Episode 395 of The Outdoor Biz Podcast and my conversation with Christian Bacasa. Christian is a father of two, an entrepreneur, technology sales executive, and a dedicated sportsman.
Following his recovery from Stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, he discovered fly fishing, which he credits with his physical and emotional recovery.
Brought to you by Thrive Market
Tell us about the first fish you caught on a fly.
So first fish I caught on a fly. It was the Henry’s Fork. I was with a friend of mine, TJ. He had taken me up to go fly fishing. In actuality, we went up to look at a drift boat.
So he’s talking to this guy about a drift boat to buy, and it’s a 95 Hyde. And the guy says, it’s got a little bit of glass damage to it, but I’ll make you a deal.
We get up there, and it’s got a hole, you know, probably about this big in the bottom. And you can see the foam.
Yeah, you can see the foam. The phone was starting to rot. And I said, Hey man, that’s no big deal. And so he works the guy over and hems and haws them and, you know, classic, this guy, TJ, you know, he’s a character, hippie kid from Pennsylvania, but he’s a savvy sales guy.
So he talks him down, and we get the boat for a good price. We look at each other, and he goes, you think it’ll float? And I was like, Oh, I think it’ll float all day.
Yeah. Let’s put it in the water. We take her down a river, and I didn’t really know how to fly fish very well. It was my first time, but he puts me in front of the boat. I can cast, but it’s not very good. It looked good in the park, but I’m slapping these, these caddis flies down on these guys. TJ is a dry fly guy. So he’s making me fish dry flies. And I was having some health complications. I couldn’t see real good, my reaction times were slow, and I missed a lot of fish. Sure enough, I hooked up on a nice little rainbow. And that was the first one, but it was on a dry fly, a little caddis fly. And we proceeded to float down the river, and I missed ten times as many fish as I caught, but we caught a handful of fish that day and had a great time. And that was my introduction, to fly fishing.
Have you taught your kids to fish?
I have. The way I would describe teaching them is. You know, if anybody’s familiar with the Green River here in Utah, it’s a spectacular place. Like you can see down very deep. And in the fish per mile it’s incredible. It’s like a couple of thousand fish per mile or something like that. I mean, it’s like looking into an aquarium. You can see the fish. It’s absolutely stunning. And if you haven’t had a chance to fish it, just go float it, is incredible.
But for the kids, the way I go about it is like, Hey, let’s go swimming, and get them in the boat. And we, we fish between the swimming holes and at the end of the day, they’re at the swimming hole going, well, can I just fish here? You know, cause they are stoked for the next. So they do pretty well, but they’re kids, you know, they’re teenagers, and they, they want to hang out with their friends.
So now they know, though, they’ll come back to it later in life.
How does one go from a degree in resort management and tourism to working in cyber security, cyber threat, intelligence, cloud computing, and software as a service?
This is what’s so crazy about it, particularly for people in the outdoor industry, they’re going to just flip on their head. So I was in Pittsburgh. I have a resort management tourism degree. I switched from a Special Ed degree because I just was like, I got to get a good degree and get out of school. I’ll do whatever I got to do, but maybe the outdoor industry sounds fun. I could work off hours, et cetera, and cool. And I could sell if I wanted to, blah, blah, blah. So I get this degree. I have to do an internship. Well, everybody’s doing these internships down in Florida at these resorts. I’m like, and I don’t want to be around this stuff. I want to be outside. So I started looking out West. I got a couple offers, one up in Oregon, one at Keystone, and lo and behold, I found one in Park City. So I went and did an internship for the Marriott. In Park City and I helped with the rec program.
Well, the day I showed up, my manager quit, and they said, you can help with the rec program. I’ll help. You know, I’m like this guy making 300 stipend a month. As I’m moving out, I’m trying to find a place to live. So I pack up my little Chevy Celebrity. I lay the passenger seat down. I put all my stuff on it.
So it’s like a big bench, and I throw my sleeping bag up there, and I figure I’ll eat pizza and live out of my car. If I got to do it, I’m glad to do it. You know. Well, on the way out, I had been working at a high-end golf club in Pittsburgh. And a couple of the members found out where I was going. This guy, Dr. Kreps reached out to me and said, Hey, I have this buddy in Park City, he’s got a mother-in-law apartment and I talked to him, and you should connect with him when you get in town. He might have the apartment available. So I drive into town, I go to this guy’s house, Mr. Baker, and Mr. Baker says, you know, Christian, I’m really sorry, but we just, we just got into a rental contract, but there’s another friend of mine down the road. This guy, Peter, that you should connect with because I think he has a mother-in-law. He’s trying to rent.
So driving down the street, this woman comes to the door, her name’s Kathy. Hi, Kathy. How’s it going? You know, Mr. Baker told me to come down. You might have an apartment, and she looks at my car and has a Trango sticker.
If you remember, the old Trango sticker was a desert tower. She goes, you climb? I said, oh yeah, I climb a bunch, you know? And here I am, like a maybe a hard five 11 climber. I’m thinking I was a cool dude and got all my climbing stuff in the car. And she’s like, oh, my husband climbs too. He works for a company called Black Diamond. I said, oh, that’s so cool. I’m thinking in my head, like, man, this guy’s gotta be a sales rep. He’s got a nice house, blah, blah, blah. So she’s like, look, I have this woman who’s inquiring, she’s inquiring about the, the rental. But she’ll probably put it off for the summer. She’s a teacher. Let me talk to her. So she goes to talk to her. I said, all right, I’ll sync up with you later today. So I go to leave, my college roommate calls me and says, Hey, you’ll never believe this. But my girlfriend’s stepbrother lives in Park City. He said, come on over and stay with him. He’s a climber. So I show up, and this guy, Todd, and he says, you can stay with us as long as you need, you know until you can find a place. Okay, cool. We’re chit-chatting, and we’re sitting down at dinner and talking. I said I met this lady, Kathy, and Peter today, and she said he works for Black Diamond, and I’m like excited, you know, and I’m like, man, I really want to get a job, maybe I can get a job or something with him. And he started chuckling, and I said, what? He goes, it’s Peter Metcalf. He’s the CEO of Black Diamond. I’m like, you gotta be kidding me.
You’ve been doing that podcast for a while now, right?
Yeah. So I purchased the podcast from another guy, Greg Keenan. He had been running the podcast for a while, and he was, like most podcasters, an early adopter, and he, you know, he had to build his audience and all that stuff, and he had, you know, he did a lot of hard grunt work doing that, and he created a good name for the podcast. But, you know, unfortunately, along the way, when you don’t have much to offer other than hopes and prayers that the podcast is going to grow, people don’t want to pay for advertisement because they’re not getting the clicks or the, the impressions or whatever it might be. So he was giving away his product for so long, and it’s the fly fishing industry. So it’s small. And when he started to gather an audience and was going back, they were like, Hey man, you are, you were always giving it to me free. And I think he struggled with being able to monetize the podcast so that he could keep it sustainable.
I have another social media site called dupe a fish, D U P E, like trick a fish.
And we’ve been in the process of developing a platform that is like a payment processor for guides and lodging services and has some other benefits, et cetera, but a different model than most. And I thought I could use that podcast to market that business. And so I did. I ended up making the purchase, which was a year and a half, maybe two years ago.
You were diagnosed with Stage Four Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I can’t imagine the recovery must have been devastating.
Yeah, so the best way to describe it is my left lung. If you have a nice healthy lung, it’s like, it’s like a bunch of grapes. They’re all juicy and, but they’re empty, and what they do is they collapse like little balloons, and they open up, and it’s this real fruitful and just healthy environment.
So imagine those grapes being so soft that when you squeeze them, none of the juice comes out, but they deflate. But as soon as you let go, they just open back up and look like beautiful grapes again. Well, my lung, all those grapes, imagine that they got frozen and covered in expandable foam. So they don’t work.
So it’s just scar tissue in there. And what that does is a couple of things. One, it doesn’t allow your chest to expand and contract like it normally would. So your body shape changes. My right lung has expanded a little bit more into my diaphragm. So it’s harder to breathe if I bend over and compress my diaphragm.
You have some pretty amazing entrepreneurial skills. Where do you get those?
Well, I appreciate that. That’s very kind of you to say. I think it comes from a couple of areas. I always felt like I wanted to be an entrepreneur at a very young age. I wanted to be an explorer. And I think being an entrepreneur is a lot like exploration. Jacques Cousteau was my, you know, guy. I thought that guy was so cool. And then there were a couple of other elements at a young age that really drove me to that. One was my father was a very conservative guy, and he worked for a guy, and it was a small business, et cetera.
And the guy that he worked for, he mentored me in a lot of ways, but I had a lot of truck time. It was a construction company, and I worked construction and whatnot for the company to make money for school and whatnot. And I remember sitting in the truck with my father, and he was always telling me ‘go to school, get an education, make something for yourself’, don’t be as conservative as I am. You got to take some risks, Christian.
I had an uncle who was a wild and crazy Italian, and he took all kinds of, Insane risks. And he grew up in an era where it was just like, you know, disco mania. He was like my hero. The guy had four Corvettes and like a girlfriend in every state. And I thought he was like the coolest dude on the planet. Big Afro. He was like, Joe, cool. Walked in the room, and the room stopped, you know, and he was an entrepreneur. And my grandfather, owned a radio station. And my uncle took the land.
It was in a rural, very rural area of Pennsylvania. He took the land, and he grew up. He did everything.
I saw all that risk, how he failed a lot of times, but I also saw all the risk in what he got out of it, et cetera, and so, You know, I took a combination of all those things.
Do you have any advice for someone wanting to get into the outdoor industry?
The outdoor industry has changed since I’ve been in it. You can really make a career even at a low level. There’s a lot more opportunity because there aren’t as many giants, I think, in the industry. I can look back and reflect now and go, okay, yeah, there was more opportunity than I thought, but I was so in love with Black Diamond and that climbing, and I didn’t want to move.
I think I know a lot of people still in the industry, and they’re very successful. They make a great income and have made great lives for themselves and their families. So I think that’s not as much of an obstacle as it was. The things that I would say are niche down, become an expert. Become an absolute expert in a niche environment, and you will be rewarded, and that goes for anything in business.
How about a couple of your favorite books?
Well, there’s, there’s a couple, there’s one book, it’s by Seth Godin called The Dip. This is more of a business book, and the concept of The Dip is, you know when you’re climbing as an individual in your career path. A lot of people think of it as a linear line, this like line at a 45 degree angle or whatever angle it may be.
But the reality is that line goes up, and then it dips below its point. But then after the dip, it usually gains an incremental amount more so than you would if you would have continued in a static line. And Seth’s concept on that is, look, sometimes, and in most cases, you will gain a certain stature or knowledge or whatever it may be in the point of your career.
Take the dip. Go do something else that’s going to add value that you have calculated value that you know you’re going to exceed where that point is or was going to be. And you’ll see incremental growth. So the dip is one of them. The other one from a fly fishing perspective, there is a book by Rick Halfel and Skip Morris.
And I cannot remember the third name (Dave Hughes). There are three guys, and it’s called Seasons for Trout. And what I love about it is these three guys. They all have different backgrounds. One’s like a biologist, one’s like an angler, and another guy has some kind of other fishery degree or something like that.
They’re all great anglers, very well-known names. They’ve written several books, but what they do in this book is they go season by season, and they talk about the different hatches in each season, but each one of them gives their perspective on how they fish it and what their Tactical, technical, and observational standpoints are.
And then the last one would be more entertaining, and that is, Oh, what is the book called? Pirate Latitudes. I just love, they go through the history of the Caribbean and the, the transportation of people from Europe to Louisiana and the whole people trading and, and then this, this commerce aspect and Crichton is like, you know, brilliant when it comes to describing detail, describes the details, but then he goes into.
Did you come up with that piece of gear yet? Yeah. I think the piece of gear I relish probably the most would be my Buff. It is something that has just saved my tail over and over again from a standpoint of, you know, I get sensitive to the sun because of some of the drugs that I’m on for my long-term healthcare.
And then also just keeping out of the bugs, wet it down, and cool yourself off. So, dollar for dollar man, whatever it was originally like that that’s one of my favorite pieces of gear. The other I would say is, you know, I’ve always appreciated having just a really comfortable backpack of all the things I’ve had.
As we wrap up is there anything else you’d like to say to our listeners or ask of our listeners?
I would say don’t get too enamored with the names in the industry. They’re people, and they’re some of the most real people you’ll meet.
If you guys ever want to reach out to me, need some help or advice, you can reach me on LinkedIn. It’s Christian Bacasa B A C A S A. Or you can go to the Fly Fishing Insider Podcast, DM me on Instagram, D U P E A fish, like trick-a-fish. You can DM me there, et cetera. So it’s not hard to find me.