate upon anatomist fish. I mean, it just really depends on how far down this list you want to go before you say stop. Okay, I got it. Okay. So my understanding is that in a lot of ways, we have the habitat in many of these rivers, that there are other impacts taking place. And whether that is and I'm just, I'm just throwing it out there. I'm not saying that I know. But whether that is we have to readjust what we think is a sustainable returning number of wild fish to actually plateau and get back to sustainable or whether there's something that literally is out of our possible control right now, at least at the level that we're talking about, that we all share this planet. And we can only do so much as Americans or even as American anglers. So what are the Chinese, the Japanese, the Russians, you know, all the other people on the live on the same little orb that we do how you know and are purveying their, your, you know, exploiting the resources in international waters where there just isn't the oversight and the and the management that there probably needs to be as far as harvest goes. And you know, each country has their own like this is a that's an that's a difficult question. Not one that's easily answerable. I would say that we probably have to do what we can here to mend the bridges and the relationships that may most immediately have enough of a blip to possibly Increase the return of wild fish here and continue to look further and bigger with regards to other issues and try to determine what has caused them. And then as humans are going to have to make some hard decisions.

Mark Titus  1:10:21  
What are those decisions look like to you?

Dave McCoy  1:10:24  
Well, I mean, the dragging the feet to change industry to do better by the by the by climate is I get it, I guess it's hard when you're in a place that climate change has such an evident effect on, on what you live day in and day out what you wake up and talk about for the entire day, seven days a week. I don't understand how you can't acknowledge that it's real. Now granted, those of us that do what I do every day are a rounding error in the population of people that are doing commerce, nationally and globally. So by and large, there's just a lot of people that don't have that contact day in and day out with the resources to and haven't for a long enough period of time to really appreciate how much has changed over the years. And so we're beholden to them and their dollars, and how they choose to spend their dollars for lobbying and government. Which goes back to what I would say and challenge everybody in our industry do think about who and where and how you spend every single dollar you're going to spend. Because that is voting, maybe more important, so than actually going to the ballot voting.

Mark Titus  1:12:08  
David McCoy. Amen. Yeah, ultimately, we have a couple things that we can use to voice our opinions. And the dollar arguably is the strongest. You've done an amazing job, my friend, both in the work that you're doing, I frequent your store as often as I can. And in this discussion, and I'd love to reserve the right to keep it rolling. Because you know what, this is going to just continue on as a discussion in the next year or two years decade. And I'd love to come back and revisit it if you're up for it.

Dave McCoy  1:12:43  
Anytime. Cool. As long as you don't get booed off the airwaves for having me on here.

Mark Titus  1:12:48  
Hey, I'll let you know. It'll be the first to know. But before veiling here, I do a little speed round here at the end with everybody. And ordinarily I use the the visual of a burning house. But in your case, because it's apropos, I think we'll call it Your house is in the path of a flooding river, instead of a burning house. So, of course you get your loved ones out first. But in addition to them, what's the one physical thing you take with you before it gets swept away?

Dave McCoy  1:13:23  
So I don't have to worry about my family, or my cat?

Mark Titus  1:13:27  
Your cats a loved one too. You get your loved ones out first.

Dave McCoy  1:13:30  
Fine. My camera?

Mark Titus  1:13:36  
Now let's call it your spiritual house. What are the two most important things about your life about your values about who you are that you take along with you?

Dave McCoy  1:13:48  
Spiritual house, does it go back to my loved ones? Because my kid is, kid and wife are tied for first?

Mark Titus  1:13:57  
Yeah, I'd say that's like, then love.

Dave McCoy  1:14:00  
Is anybody going to answer differently on that? Unless they don't have family? In the house with them?

Mark Titus  1:14:06  
Well, I've had some folks answer their sense of gratitude, loyalty, those sorts of things. I think loyalties, that's right in there.

Dave McCoy  1:14:17  
Does that go with you inherently, though? Yeah. I mean, if you get out it goes with you.

Mark Titus  1:14:25  
I think what I'm thinking a little more esoteric situation of, you know, if it's all getting stripped away, and you have to hold on to those two things that are most dear to you. ideals, what are those ideals that you use the two most important ones that you take with you?

Dave McCoy  1:14:48  
Memories, and acknowledgement that I don't know everything. Humility.

Mark Titus  1:14:57  
That's good. Humility is excellent. And lastly, would you leave something behind in that flood?

Dave McCoy  1:15:09  
Esoterically again? Yeah. I would say that I'm far from perfect. And if you had the ability to sever the cord from a non evolved, Dave McCoy to an evolved Dave McCoy, I'd leave that part of me behind. But in the same spirit, I wouldn't be who I am today not having done a few times in the past and learn from it.

Mark Titus  1:15:50  
So say we all. Absolutely. Dave McCoy, thank you so much for joining us here today. How can people get involved with your work? How can they follow along with what you're doing and support the amazing work you're doing for conservation and for engaging the rest of us with connecting with the wild world?

Dave McCoy  1:16:08  
First, I would say I'm, I try to be as accessible as possible. If for some reason you feel like I've got some answer I can give you to a question you might have reached out through Instagram, the store, email, whatever I'm here to, if you decide you want to start to pay closer attention to the environment and to conservation, look close to home and be the grassroots catalyst for saving something that's that maybe you overlooked daily that if it were gone, you would all of a sudden notice once it was and do what you can to save that and and from there it will it will lead you down down the path that I've been on for the last 30 years.

Mark Titus  1:17:07  
David McCoy, Patagonia ambassador, owner, Emerald water anglers, we will link to your Instagram accounts and to where folks can find you. Thank you for this conversation. Can't wait till the next one.

Dave McCoy  1:17:22  
Mark. I love you, buddy. Thank you for the opportunity, man.

Mark Titus  1:17:24  
Love you too, man.

Whiskey Class  1:17:25  
Music: How do you save what you love?

Mark Titus  1:17:42  
Thank you for listening to Save What You Love. If you like what you're hearing, you can help keep these conversations coming your way by giving us a rating on Apple Podcasts. You can check out photos and links from this episode at evaswild.com. While there you can join our growing community. By subscribing to our newsletter, you'll get exclusive offers on wild salmon shipped to your door, and notifications about upcoming guests and more great content on the way that's at evaswild.com. That's the word save spelled backwards wild dot com. This episode was produced by Tyler White and edited by Patrick Troll. Original music was created by Whiskey Class. This podcast is a collaboration between Eva's Wild Stories and Salmon Nation and was recorded on the homelands of the Duwamish People. We'd like to recognize these lands and waters and their significance for the peoples who lived and continued to live in this region, whose practices and spiritualities were and are tied to the land and the water and whose lives continue to enrich and develop in relationship to the land waters and other inhabitants today.⁣

#5 - Dave McCoy - Emerald Water Anglers, Patagonia Ambassador
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