By Erica Bray
Geoff Stevens spends as much time in the water as he does on land -- such is the life of a fly fishing guide.
In 2013, the 42-year-old father of five moved his family from Colorado to the mountain town of Dubois, Wyo. -- population 995 -- to launch his business Teton Fishing Co. He guides novices and experts alike along the Wind River, a less-trafficked alternative to Jackson Hole's popular Snake River.
Stevens spoke with Name.Kitchen about turning his love of fly fishing into a career, and why he's so excited about reeling in a 'dot-fish' (.fish) domain name to elevate his business.
When did you discover your passion for fishing?
I was probably four.
Yes. Across the street from me was a little trout stream, and when I found out that this little stream had trout in it I was hooked. I was one of eight kids and this was back in the time when big families were pretty poor. So I made my own fishing rod out of a stick and some Christmas tree hooks and wire and thread, and I’d go fishing. I wasn’t all that successful, but just couldn’t get it out of my system.
How did fly fishing get into your system?
My father was not a fisherman so, you know, I didn’t have anyone to take me fishing. And there’s a guy from my church, Mr. Thomas, who had asked my dad if he could take me fishing. Well, Mr. Thomas was a fly fisherman. So every summer for several years, Saturday mornings he’d come, drive all the way over and pick me up, and we’d go fishing.
And so here I was this eleven year old kid and out waving a fly rod around and getting hooked in trees and bushes, and this guy, Mr. Thomas, had an incredible patience to hang in there with me. That’s how I got into fly fishing, and I’ve been addicted ever since.
It’s really beautiful to watch, too -- even for people who don’t fish.
It’s a thing of beauty, just catching fish. There’s a whole rhythm to casting. It combines art, it combines science, and it combines sport all into one because with a fly rod. You’ve got to learn to be graceful.
How did you go from student to fishing guide?
I grew up teaching [my brothers] how to fish, and every time I’d run into somebody I’d say, “Hey, do you want to go fishing?” And I’d take them fishing. I’m a teacher at heart. So when I can see other people get it, it’s a pretty fun thing. I had several friends that would pay me to take them fishing different places, and that just evolved into starting to guide for shops.
You’ve been living in Wyoming for two years now. What made it a great spot to launch your own fishing guide business?
This is, like, the best-kept little secret, where we are. Our town [Dubois], you can hardly find it on a map. It is the most remote place in the lower 48. People will drive through here on their way to Yellowstone, but people don’t stay here to fish. So we have probably, in my opinion, one of the best fisheries short of going to Alaska.
[Nearby] Jackson is super tourist-y. Everybody wants to fish the Snake [River] because it’s like a status thing. You’re lined up boat to boat, and you’re just surrounded by people. But we’re just over the hill in this small little town and so we have the Wind River that runs through here. When I do a trip, we’re doing 20 to 40 fish, and we’re probably catching at least ten of them are over 18 inches. This is a real wild place and we don’t have a lot of tourists which makes it really, really nice.
What makes it so special is just the wildness of where we are. We’ve got elk. We have wolves. We have coyotes, deer, grizzly bears, black bears. And so this is like fishing in the wilderness, kind of as close as you can get to kind of the Garden of Eden you know before man kind of messed everything up.
How did you land on the name for your business, Teton Fishing Company?
I was trying to think about with Google searches and things like that, that the Grand Tetons are a huge tourist destination. Whereas right where I live in Dubois -- people don’t Google "Dubois, Wyoming." So it was to get some of the traffic and business of people trying to fly fish over in the Snake [River] and in the Tetons. We’re on the Wind River, and I was thinking I could do Wind River Angling or something like that, but nobody’s really heard of the Wind River, either.
So you were already thinking about the Internet when naming your business? And getting the website together, I imagine?
Oh, that was the first thing I did. Without a website there’s no way you could do this. I have clients that I’ve fished with for quite a while, and obviously I have those customers. But that number is not enough to keep the business viable. When people want to fly fish you know, what they do is they just get on their computer and punch in a destination and go look at websites. That’s how I get my business.
How did you discover that a ‘dot-fish’ [.FISH] domain was an option for your website?
My URL used to be FishTetons. com -- that was the original URL. And then last summer I was trying to buy some other URLs with Yellowstone [in it], and a GoDaddy rep said, “Hey, well, you know we’re having this big [release] of other domains other than 'dot-com' or 'dot-org.' One of them that you may be interested in is 'dot-fish.'”
What was your reaction to that news?
I thought it was brilliant. You know, to try to get something creative on a 'dot-com' is next to impossible. It just makes sense to have your whatever business you’re in, instead of a silly 'dot-com' to get something a little more descriptive of the industry that you’re in.
So when he said, “Hey, this is going to be the future,” it made sense. I bet it will be the future. I guess I want to be on the cutting edge, that’s important to me. So I bought a bunch of 'dot-fish' domains.
I bought Yellowstone.fish. I bought Trout.fish. I have Dubois.fish, FlyFishingGuide.fish, Fly.fish, WindRiver.fish ... But I decided on using Wyoming.fish [as my main website] in hopes that people who say, “Hey, I want to go fly-fish in Wyoming!” -- that I’d get some of that traffic.
You really got onboard with the ‘dot-fish’ name, didn’t you?
I think that in business you’ve got to take some risks, or you need to close shop and forget it. And I think that part of being an entrepreneur is you just take those risks. You have to be innovative, and you just have to go for it.
Who’s found you online as a result?
People have found me from Indiana, New York, California, Texas, Seattle …
That’s a good cross-section of the country coming to a lesser-known part of the state.
Whenever I do any kind of advertising I kind of cringe because it’s like a love/hate thing. I want to have more business, but I don’t want everybody and their brother knowing about our fishery and then, you know, ruining it.
Interesting predicament. In the end, you’ve carved a career from something that gave you tremendous joy as a four-year-old, which most would envy.
When you can do what you love for a living, that’s just totally awesome.
To learn more about this business, visit the website www.Wyoming.fish.