Guide Life is one of those hashtags that get thrown around a lot. Some of us live it, some us envy those who are living it, and some of us strive to find a guide life of our own. I set out on this journey in 2010.
I started out by using my college training to learn everything I could about the fly fishing industry. I even aced a big final project in one of my business classes where I built a mock small fly fishing business and projected it out 5 and 10 years. I used it later as the basis for building my own business. I started working at a local fly shop with the intention of learning the fly fishing industry from the ground up.
I learned the ins and outs, inventory management, buying and selling product, worked with reps, did online sales, rebuilt a website and database, and learned how to take reservations, and went through guide training and professional level instruction in all things fly fishing.
I then got the opportunity to try guiding and running a store of my own. It didn’t go so well as some businesses do. A huge humbling, learning experience that also solidified in me that I wanted to be a guide…and just a guide. The day to day of a shop, running a business, employees, inventory, it all clogged up what I really wanted to be doing…sharing the outdoors with others.
When I came back to fly fishing I came back on my own. Just me and my boat. I could work as much as I wanted. As long as the family is taken care of I can chase my dream of being a full time fly fishing guide. It’s been work…and it’s had its ups and downs…but it’s been all good. Part of this guiding gig is learning to roll with what the river gives you. That transfers over to the rest of life the more you go further and further down the river into this guide life. At least for me.
The past 4 seasons have been amazing. I’ve loved every minute of it. But it’s not enough…as an angler, a business owner, and a guide…the Yakima was never the end all, be all for me. I always had plans to expand my guiding to new water, different species, and new experiences. I’ve dabbled in a few things, Alaska, steelhead, some Bass. But it’s more than just fish for me. I want new experiences, for myself and for clients. I want to see, hear, smell, taste, and be surrounded by new cultures, new peoples, new places, and new fish…and what better way to seek out those things…than through fly fishing. Fly fishing transcends all the bullshit of the world and brings anglers together around the shared experience of angling for fish with fly and rod. It sounds silly to some but it’s true. Fly fishing can be so much more if you let it. Guiding for me is 80% people and 20% fishing. If you can’t be around people, show them a good time, share and help them experience fly fishing in a fun enjoyable and memorable way…your doing the job wrong…at least that’s how I see it.
My guide life is growing this season. A lot has changed. I’ve moved away from the homewater, but have made my operation mobile and more cost effective and profit efficient. Now that we are homesteading and living with other people I have the ability to travel more, we have less expenses going out, and I know that my family is settled and secure while I continue my career as a guide.
My wife and I have patiently been working towards this for years. Since our youngest was born. We’ve been wanting to move our family back to a more homestead style life and having the opportunity to go back to homesteading and off grid has also given me the opportunity to take the next step in my guiding.
So what does my guide life look like.
First off, I need to be mobile. Living on the homewater just isn’t feasible for what we want for our family. Plus the Yakima is good from June to October. The past 4 seasons have also solidified in me that the Yakima is not an early season fishery for guiding. I can make more money chasing other species during the spring and early summer months. It’s business, it’s not that I don’t enjoy spring fishing on the Yak, but from a business perspective it’s just not really cost effective or easy to sell. And the off season just doesn’t have anything going on for a trout bum here…and I gave steelhead a try…not for me. I don’t like the cold as I get older…and I don’t like wearing waders…or pants for that matter. No I have my eyes set south. So mobile is a necessity, because Texas, Louisiana, and Florida are a long drive and I don’t like planes and you can’t pull a boat with a plane.
But there is the problem of hauling a boat. It’s also a big necessity for guiding. I’ve got a great drift boat, and she’s ready to roll for trout. I’m also looking at a skiff that can work down south and up here for freshwater warm water species like bass and pike. Where I live now has a lot more options for other species in the spring and early summer so a new boat is in the works for next year. Mmmm…new boat.
But where the hell are you gonna sleep dude? Well, my lovely lady steered me in the right direction, like she typically does. A roof top tent or RTT. It’s a thing, it’s basically a heavy duty tent that is mounted on the top of your rig. It’s pretty sweet, spacious, and I can literally shack up anywhere. Campgrounds, take outs, side of the road, rest stops, riverside…it’s as mobile as I can get while still being able to haul a boat.
The other stuff, hygiene, food, and that, a portable hot water shower, a pull out kitchenette in the rig, a table to tie flies on that fits in the tent, jet boil and propane camp stove, a goal zero power kit, it’s all a traveling fly fishing guide needs. When I guide the yak I typically work up to 2 weeks straight before I have or take a day or 3 off. So being able to make the 3 1/2 hour jaunt across the state back to the homestead isn’t that bad. And video chatting with the kids and wife when I’m riverside isn’t that bad either.
I crave the solitude to be honest. It’s a part of me that I discovered when I started spending more time out in the woods, on mountains, and knee deep in rivers. The time in between guide days are super trout bummy right now. I am literally sitting in the Teanaway campground right now finishing this blog. Got some chicken and rice cooking, the RTT is opened up and has the fly tying stuff in it. I’m just chilling next to the boat in the campground, I even took a shower, damn near burnt myself with my new portable shower rig. I’ll do this routine through the 15th then head back to the homestead for a few days then come back and live out of the guide rig and boat for another week or two. It’s pretty sweet, you can be envious, it’s something I’ve been working towards and it hasn’t been an easy journey but it’s my journey. This is my guide life, leaving the family, living on the river for weeks at a time. The solitude, the fish, the scenery, the wildlife, the people, the water and river…it’s life…and I am surrounded by it all just living that Guide Life.
Come take a trip with me and get a taste of it.