Feature: Dallas Voss, Motherhood, and Guiding

Dallas Voss Kenai Mothers on the water

With Mother's Day fast approaching, it brought our minds to some of our favorite ladies in the business, and how deserving they are of recognition for how well they balance motherhood with their busy fishing lives. This week we spoke with Dallas Voss, co-owner of Explore Kenai, about how she's able to stay sane while mothering two little ones and running a successful tourism company on the Kenai Peninsula. Read below for our interview (and for some great photos of the Voss family on the water!)
Dallas and her caribou from her first big game hunt
(while 9 weeks pregnant with baby Blake)

What made you want to become a fishing guide/small business owner/all around queen of multitasking?

As a child growing up in Kenai, I was always around fishing, in one way or another. My parents continuously took us fishing for salmon and halibut and even owned a oyster farm at one point.  Additionally, as a teen, I worked for the Inlet Salmon cannery on the docks and in their office and even did summer work for Alaska Department of Fish & Game. These experiences helped give me a grasp for what the Kenai Peninsula had to offer, but it wasn’t until I met my husband, Dustin, that I was introduced to fly fishing.
When Dustin and I got engaged and I moved back to the peninsula, we started brainstorming job possibilities. During that time, we were spending Dustin’s days off (he works at the Kenai Fire Department in the off-season), fishing. It only seemed natural that I’d do something in the fishing industry. With my knowledge of the area and fisheries and love for the sport, it seemed like the only option.
Dallas on an average day of guiding; in the early days of pregnancy before she had to switch to wearing her husband's waders

How old are your little ones, and how do you balance their different ages with your busy schedule?

Our son, Blake, just celebrated his second birthday on April 5, while our newest fly fisher-woman, Andrea, was born in January of this year. This season will definitely be the most challenging to date with two at home -- that’s two sleep schedules, two different types of feeding, etc. Luckily for me, in addition to the help from Dustin, my in-laws are a tremendous help. We are very fortunate that they stay with us during the peak of the season to watch the children while we guide. Both of us guiding wouldn’t be possible without them – as not many day cares open at 3 a.m. in the morning - as in zero.

Dallas, fishing with Blake

Do you spend your off days on the water too? How often do the kiddos join?

I’d like to say most of our days off were also on the water, but these days, that’s harder than it used to be. Before kids, zipping up to Cooper Landing to float the Upper, or a quick drive to the Anchor River to chase some steelhead was easy. Now, lining up childcare or bringing a child under two years old with, both have their challenges. To date, Blake was given the opportunity to earn his river time in June of last year – he was 14 months old – and he chose to spend the float throwing items into the river. It was an easy decision for us to wait until this season for him to get a second chance on the boat. While he wasn’t successful in the boat, he has done well in a backpack carrier and even a chest carrier. We’ve been able to wade the Kasilof River and Deep Creek, and even land fish with him in tow.

Did you always know you'd be balancing family life with seasonal fishing?

In the beginning, no. When we started Explore Kenai, we had envisioned it to be more of a booking operation - booking for other charters/guides and taking a commission. But as it evolved, we realized it would be more profitable if I was to guide myself in addition to bookings. With help from fellow guides Corey Hetrick, Eric Loomis, Kasey Loomis and others, I went from a sport fisherman to a guide relatively fast, and have been enjoying it every day since. Once we knew that both myself and Dustin were both going to be guiding, we reached out to his parents. They jumped at the chance to by full-time babysitters in the Alaskan summer.

What's the hardest thing about balancing motherhood with running your business?

For me, breastfeeding was something that I wanted to be successful at for both children. Breastfeeding is challenging to say the least - not to mention when your office is on a boat, away from your baby. To accomplish this, I did a lot of research while I was pregnant with Blake and came up with the idea of purchasing cordless breast pumps. Fortunately, for me, there were a couple of options on the market and I ended up going with a Willow pump. For those not familiar, the Willow pump goes directly into your bra and pumps the milk directly into bags. While it was a expensive option, it was a life saver. After an awkward conversation with my clients - all of whom were very understanding - I’d discreetly insert the pumps under my fishing gear during our lunch break. The bags would then get placed in a cooler until I got home. I’m luckily to have had this option, as I’ve heard stories from other female guides and struggles they went through for nursing. 

What's the best thing about being a guide and a mom? Do you think it's any different from balancing a different type of career with motherhood?

For me, the best thing about my profession is time off. I’m only actively guiding three months a year, giving me ample time to be at home with the kids. Work during the other nine months is relatively light, with me working from home on my website, bookings and marketing. Dustin and I are both extremely excited to continue to grow our business and maybe one day the kids will want to be a part of it. At the very least, if they had a passion for fly fishing and being on the water, we’d be even more blessed.

The Voss family


Learn more about Dallas and Dustin's business, Explore Kenai, here!

All photos courtesy Dallas Voss, Explore Kenai

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