Recently Bluebird Ambassador Chris McDonald returned from Indonesia where he was volunteering with the non-profit organization First Descents to teach surfing to cancer survivors. We had a chance to catch up with Chris and here’s what he had to say about the experience.
Tell us more about First Descents. How’d you get involved?
They organize trips for cancer survivors to different places for outdoor sports. They have climbing, kayaking and surfing programs. It's a rewarding way to teach what you love to do to appreciative people.
This was my 5th First Descents camp. I got involved by teaching surf lessons at home through Farmdog Surf School.
Tell us about the experience of teaching the campers how to surf? Fun to see them stand up for the first time?
Teaching people to surf is always fun when you push them into their first ride. That first feeling is what gets you hooked! It is just exceptionally rewarding to work with the First Descents camps because everyone is there because they overcame a huge battle. It's an awesome organization and I feel fortunate to be a part of taking such awesome people surfing.
How were the waves while you were there?
The waves in Indonesia are always above average. We got a few really big late season swells while we were there! We went for the campers but being able to surf pumping Uluwatu is something you day dream about. It was a really rad trip!
What’s your favorite wave in Indonesia?
My favorite wave in indo is Lakey Peak. It's a perfect roll into a barrel section. Had the best session of my life out there a few years ago. All of Indonesia is wave rich and fun though.
Heard you took a glass bottle to the foot?
Ya, unfortunately during our first session I stepped on a broken glass bottle. Had to sit the second session with campers out. I could have used some stitches but duct tape did the trick. The good news is there were cold beers and happy people all around me!
A few weeks ago Lane and I took off to Victor Idaho for a fly fishing adventure and to support a great non profit, Casting 4 a Cure. To put it simply, the weekend was amazing! We fished all day and poured wine all night while visiting with some stellar people from around the country.
Casting 4 a cure is a non-profit that supports Rhett Syndrome which is a neurodevelopmental disorder attributed to the grey matter of the brain and almost exclusively affects females. It was amazing and emotional to learn about the disorder from fathers that are passionate about fighting for their daughters well being and a cure for Rhett Syndrome.
Our first day out fishing Mike, Bluebird ambassador, took us to the Henry’s Fork river below Lower Mesa Falls. We picked up a few cups of joe, snack packs for myself and hit the road through the gorgeous Idaho countryside. We arrived at the top of an extremely steep 800 foot trail. The steep gravel and dirt trail led down to the river and Mike broke out some serious manliness - he threw on some old work gloves and manhandled the large soft bottom boat down the steep trail. After Lane and I struggled just to get down the trail we hopped in the boat and took off down the river. The water was quick and unruly at the put-in but I managed to catch a few small trout and landed one just before we dropped over a 6 foot waterfall. It was an awesome feeling getting tossed around in the white water while catching fish!
Lane finally managed to catch a trout after a few pointers from our expert guide Mike. It was a blast watching Mike navigate the boat down the river and Lane fighting to land the fish at the same time. Halfway down the river we threw out the anchor and stopped for a nice turkey sandwich lunch. We relaxed and took in the gorgeous scenery and beautiful “bluebird” day. Lane and I both admired Mike’s daily lunch spot and were massively jealous of the beautiful place he calls home. Our journey continued down the river catching several more fish along the way and Lane catching one last fish at the boat landing to tie my fish count.
After a long day on the river we poured wine and told tall tales and listened to stories from the fun day on the river. We also listened to Doctor Steve talk about Rhett syndrome and the progress they are making in their trials and research. The founder of Casting 4 a Cure gave an emotional and inspiring speech about his experience with the Rhett and how it's impacted his familys life.
The following day Mike had another adventure planned. I delayed our journey by making an amateur mistake and forgetting my fishing license at the cabin but we stopped at a local bait shop on the way and picked up a duplicate license. Good thing because we came across the game warden at the end of the day. Don’t forget your license kids! We grabbed our gear and took off up the trail journeying deeper into the the woods to Big Elk Creek. We fished a few pools after a long hike up the trail and got a few bites but didn’t land any fish.
Mike took us to his secret hole where we walked up on to trout gleefully jumping out of the water for flies. It was a spectacular site! We played rock paper scissor to see who went first and obviously I won. Mike and I quietly crept into the water to get into position and after several thrilling tries I finally caught a nice sized cutthroat. Lane managed to catch a nice sized cutthroat on his first cast which he continues to remind me of. It was Mike’s turn as he had his eye on a hog that was swimming far away from us feeding in shallow water. He gracefully casted his dry fly way down river like he was Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It. He’s that good looking too. The fish drilled the fly as Mike yanked back on the rod setting the hook. After a few minutes of fighting the fish in, I helped him net the large 22” cut throat. It was a magical experience watching Mike catch such a big fish in such a shallow creek.
That night we poured more wine and enjoyed our final night with all of the new friends we made on the trip. It was an awesome weekend supporting a great cause, fishing spectacular mountain rivers and sharing our delicious wine with great people. Can’t wait for next year.
Summer is upon us here in California and it's absolutely gorgeous.
One of the reasons we started Bluebird was to inspire people to get outside and enjoy the world. In the spirit of 'getting outside' my partner, Lane Shackleton, decided to hit the road for the next month traveling across Morocco, Italy and Croatia. He'll be checking out the mountains, the surf and wines of the local areas. Be sure to follow him and our regular adventures on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Vine. Below is a shot he sent of a Bluebird day in a Berber Village from the Atlas Mountains outside Marrakech, Morocco!
We’re psyched to welcome another Bluebird ambassador to the fold!
Chris grew up on the beautiful Outer Banks of North Carolina and still calls the area home. He began surfing and traveling for waves at age 14 and hasn’t looked back. At 23, he’s already an accomplished surfer and waterman. These days he spends his time in search of the next east coast swell and tests gear as a surf ambassador for Patagonia. We’re excited to have Chris join the team as we believe he embodies the spirit of Bluebird -- passionately pursuing his craft of surfing and enjoying the outdoors.
Here’s a quick interview with Chris:
1. Favorite place to be on a sunny day?
My favorite place in the world to be on a sunny day is at home on the beach with all my friends. We have the best beach days here, everyone brings a bunch of boards, coolers of drinks and food. Your friends are your family around here and everyone comes together and just enjoys the beach for what it has to offer that day, be it grilling burgers or surfing fun waves!
2. Favorite surf trip?
I love indonesia. I've been twice, and I can't wait to go back!
3. Tell us about your home break in the Outer Banks.
The Outer Banks is a really unique stretch of sandbars. We stick out the farthest on the east coast so we have a smaller continental shelf and pick up a good amount of swell directions. There aren't a lot of structures to build up consistent sandbars so it's a constant search to find the spot. Hurricane season is what you wait for all year, big barrels right on the beach. You definitely learn how to get tubed growing up here.
4. Next on the travel list?
Most likely going down to Central America sooner than later. It's getting to be south swell season!
I am a true believer of fishing karma. There are some days on the water where some fish eat and you come away with the feeling that you actually know something about this sport. Then there are the other days. The days when nothing comes together as planned, rods brake, shuttles are missed and you think about giving up these silly fly rods, boats and everything attached to it. Finally, there are the days when the stars and cosmic fishing universe align, along with whatever else is out there, and those are the angling days we are constantly searching for in our pursuits and adventures. Everything happens correctly, nothing goes wrong, and we are lucky to be at the right place at the right time.
I had enjoyed an absolutely wonderful week at Agua Boa Amazon Lodge, deep in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. I had landed some monster peacock bass. 19lbs, 15lbs and 14lbs were all marks hit along with a total of 12 different species on the fly rod including piranhas, payaras, jacundas, oscars, arowanas, and many others. We casted to cruising peacocks while the elusive grey and pink freshwater dolphins of the amazon frolicked nearby. We ate lunch and enjoyed a mid-day siesta in hammocks hanging from the trees next to a group of the huge and very vocal amazon river otters. We spooked blue and yellow Macaws while on early morning journeys up and downriver. We watched the elusive tapir silently come down to the river bank and grab a drink while on watch for caimans and jaguars. I finally sat my fly rod down as I saw spider monkeys jump from tree to tree looking for nuts, berries, and any other snacks. "Rex" the monster caiman that calls the boat dock area home, was always "happy" to greet us every morning and evening. The amazon rainforest lined the river banks and enticed you to explore her unique flora and fauna. To say there is an abundance of wildlife in the Agua Boa region is an understatement.
Photo: Boro holding a Jacunda fish
My last day was spent bushwhacking into a remote lagoon with guide "Irmao." My boat partner for the day had hooked and landed some fish earlier, and we had noticed over the week that peacocks are very curious by nature. When one is hooked many follow their buddy, or a solo goliath waits underneath with hopes of an easy meal. I stood ready, popper in hand, for the assault when the first fish is hooked. Irmao gestures to cast between two low hanging trees. My boat partner hooks up and my popper goes flying. "Glug, glug, glug, boom!" My popper is inhaled by a small 2 lb butterfly. "Ka-boom again !!!!" I look back at Irmao, "Peacock muto grande,” he exclaims! While mimicking with his hands as an ad hoc puppet show, I had now understood a large peacock had inhaled the small peacock and now my popper was lodged in the side of the big peacock’s mouth. I knew it couldn't last, recalling my experiences as a young boy with largemouth bass eating bream on my cane pole, but it all came to fruition when the monster peacock was weighed on the boga grip. "One - five," exclaimed Irmao.
Photo: a beautiful Arowana
I had seen the raw amazon power that could be produced in about 10 seconds; something I had never seen or experienced in any of my angling journeys and travels. While I am the first to admit I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time when that fish ate my popper, the motive of the destructive monsters goes unmatched. The rods were immediately placed in storage position for the ride home, the high fives sent around the boat in all directions and a couple celebratory ice cold SKOL Brazilian beers were pulled from the cooler and readied for consumption.
As I reflected on the day while cruising back to the lodge, I thought to myself, "That was the wildest, craziest and most impressive event of fish eating, popper destruction and fly attacking mayhem that you will probably ever see in your life!" I couldn't get my head around it! What just happened? It all came clear, I had just experienced one of the days we all dream about, Amazon style!
I turned back to Irmao and gave him another high five. I took my remanding tippet, leaders some leftover flies, popper heads, spare pliers and an extra buff and threw it in his small kit bag. He poked me on the shoulder and extended his open hand. "Muto Obrigado," he expressed which translates to “many /much thanks” in Portuguese. It was the least could do for the guide that showed me the true side and colors of the Amazonian peacock bass.
We returned to the lodge and were greeted by the camp host, Charlie. "So, how was your day," he asked. I smirk and softly reply, "Epic." "You fish the popper today," Charlie replies, pointing to the mangled and beat up fly dangling on one of my rods. "All day,"I expressed, "all day."
- Mike Dawkins is Chief Operating Officer of WorldCast Anglers in Victor, Idaho and a Bluebird ambassador.
We’re proud to introduce our second Bluebird Ambassador, Mike Dawkins.
Mike has inspired me since we were in high school together in our hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. From an early age, he was always chasing the next great adventure from hiking through the Great Smoky Mountains, to fly fishing on the Caney Fork River, to leading snow skiing trips.
Photo Credit: Douglas Barnes
Today he spends his days as World Cast Anglers’ COO, one of the premier fly fishing companies in North America operating in eastern Idaho and Western Wyoming. And as part of his job, Mike is lucky enough to take clients fishing in some of the most beautiful and remote locations in the world. He shares his passion for the sport with others everyday—and inspires all of us to get outside!
What’s always impressed me about Mike is that when he is passionate about something he not only masters it, but he invests his time in protecting the environment around him. For example, he is currently a board member of the Teton Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Jackson Hole Chapter of Ducks Unlimited.
When Mike isn’t casting a dry fly, he is hiking up the backcountry slopes as an avid telemark skier. His best friend is his black lab Tui, who can always be found on a boat watching Mike fish or retrieving waterfowl and upland birds.
Mike is already inspiring the Bluebird team to get out of the winery, throw on our waders, and get the line wet. We’re incredibly pleased to welcome Mike as our newest ambassador.
We’re introducing more ambassadors over the next few months. Stay tuned by subscribing to our newsletter!
We created Bluebird in the spirit of those unforgettable days spent outside with our friends. Today, we’re launching a program to spotlight people who share our values and enthusiasm for those bluebird days.
Our ambassadors pursue their passions with zeal and integrity. Whether that’s skiing or fishing or environmental activism, they jump headfirst into the world around them. They inspire us and our community. We are proud and honored to support their desire to make a positive mark on the world.
A Personal Note about our First Ambassador -- Ry
About ten years ago I was fortunate enough to meet Ry while working for his dad at an environmental consulting firm called Sustainable Futures Australia. Peter, Ry’s father, is an inspiration to our environmental ethic and the way we operate as a company. While working for him in Byron Bay, I learned what hard work and passion look like from a man who has spent his life protecting the world we inhabit and instilling that spirit in others. It was invigorating and I’ll never forget Peter and his partner Eshana’s approach and enthusiasm for sustainable causes.
Peter put a guitar and a surfboard in Ry’s hands about the time he started walking and the rest is history. Ry grew up in one of the best surf towns in the world called Angourie, Australia and quickly became an accomplished musician and surfer. When I met Ry, it was clear that he was wise beyond his years and that his thirst for life was endless. We drove up and down the coast of Australia in Ry’s old van, chasing waves, and eating inordinate amounts of potato chips. (Sidenote: I was so bad at paddling out at that time, Ry made up a song called “Getting Out the Back with Shacks” that he would sing while I was flailing to get outside the breaking waves in big surf.)
Nowadays, Ry calls California home and is spending time in Europe collaborating with some amazing musicians on a couple new projects. You can see an awesome example of his latest musical collaboration on his ambassador page.
So, we’re launching the ambassador program with Ry. We do it with an overwhelming sense of gratitude to him and his family, and hope that every ambassador can inspire us the way he has.