Living off the land

Samantha P. Hawthorne


Chester resident Geoff Foss demonstrates how to tie basic flies. To follow this “simple” method, you will need a fly-tying vice, bobbin and bobbin threader, one pair of scissors, and hackle pliers. This mosquito fly is made using moose hair, teal flank feathers, goose feathers and hackle. Photo by Samantha P. Hawthorne

  Being raised in a rural area surrounded by wildlife and lacking the luxuries of a big city comes with its challenges. For Chester resident Geoff Foss, however, these challenges are more like blessings.

  Foss, 24, was born and raised in Chester. He spent his youth outdoors, and was taught at a very young age how to hunt and fish.

  The older Foss got, the more intrigued he became with hunting, fishing and the outdoors in general.

  Throughout the years, those skills have shaped Foss into a self-sufficient young man who strives to live off the land.

  “It is nice to know that if the market goes dry, I would have no problem surviving. I could make myself survive if I had to,” said Foss.

Sustainable living

  When Foss was a teenager, he decided he wanted to live a more sustainable lifestyle, so he started teaching himself how to tie a fly, to use when fly-fishing.

  Learning this skill meant he no longer had to purchase pre-made flies from the store.

“If you’re going to get into sustainable living, get into it to conserve life, not to exploit it.” Geoff Foss, Owner, Feather River Trapping

  He was 14 when he first learned the art of fly-tying. He said it took him about four years until he considered himself “a good fly-tier.”

  When he was 20, he started using the pelts of animals caught during his hunting trips to create the flies. He said the oils in the animal fur help flies float more naturally.

  He took notice that many hunters only used the animal meat and threw out the pelts. “I thought it was a waste,” he said, “but I learned the only way to make the most of the entire animal is to obtain a trapping license.”

  With the idea of being able to avoid waste while making some extra money, Foss obtained his trapping license through the California Department of Fish and Game and started his own trapping business, called Feather River Trapping.

  Some other uses Foss has found for the pelts include creating wall art and pillows. By coming up with different purposes for the animal fur, he has been able to take another step toward sustainable and conservative living.

  “I would love to be completely sustainable, but I’m not,” said Foss. His degree of sustainable living depends on how much the fish are biting and what season it is.

  Foss has found that winter in the Lake Almanor Basin is the perfect time for sustainable living.

  He avoids winter struggles by putting aside money he makes throughout the year and hunting for his food instead of buying it in the market. Doing this has saved him “tons of money.”

  “In the winter, when people are barely surviving off of unemployment, I can go out and catch my food,” he said.

  Foss said that he enjoys wild game “more than any other food on the planet.”

  Being able to fish year-round has also proved advantageous for Foss. “After years of learning and studying I have figured out where the fish are swimming, and when. I usually can go out any time of the year and catch fish,” he said.

  One of the best times to fish on Lake Almanor is after July 4 when the Hexagenia fly (the Hex fly) starts to hatch. Once hatched, they attract big trout and bass, and make for easy fishing. According to Foss, Lake Almanor is famous for these flies.

  When out on the lake, he carries a notepad with him so he can record the patterns of the fish. He currently has three years of documentation on his fishing trips.

  “You never give up and you never stop learning, especially in an area like Lake Almanor where there are so many different types of species,” said Foss.

  Aside from reducing the strain on his wallet, living off the land has also helped reduce the size of his waist.

  While he was living in Chico attending college, Foss gained 75 pounds by eating out at fast food restaurants.

  After moving back home and returning to a more natural diet, he lost all the excess weight caused by his college binge.

  “There are all sorts of medical issues going on with people who are eating all this hormone adjusted food. The meat I eat is all natural,” Foss commented.

  When changing your habits, there will always be challenges and struggles. “It was a learning process,” said Foss. He had to learn to adapt to a healthy lifestyle. “Over the years, I have faced less and less challenges, and I feel that my life is a lot easier having gone through struggles.”

Respect for the land

  Foss does not believe in fishing and hunting simply for the sport of it. When he fishes, he keeps only enough so he can “eat and be happy about it.”

  He pointed out that when people go out just to catch fish, and not to eat it, they ruin the fish population.

  “I believe in conservation, and promoting success for the animal population,” he said. “It is not about who can catch the most fish, it’s about respecting your surroundings.

  “Everything around here is yours. If you do not take care of it and work to promote the success of the population, things will just dwindle to nothing.

  “If you’re going to get into sustainable living, get into it to conserve life, not to exploit it.

  “Do it because it is something you want to do and want your kids to do, because you enjoy it.

  “The only way to really enjoy living off the land is if you take care of the land. Have a conscious thought of what is going on in your nature, your woods,” said Foss.

  Growing up in the Basin has given Foss an appreciation of his surroundings that someone from out of the area would be unlikely to have.

  “I can take someone who is just visiting and show them exactly what I am doing and they will never catch a fish. It takes more than knowing what to do; it is the experience of getting out there and doing it.”


Simplifying his life

  Unlike many who grow up in this technology-advancing decade, Foss has never been one to waste his time playing video games and sitting inside all day.

  “I would much rather be standing in a freezing cold river with my fishing pole than wasting my time indoors,” said Foss.

  When he is not working or crafting, he is either in the woods hunting, standing in the lake fishing or, like many other men, watching football.

  He admitted to having a Facebook account like most people his age do, but said he only uses it to keep in touch with distant friends.

  Foss has not given in to the hype of smartphones and still owns a flip phone, which carries all the function he needs in a phone.

  Avoiding the temptations of living in the 21st century has allowed him a more simple life, and has helped prepare him for living without the availability of such luxuries, if ever the time comes.

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