“I’ve always believed you have to work your ass off to build something before settling in to take a break,” April told us. “I’d already decided to take two years to build the business’s foundation while working hard from home and hanging with my kiddo, so really, what better time than during the lockdown?”
Now, she’s quickly growing Anchored into a full online educational platform, with dozens of courses taught by the world’s best outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen—everything from Czech nymphing and fly casting to fish tanning and wilderness survival. In a world that’s quickly losing essential outdoor skills, it’s a genius idea and a platform we can’t wait to explore.
We caught up with April to talk about her new venture, what it’s like to have the Australian wild out your backdoor, and how she’s raising her daughter to be an absolute badass in a princess dress.
Here’s April Vokey.
Moonshine: Have you been in Australia since the pandemic hit?
April Vokey: We were in Canada when the pandemic struck, but my daughter and I were away from my husband and thought it would be better for us to all be together. We actually caught the last plane out before mandatory hotel quarantine kicked in, so we landed and settled in for the long haul. We didn't expect it to be quite this long— I'd like to go home to Canada— but I'm not complaining.
Do you get on the water as much as you do in B.C.?
No, but even if I was in BC right now, I’d still be fishing less. Building Anchored Outdoors is not a part-time job. We've got a few thousand members and it’s getting busier each month. Truthfully, I'd always budgeted two years to focus solely on work and home. I figured when the work was mostly done and my daughter was more interested in playing with friends, then I would start to make more time for myself. I’m almost there.
It’s funny now because to friends and family the hours and output seem crazy, but it’s been like this with every venture. Even when I had my guiding operation, so many people assumed my full-time job was fishing, but it was the exact same thing—work hard, play later. I think it’s an entrepreneur's curse. Even when we try to slow our bodies down, our brains don’t stop, so we may as well just keep running the course. We know in our gut when it’s time to slow down.
Now, that being said, I still spend a ton of time outside fishing, picking mushrooms, and hunting, but it’s not most days of the week like it used to be.
Could you describe the fishing in Australia?
I've been coming back and forth for seven or eight years now and I haven’t even touched just how many fisheries are here. We've got the Snowy Mountains, which is just an absolutely incredible trout fishery, but we also spend a lot of time bass fishing, fishing for kingfish in the salt, offshore fishing for billfish. Don’t get me started about the Murray cod. Oh, and there’s also flats fishing! Oz has great permit fishing, GT’s, barramundi, queenfish, etc. Next week we head up north to this super remote region in the Kimberley. I think the nearest road is over 300 km away. Should be wild!
I think people are mad to skip past Australia and go straight to New Zealand when Australia has got so many incredible and diverse fisheries. Why not do both?
You mentioned taking your daughter fishing. What’s the strategy for taking a three-year-old on these excursions?
Well, it’s mostly that we started taking her early, basically from when she was a month old. I genuinely think she believes fishing and hunting are just regular everyday activities that all families do. The first two years of her life especially were spent outdoors, so when we’d load her up in the backpack and start walking up the river, it was no different to her than getting in a stroller and walking through the neighborhood. When we ask her what she wants to do during the day, she still asks to go fishing. I think she’d fish a puddle if she could.
What’s your advice for parents who are looking to get that exposure for their children?
My advice would be to make sure it feels like it’s not just your thing. For example, she wears a princess dress almost everywhere we go. As long as she’s warm and dry, we don’t care what she wears, but that one small detail makes a big difference to her.
Plus, we try to approach everything as though we’re hunting—not to kill things, but to find them. For example, she loves searching for fish in the water, stalking wild game, poking around for mushrooms, looking for shed antlers. When we go mushroom picking, I walk ahead and plant little jars of chocolate for her to find (she doesn’t know it’s me putting them there). I mean, really, what kid wouldn’t like mushroom hunting if you thought you were constantly on the Easter Bunny’s trail? Again, it’s just that little reminder that she’s still her own self while out with mom and dad. Plus she gets super excited watching how excited I get for her.
If you have kids and didn’t start uber-early? My guess would be to take them in the backyard and have little hunts. Kids have incredible senses and don’t miss much, so a hunt of any kind is usually a success.
Has she thought about a fly rod or is that still pretty far down the road?
Oh, yeah. We started doing that when she was a year and a half [laughs]. She's got a fly rod and she's got waders and she's a good little caster. She's got a couple of toy bows that she shoots every day in a princess dress. The kid cracks me up.
Speaking of teaching outdoor skills, what was the catalyst for Anchored Outdoors?
It was time to take the podcast to the next level. Obviously, with podcasts being mostly audio, I knew I was leaving a lot of knowledge on the table. Listeners would email asking, "How does he or she do that, and what's their method?" So I figured, "Well, let's bring in the video!" At first, I just wanted Anchored Outdoors to bring a lot of my guest’s personal stories to life—which we still do, of course— but many of our members were there to learn. So, we very quickly built up the educational side of the platform.
What's so special about Anchored is that it lets people learn while using all parts of their brains. We call it the “Connect Approach.” We share the instructors’ backstory in the podcast—their past, struggles, successes, and emotions. I’ve found that when students know the backstory of their instructor, it helps many of them during the education process. If nothing else, it makes them feel a closer bond/respect from the person they’re learning from. If they know that Kerry Burkheimer was struggling to make ends meet as a factory worker, but then left it all to dive fully into rod building, they often say, "Well, if he can do it, I can do it."
Everyone learns differently, so we’ve tried to tick all the boxes. We share the instructor’s story via audio so there are fewer distractions, then showcase their skills via video. We deliver it strategically to ensure retention, then connect our students to their instructor through video calls and other live engagements. Once these borders open up again, we’ll be running in-person trips and events to really drive the Connect Approach home.
We saw that you have Bob Clay as an instructor. He makes beautiful fly rods.
Yeah. It's funny. My other podcast, which is a lot newer and trickier to schedule, is called Into the Backing. We pick a controversial subject and debate it as a roundtable of professionals. Our latest episode is about influencers. Sales are a number’s game, so it’s easy to choose your talent by looking at how many eyes are on them.
That's one of the other things that's been really great about Anchored Outdoors. All of our instructors have eyes on them because of how talented they are, not because they have sponsors or understand algorithms. The people you see teaching on my site are there because I believe they’re the best. I think it creates trust with our students because they do know they truly are learning from the best.
Do I make less in sales this way? Probably. But it’s important to remember that the whole purpose of the podcast was to provide a platform for people who deserved to have their voices heard. The videos are simply built on the same foundation the podcast was built on.
Was it also because some of these skills are being lost? There can’t be too many people who are masters as fish tanning.
No, there are very, very few masters in that. You’re talking about Lotta Rahme from Sweden. I'm really into fish tanning and she'd been helping me with some of my own personal fish tanning projects. I figured it’d be a cool skill to capture on film. [Laughs] I totally admit, some of our masterclasses are really, really random. But, if they're there, it's usually because it’s something I'm passionate about and suspect others might be too.
But that’s just the online classes. Our membership itself is a different story. I’ve spent the last year really fine-tuning what works and what doesn’t, so we’ve been working tirelessly to get the new, improved version of the membership off the ground. We’re almost there, so I think I can spill more.
The new membership is focused completely on fishing and is 100 percent result-driven. As a teacher and community person myself, I live to see our members meet their goals. To keep people excited about learning, we’ve developed a system that rewards students with points that are worth money. They are awarded these points every time they complete one of our “challenges.” These range from quizzes and submitted assignments, to masterclass completion and mentorship within our own community. We literally pay our members to help themselves and others become better anglers. The new version should be out any week.
So, now that you’re getting towards the end of your two years, what do you have planned for the future?
I’ve been fishing more and have booked a bunch of upcoming trips. We just went into a stage 4 lockdown here in Sydney, so I’m not sure how much of my calendar is about to be wiped out, so I’m trying to just roll with the punches. They’re saying it could be months before we’re allowed to leave our houses for anything apart from exercise and groceries. It’s hard to really stomach because Australia had things so under control for so long. I’m just happy we’re together as a family and that I can still meet up with members for video tying nights and other sessions.
It sucks, but I plan to just stack these “lost months” into the time I put aside for work. If I’m going to be stuck at home, I may as well put it to good use.
A huge thanks to April for sharing her time and insights with us. Her platform, Anchored Outdoors, has masterclasses for anyone who wants to be a more effective person in the outdoors. Fly-fishing courses include Czech Nymphing with National Champion Clint Goyette, Bamboo Rod Building with Bob Clay, Fly Casting with April Vokey, Chironomid Fishing with Brian Chan, Outdoor Photography with Bryan Gregson, and many more.
To learn more and become a member, head to anchoredoutdoors.com.