Fly Life Magazine

Profile: Emily Roley is the acorn that grew into a forest

Emily Roley – Roley photo.

Emily Roley was on a 15 year long career roll in the culinary world of big city restaurateuring in Nashville. She had a career, position, money, house, and was collecting lots of “stuff” – nice stuff. One day, her internal phone rang. Emily’s interloper said, “You don’t like your job, you don’t want to own a restaurant, and your working so you can get more stuff.” Emily didn’t like what she heard. It bugged her and finally she said, “S#%t, it’s true.”

She gave notice, rented her house, sold her “stuff” and moved into a “Tiny House” trailer with her dog, and like an Aussie sheep shearer set off into the sunset – living on the road. She applied for a job as a fly fishing guide in Taos, New Mexico. The owner told her not to come. She came anyway.

The rest of the story is more than just interesting. Scroll down to watch the YouTube video – find out more about Emily – it’s good.

To stay connected with Emily, here’s a link to her blog . . .

Emily’s favorite quote: “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” – Emerson

The Interview with Emily Roley:

Fly Life In what capacity are you currently engaged in the sport of fly fishing?

Emily Roley: I am a guide and the shop manager for the Taos Fly Shop in Taos, New Mexico.

FLM: How were you introduced to the sport?

ER: When I was 13 my father found and fell in love with the sport. I come from a big family with lots of kids, and my mother was wholeheartedly supportive of my father’s newfound obsession with one caveat: he must take a couple of the kids with him! I was the lucky one. I started accompanying my father to the river, and I can still remember those trips. Getting on the water just as the sun comes up, my father silhouetted in fog, smoking his pipe. Those are still some of my very favorite memories.

FLM: What is it about fly fishing that “keeps you coming back”?

ER: Everything. From planning and preparation to cracking a cold beer at the end of the day and everything in between. But the gem of the experience for me is the way that fly fishing connects me to the natural world around me. It is the one place where I feel fully in sync and where my mind can turn off the chatter, and I can simply exist in rhythm.

FLM: Who were your biggest influences or mentors, male or female?

ER: Probably my greatest influence was my father. As the one who introduced me to the sport and my primary fishing buddy for the first ten years of my fishing life, he greatly influenced the way that I view and experience the sport.

Another huge influence for me was Natalie Jenson, a guide for Lee’s Ferry Anglers in Arizona. She was the first one who put the idea into my head about pursuing fly fishing professionally. I was lucky enough to spend two days with her on the water and hear her inspiring story. It was after that trip that I decided to sell everything that I owned, move into a tiny camper and head out west!

Emily Roley on her new home waters in New Mexico. Roley photo.

FLM: What would you consider your home fishery and what do you find so alluring and special about it?

ER: I have two home fisheries. The first is the waters of my youth, specifically the mountain streams of the southern Appalachians. There is a piece of my soul that resides in those streams.

However, my new home fishery is the Rio Grande, a wild and powerful river that has been the lifeblood of this region for centuries. Fishing our stretch of the Rio in northern New Mexico is challenging, with access being an 800-foot tumble down into the gorge. Once there you must scramble over boulders along the banks and contend with a river that is in constant flux with the seasons. All of this makes the Rio alluring, and it makes figuring her out a lifelong pursuit.

FLM: What environmental challenges are faced by your fishery?

ER: The greatest environmental challenge in our region is water. It is a precious resource and something that is on everyone’s mind. A healthy fishery depends on year-round precipitation, specifically a full mountain snowpack in the winter.

FLM: When you are not fishing, what are you doing?

ER: My husband and I are in the beginning stages of building our own house. So most of my free time these days are spent in preparation and planning for that huge undertaking. Otherwise, I love to cook and write.

In the “Canyon.” Roley photo.

FLM: You have the day off. What are you fishing for and where?

ER: Although we have a variety of species in our region I am still absolutely in love with fishing for trout. The Rio Grande is my number one: it is forever new. I hope to fish it for a lifetime. I also adore the Conejos in southern Colorado and make that trek north as much as possible.

FLM: What charitable organizations or causes do you support? Why is this important to you?

ER: I am a big advocate of Casting for Recovery. Breast cancer has touched my life personally, and as a big believer in the healing powers of nature, I fully support their mission.

FLM: Where would you go fishing if there were zero restrictions on expense, travel, etc…? Why?

ER: No way I can pick just one. If there were truly no restrictions on expense and travel, I would take an entire year off and fish everywhere I could! I believe that rivers in every state, region, country and continent have their own story to tell.


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