Davide Barbieri, Tech Entrepreneur, Consultant & Ex-Google on Fly Fishing

I started fly fishing when I was roughly 13-years old. I used to go fishing with standard techniques, but one day, a relative of mine showed me this ‘art’ of fishing and I fell in love immediately. What intrigued me was how ancient this type of fishing was, how respectful it was for nature, the actual philosophy behind it, and the sheer level of difficulty compared to other techniques.

My name is Davide Barbieri, and I’ve been working 16 years in the Tech industry. I have worked for over 10 years at Google, by the European HQs in Dublin, Ireland. I’m currently the co-founder of Stroll, a travel tech company; I am also a business and marketing consultant at Trispike, focusing on small and medium businesses.

The biggest chunk of my professional career was at Google. I’ve led sales teams and have become a program manager for consumer product support operations. I decided to change a year ago as I wanted to challenge the skills I’ve learned over the years and own the whole business operations. I’m also very keen on product design and management.

I’m currently based in Ireland, but I’m originally from Italy. My family lives near Lake Como, a scenic area 30 minutes from Milan, right on the border with Switzerland. I came to Dublin in 2008, after I got an offer from Google.

Outside of my job, I love Fly Fishing. The first fish I remember catching was a long time ago! It was on an Alpine lake at 2000 meters above sea level. My equipment was very poor – and my skills even worse – but to my surprise, a beautiful wild trout raised to my fly and I was able to land one of my first fish. I was over the moon!

There are a lot of things that I love about fly fishing. First of all, I love the full immersion in nature. Some of the best fishing spots, for example, are protected by allowing fly fishing only. They are truly stunning ‘postcard’ places with incredible nature. Fly fishing is based on the fish’s predominant diet, which is insects. The goal is to deceive trouts (or other predators) that the imitation of insects you’re showing is a real one. There are thousands of insects to choose from, so the knowledge of water insects in all their stages is crucial.

Secondly, I love the difficulty. Since ‘flies’ are weightless, you need to use a specific technique to cast the lure in the right spot. It’s hard to master, but it’s truly spectacular – especially when it lands in the right spot.

Thirdly, fish can recognize a fake insect very easily, so you only have a fraction of a second to hook a fish that decides to rise to your fly. You need to keep a constant level of focus and concentration on the action itself, so it’s easy to spend hours not thinking about anything else. I’ve realised that it’s like a form of meditation to me; that’s why I feel so relaxed after a few hours of fly fishing. I call it ‘Disneyland for introverts’, as I’m one of them!

Fourthly is respect – fly fishing is challenging, and ‘catch & release’ is the best way to honour the challenge you had with a beautiful fish. I release 90% of the fish I catch. Fly fishing is the only type of fishing that can leave the fish pretty much unharmed; that’s why it’s the only technique allowed in protected fishing reserves.

Fly fishing is an active type of fishing (sometimes you are required to walk into the river or climb on a rock), so everything needs to fit into your vest: flies, lines, and accessories. My favourite rods are a 9ft and 8ft, both made in the UK. The type of rod and reel depends on the actual fishing conditions: river vs lake, size of fish, cast distance, wind, etc.

I have had quite a few memorable catches – in Ireland, I was able to land a beautiful rainbow trout of 70cm (26 inches) weighing over 3 kg. It happened in a lake at the end of summer and it took a ‘battle’ of over 15 minutes. The fish was immediately released afterwards.

Ireland is a fantastic destination for this discipline. There are a lot of options, and the quality of catches is impressive. I fish in rivers in Wicklow and Kildare predominantly, and in private lakes in winter times (when fishing in public waters is not allowed). The Italian Alps are incredible too in terms of scenery and are very challenging.

I do see similarities between my fly fishing and my current jobs. As in everything, experience and practice make it perfect. Patience and practice are important in business as well as in your hobbies. An activity or a role might seem challenging until we put a lot of work into it and show the humility to learn and improve every single day.

Fly fishing has definitely been a benefit to my technological career – it helps me switch off and focus on my inner-self. Life in tech can be extremely fast-paced, so fly fishing helped me slow down and turn my focus towards something completely different. I had a lot of great ideas during some of my fishing sessions.

My advice to anyone interested in fly fishing is to understand the basic techniques, like casting and choosing your flies. Then, I would search for a fly fishing lake and join one of the casting courses. It’s an extremely hard technique to understand and master without the help of an expert (although some people prefer to be self-taught, so YouTube would be the go-to place for them). I would also recommend renting gear to start with so that you can really get a feel for the technique.

There is always more than tech. While working for so long in the tech industry, I’ve met incredibly talented people in their roles, and the vast majority of them have hidden passions and skills that would occupy a good amount of their free time. It’s important to talk about what makes you excited about a sport, a hobby, or any other activity, as you could discover people with the same interests and passions. These activities can create life-lasting bonds.

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