The start of the season. The river waking up…slowly. The sun rises earlier each day. Enticing me out of bed and towards the river. It’s a time of the season I take my time with and enjoy now. I’m a little more seasoned, a little more developed. My younger self would have been fishing everyday, hard. Trying to stick every single trout I could. Cursing the river for being unproductive…blaming fish for not eating. I still do it…but not as much.
These days…I wait…I observe….and I have learned some things about fly fishing over the years. Especially after years of picky AF Yakima River trout.
Don’t cast to the fish…unless it’s gonna eat the fly. Sounds stupid, but how many times have you beat the water with your rig trying to force feed that fish you know is in there? Ya..I still catch myself doing it…”EAT YOUR FOOD FISH!!!” But if you know the trout is in there…why not wait until you know its eating…before you cast at it. Sure it may come out of its hidey hole and eat your fly just by throwing flies at it…it may not…but being able to damn near guarantee it…that’s angling for me. Figuring out the best most opportune time to cast to the trout. It’s one the key factors for guide season, when I can do my job effectively…put people on trout. I don’t want to guide anglers unless I can give them the best opportunity at tricking a trout with a fly.
Because guiding is two parts for me. Its about people…being able to enjoy a day riverside with individuals and share and experience fly fishing and all that it entails. But its also angling. You can’t consider yourself a professional if you don’t take the time to learn and hone the craft. Like an athlete or musician, practice, study, rehearse, perform. Or something along those lines. Each guide day is a performance for me…I treat it like a gig, being a former musician. I practice, I rehearse, I experiment and try new techniques and tactics I have learned and studied over the off season. I also work on how to teach and demonstrate those things to various angler skill levels, learning styles, and people in general. So that when it comes time for me to do my job…I am covered on the fishing end. I don’t have to think about it…I just do it. Casting…reading the water, rowing a line, playing and landing fish. It all gets practiced and rehearsed as the river wakes up in the early season. I have come to a point in my angling development and my guiding business where I understand the importance of that process, and what it does for my abilities and my business. Gotta get my body, and my mind into shape. Because guiding is a lot different than just fishing. Especially when you strive for professionalism and excellence while also having a wicked awesome time.
In the early season this process has become what I like to call…The Chase. I love to chase these wild animals up and down this river. In my early angling I just wanted to catch fish. Proving to myself, the trout, the river, my mentors, the people who gave me a hard time as I came up through fly fishing, all that…a young angler thinking he had something to prove. If you stick with this activity you grow out of that. These days its about being effective, efficient, in that interaction between the trout and me. As the guide season starts it becomes about the interaction between trout, clients, and me. A constant test of my abilities to break down and fly fish rivers for trout and relaying that world to anglers. Its freaking sweet and can definitely be frustrating…but that’s fishing baby. The was she goes.
The Chase for me is about finding that sweet spot where you are in tune with the river. Like matching pitch I am the tuning fork for the anglers in my boat. I have to be able to keep my anglers on pitch and on rhythm. The river sings a song, and we play along. Finding that juicy level of insight is half the fun for me. Where are the fish, what are they doing, why, when will bugs move, what bugs, why, flows, weather, reading, searching, hunting…Chasing. Mmmm…the stuff I live for and what I have come to learn, is what clients want. They want to be in tune…it helps them understand the river and angling better, which makes them more successful when I am not around. It’s not just about being able to put people on fish, its about sharing all the aspects of fly fishing. I want a successful day for clients with me and when they go out on their own. So it has to be more than just putting people on fish. Besides it makes the job more fun.
I spent the past two weeks fishing a handful of days trying to figure out where the river is at. Its still early. Water temps are slow, bugs aren’t moving, and fish are still sleepy. But a year like this it comes on quick. All of the sudden it will be on. But it takes its time and after waiting all winter…another 10-20 days feels like a lifetime. The patience pays off though. What guide doesn’t like to call fish to the fly…taking my time and chasing these trout makes that a whole lot easier.
Plus…I need to fish. I haven’t spent any real time fishing since October. Coming off the bench with no warm up isn’t how I roll. So I fish. Yes it is slow right now, but its a perfect time to practice, put some miles on the wading boots by hiking around the woods and rivers. Only fishing when the window is prime. Mid and late afternoon still. Working on my casts, presentations, sometimes with dries even though they won’t eat. Practice tracking the fly, reading how it will ride, anticipating where fish might eat later on. Estimating flow changes and how it will effect things. Angles and casting lines for clients from the boat and on foot. Approach methods, types of casts to use, types of drifts to look for. It’s all gotta be practiced. And frankly its a really enjoyable part of this guiding business that I don’t take for granted.
So if you see me riverside over the next 3 weeks…that’s what I am doing. Getting my shit ready. I will keep everyone posted on what the river is up to along the way. Gonna hit the river again tomorrow and do a report. Hope to see ya riverside.