Outdoor Life - - HOW TO BE A FISH BUM -


Some­times it’s the small­est things that pro­vide the big­gest in­spi­ra­tion. If you’ve ever saved a for­tune from a for­tune cookie, you un­der­stand. More than 20 years ago, Travis Edens found a for­tune worth sav­ing in the back of a fish­ing mag­a­zine. All these years later, he doesn’t even re­mem­ber the name of the pe­ri­od­i­cal, but the short story on the back page has never left him.

“It was about a guide up in Canada that was this old, kind of gnarly lo­cal dude that just fished that area for­ever,” Edens re­calls. “I wanted to be that guy where I lived. I wanted to be­come the wise old-timer that knew his wa­ter bet­ter than any other lo­cal.”

Edens, 47, was born and raised in the West Vir­ginia pan­han­dle near Harpers Ferry. His twinge of twang and coun­try-boy rugged­ness be­lie his love of the ’80sera punk bands he grew up see­ing in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., the bus­tle of which lies just over an hour east of the ru­ral Shenandoah Val­ley where Edens spends more than 200 days a year rowing his clients to heavy bronze­backs. He is one of only three full-time guides in the area, and that low num­ber ties di­rectly to Edens’ deep-rooted love of his home wa­ter.

“The Shenandoah gets over­looked be­cause we’re so close to the Susque­hanna and the New,” he says. “But its beauty and po­ten­tial are in­cred­i­ble. If I had the chance to guide some­where else for more money, I’m gonna sit right here. There’s so much more for me to learn.”

Edens has been learn­ing the “’Doah” his en­tire life. Two decades ago, he was guid­ing it on the side while work­ing in the nurs­ery busi­ness. When the econ­omy bot­tomed out in 2008, he de­cided he was done “work­ing for the man” and be­gan guid­ing full-time.

“When the bub­ble burst, I said, screw it, I’m tak­ing the leap,” Edens says. “Stuff had got­ten

bad, and it wasn’t go­ing to get any bet­ter un­less I did some­thing about it for my­self.”

De­vot­ing your­self to a fish­ery might erase the 9-to-5 sched­ul­ing, but it comes with a new grind. Rafts need con­stant mend­ing and clean­ing. Lunches need to be made. The clock doesn’t stop when you’re off the wa­ter, and in be­tween the trips that pay the bills, Edens still wants to be on the river. He prefers not to fish on a sched­ule. He gets closer to his goal of be­ing the sage lo­cal when he can try new spots, fish a hole as long as he wants, and ex­per­i­ment with new lures and flies he’s not ty­ing on for clients. At 47, he says he still needs more time to be­come that guy, but he’s get­ting there. He’s sure he’ll be rowing the Shenandoah when he’s 60, and still par­tak­ing in his fa­vorite win­ter pas­time: “Wish­ing it was sum­mer.”

Edens shows off a hefty Shenandoah River bronze­back.

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