Flylords got to meet Eeland Stribling, a wildlife biologist and educator, talented comedian, and cookie lover based in the Denver area. Eeland shared his passions for conservation and comedy, the importance of outdoor education for future conservation efforts, and the best cookies in Fort Collins. Check out his thoughts below!
Flylords: Tell us about yourself and your introduction to fishing
Eeland: I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, and grew up fishing with my grandfather, using traditional gear. I was named after the Eeland, a large African antelope. My grandfather was a wildlife biologist and he loved the name Eeland. My grandfather and I would wake up at three or four in the morning and listen to the blues on the way to the Lake. We would get out there before the sun rose and cast and then just sit and wait all day. I thought it was the most boring waste of time. I just wanted to go play in the water and run around and look at the trees, but he would tell me, “just sit there and wait for your bobber to go down.”
When I graduated high school I went to Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Starting off, I wanted to be a veterinarian because I loved animals and the outdoors, but I later realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I switched my major to wildlife biology and conservation. My freshman year of college I took a fly tying class one Saturday morning per month. It was taught by a guy named Eugene Decker. What’s kind of crazy is my grandfather also went to CSU in Fort Collins, and Eugene Decker was my grandfather’s academic advisor.
I learned to tie flies first and spent a couple of weeks tying flies, and then one day we went out to this pond to go cast all the flies we tied. I saw these big fish, which I know now were carp, cruising the banks of this little pond. I spent all day just trying to get them—I had a few chases, and all I could think about was trying to get those carp on the fly. After that, I got my own Cabella’s starter kit with the rod, the reel, the line, and the flies.
Flylords: Were you always set on a career centered around the outdoors?
Eeland: As long as I can remember, my gramps and I would watch Animal Planet, National Geographic, and PBS shows—anything that had to do with birds, wildlife, fish, insects, or nature and ecosystems. From a very young age, I was enamored with and curious about natural resources and the outdoors. I thought, “Oh, I want to save all the animals, so I’ll become a veterinarian.” But that required being in a lab or a vet office and dealing with small animals, or working with cattle, horses, sheep, and swine. Those things are important and cool to some people, but that’s not what I wanted to do. So luckily I found the college of natural resources and was able to sneak away.
Flylords: Were any courses or professors especially impactful for your life?
Eeland: I had a professor who wasn’t a wildlife bio professor, but he was one of the English or writing professors. He taught the class about trying to understand your purpose, what you think you’re good at, and how you can add value to the world. That class pushed me to be more aggressive with outdoor education, natural resources, and conservation. I think his name was Walter, and Mr. Walter was instrumental in helping me find my purpose, understand what I’m good at, and not waste as much time on stuff I’m not good at.
The first class I took [for my major] was Intro to Wildlife. One day, one of my professors, Ann Randall, brought in an owl and an eagle to show the class. I was like, “You can do that? You can just have wild birds and get people’s attention and create [concern] for those animals?”
Flylords: What made you decide to become an educator?
Eeland: No one in my family was an outdoors person besides my gramps, so I never had exposure to many recreational activities. I think if I’d had that exposure early I could have been fishing younger or could have gotten into climbing. And so, when I was in college, and a minority in a class of a thousand students, I was like, “I think it would be cool to be able to teach people who look like me or people who have never had the opportunity to enjoy nature and wildlife.” When I realized I wanted to become a wildlife biologist, I also realized that I thought it was important to go out and tell people, “Save the freaking planet—do your best to conserve water and protect trees, and don’t squish that spider cause it may be helping you. And then the outdoors and natural resources belong to everyone, so invite everyone you can and make sure it’s an equal opportunity space for people—even if they don’t want to become anglers or hunters, but just want to be outside.”
Flylords: What outdoor education work are you doing now?
Eeland: Right now I have two jobs. I work for Lincoln Hills Cares. Lincoln Hills was a place here in Colorado that was a historically black vacation place. It was the only vacation place for middle-class black families West of the Mississippi. People would come to Five Points here in Denver for a jazz arts festival and then they would go up to the mountains and go fishing, camping, hiking, and backpacking. Now it’s turned into sort of a fly fishing club, but we also use it as an education space. We bring students up who are in different organizations like the Boys and Girls Club or their local neighborhood volunteer club or the YMCA. We teach them about ecology, how to track animals, how to build shelters, how to fish, how to do archery, etc.
At my other job, I’m an educator for the Butterfly Pavilion. Before COVID we would go to schools and take small exhibits, and just teach kids about ecology and run different games. For example, they can learn about predator and prey relationships. Both of my jobs currently are geared towards education for kids.
Flylords: How has your work adapted to COVID constraints?
Eeland: For Lincoln Hills Cares there was no virtual classroom, but because we’re secluded in the mountains we’re allowing smaller groups of guests or students to come. We usually have around 40 students, but during COVID the most we have per day is like 15 students. So we had to scale down the sizes, but I think it was still a great year and a great summer because it became more personal and kids felt a little bit less pressure if they wanted to ask questions or were curious. Smaller groups made it easier to answer kids’ questions and spark a little bit more joy.
Butterfly Pavilion created a bunch of virtual learning atmospheres. So you can go onto their website and follow the metamorphosis of a butterfly or a moth, which I thought was really cool. And then I think there are a few projects kids can do at home.
Flylords: What is the most meaningful part of being an educator?
Eeland: Probably the potential. I like to think of kids, especially in elementary and middle school, and even high school, as this fertilized soil that can blossom. In my lifetime, not everything is going to be fixed, but we could plant a seed for a kid who’s gonna figure out some solution or figure out some way to help animals and help ourselves in return. I hope to give one kid the opportunity or the chance to do something they enjoy, enjoy the outdoors, and inspire someone to do better than what has been done in the past.
Flylords: How did you get into stand up comedy?
Eeland: I’ve always had an admiration and a soft spot for comedians. When Katt Williams came out with one of his standup specials called American Hustle, I remember being over at my best friend’s house and my friend had left it playing. I remember sitting there in the dark, just watching Katt Williams tell jokes to a theater full of people. Even though I was younger and didn’t get all the jokes, I remember thinking it was such a cool thing to see and think about and, and to be able to do.
After that, I had a desire to do standup. In college, I had written a bunch of jokes, and I even told people I was a comedian before I started doing stand up. Over MLK weekend in 2018, I thought, “Well, if I’m funny and people like it, then I will have succeeded, and if they didn’t, no one’s going to ever know who I am and I’ll continue to live the life I’m living.” So I just did it. The first time went really, really well, and then the next 50 times it was the worst experience I’ve ever had. My first show, having people laugh, I was like, “Wow, they’re laughing at stuff that I made up in my head.” And then the next time I thought, “Well, why aren’t they laughing anymore?” And so it was this puzzle piece sort of thing. For me, it’s very addicting to have strangers laugh at me and with me.
Flylords: Where do you draw your material from for shows?
Eeland: It’s from everyday things, like having a conversation with friends and maybe they say something and I’m like, “that’s funny.” Or maybe I say something and they all laugh. Sometimes, on my way to shows, I’ll have a thought I think I can make work, and then I’ll just go up there and start talking about it. I like to just say stuff and then kind of write it down and hash it out after that.
The better jokes are when I sit down and I’m like, “How can I make this funny?” I would say a majority of my standup is either true thoughts or actions or stories that have happened to me. And then sometimes it’s just how I’m feeling. Really, I kind of just throw material against the wall and see what sticks. Then I hash out what sticks and hammer it out into a good joke.
Flylords: What goals do you have for your standup career?
Eeland: Of course I would like to be the greatest comedian of all time. I love getting paid for telling jokes. But I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoy getting up on stage and telling jokes, and so it’s something I’m never, ever, ever going to stop doing. I want to be able to sell out a theater and people are like, “Oh man, I love you, you’re such a good comedian,” but I also want to be able to go out to the street and no one knows who I am. I want to be a really good comedian and be able to do comedy all over, but also want to just be a normal person.
My main goal is to help the environment and help people learn and care about the environment. That’s my number one priority in life. Comedy is something that has allowed me to meet new people to help me with that goal or be able to speak in front of audiences who wouldn’t normally listen to my stories and perspective on things. So I see stand up as helping me push my purpose of protecting nature and getting people to care about it.
Flylords: Who are some of your favorite comedians?
Eeland: My top comedian right now is Dave Chappelle, who’s the greatest comedian of all time. I also like a comedian named Patrice O’Neal, who passed away in 2011. I’ve watched and listened to his specials, and he has this fearlessness of saying what he wants to say. There’s a comedian named Chad Daniels whose last three albums I can recite because I listened to them every day. I met him and he was an extremely nice guy. I also love Bill Burr, Jackie Kashian, and Baron Vaughn. If any of those people said, “Hey, you’re funny,” I would just stop doing comedy because I would have reached my goal.
Flylords: Why do you think that comedy and comedic performance are important?
Eeland: I think it’s the last place of real free speech. It’s wild and it’s unexpected, and you can have one thing said with many different perspectives about it. It’s silly and it shouldn’t be taken seriously. It’s pure fun and pure, free speech. At the same time, I think if you’re going to say something offensive, it should be funny. If it’s not funny, then you have to deal with the consequences of that. If you say something hurtful or inciting hate, then you’ll have to deal with that.
Flylords: What advice would you give to people who are just starting out in comedy?
Eeland: You have to have courage. When I went on stage and got off the first time, it felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. The next week I went back, and even though it didn’t go so well, I was like, “I still have a love for this.” The hardest part is getting up there the first time. Go up there with your three or four minutes of whatever you want to talk about, have fun, and then just hang in there.
That’s the easy way to start anything. I connect fly fishing and comedy a lot. If you just go out and fish to have fun, then you’re going to have a lot more fun than some others going out there trying to get cool Instagram pictures, or trying to catch a hog. If you enjoy it, then you’re going to have fun and it’s going to turn out pretty well. Starting out, fishing or comedy may seem daunting. Of course, there’s a learning curve with everything that you’re going to do, but just start, and if you’re having fun, then just have fun. I know with Instagram and social media you see comics and they’re getting big laughs or you see people with huge fish, but they also just started. You just have to start—throw out a joke and see if a fish bites it.
Flylords: Who do you want Flylords readers to know about?
Eeland: An organization I work closely with is Brown Folks Fishing (website, Instagram). Our mission is to create a space for people of color to feel comfortable in the outdoors, especially in fishing and fly fishing, as well as to hold companies and organizations accountable—to say “there are all types of people out here fishing.” People should have a more open representation of that. Brown Folks Fishing is an organization that has majorly contributed not only to my angling life but to my personal life.
My favorite fly shop in the world is St. Peter’s Fly Shop in Fort Collins, Colorado. Connor Murphy is a fish God to me. He is very, very talented, and one of the nicest people. He doesn’t care if you’ve been fishing for two minutes or 20 years—he’s very helpful and knowledgeable.
I also love Mary’s Mountain Cookies. They supported me when I was in Fort Collins and doing shows and I will always send people to them. I love cookies—they’re my one sweet tooth sort of thing. My favorite is their snickerdoodle, and the cookies are the size of a small plate. It is a religious experience.
To check out Eeland’s comedy in person, you can watch him host Jackie Kashian at the Comedy Fort in Fort Collins, CO on February 26th and 27th. He will also be performing in Denver, CO on January 15. You can check out Eeland’s Instagram for updates on venue locations for upcoming shows. To watch his comedy from home, check out his Instagram videos and the clip below.