I’ve spent a lot more time solo during the season. As my family and I have had some chaos in our lives I’ve been fortunate to be riverside a lot despite being away from my family for extended periods of time.
There are really only two things in my life. Fly fishing and Family. One at which I am really good at and the other I have had to improve upon, evolve, and change for the better. Fly fishing is something that I had to work very hard at to get good at. Like any fly angler that decides to put more into this gig, the world of fly fishing opens up and grows exponentially in the techniques, species, gear, places, people…it just gets bigger and better the more you put into it. I have become very good at fly fishing, and exceptional at tricking a trout with a fly. It is one of the only true skills I have developed and put effort in over my life. I’ll be honest, I have half assed a lot in my life. School, other work, marriage, fatherhood, I skipped out of a lot to chase fish. That is my life, riding that fine line between responsible adult and general trout bum. My wife can attest to it, sometimes she acts like she doesn’t understand it, but she does…better than anyone. At times she is the force, like gravity, that pulls me back towards the other world outside of trout, rivers, and flies. Without her I would be lost in rivers and have little else in my life. She gave me three beautiful and amazing children, and our early adult lives and the young lives of my children have both suffered and prospered due to fly fishing. I am away from them more now, which naturally makes me appreciate and long for them that much more. And moving forward I will be away from them for longer periods of time. Like now, I will not embrace my family again until the they end of trout season.
It’s like the long wait for spring trout fishing…I have this anxious, patience filled period where I must wait until I can see my family again. At times its excruiciating not being able to share my day with my lady. Hear my children’s excited voices when I come home off river, each child asking me about the trout and clients of the day. My 4 year old still learning what it is that daddy does for a living, constantly telling me that my trips are the longest ever. It breaks my heart a bit…more so than losing a battle with any trout. I miss things, like any parent, father or mother, that works away from home for a living, there are times when I am only getting glimpses of that part of my life. And my family only gets glimpses of the other part of my life. It all makes me work harder, it is what fuels me, where my energy comes from. Knowing that when the season is done…I get to just be a dad and a husband…something fly fishing has shown me is all you need to work towards being good at. Fly fishing has made me a better person, made me work harder at being a better father and husband. I may be gone for extended periods of time, but that time away makes me strive to be present and a part of my families lives when I’m home. Something I didn’t have too much of growing up, and I am working towards sharing more of this life with my family and involving them more in the future. A life filled with summers living riverside during trout season, winters together, springs in tropical places for salty fish, and showing my children that growing up a little non traditionally is a good thing. Why not, the 9-5 life was never the plan. Bringing everyone along for the ride has always been the plan. A plan my wife and I are constantly adjusting and improving for our kids and ourselves.
I share this river and these wild animals with so many people. People from all over the world, people from all walks of life, backgrounds, and creeds. We all share in this fly fishing experience and what I’ve learned over the years is that it’s not always about the fish…but the people you share them with.
I get paid to share these places and bring people into them through fly fishing. Some for just the fish, others for that thing all fly anglers can’t quite describe but we all can understand. There is something that fly fishing does to you if you stick with it long enough and let it invade more of your life. My children and wife see it from one angle, and the clients and anglers I fish with from another, and like sitting in my boat, I am in the middle taking it all in.
This gig isn’t about fish. Not catching the most, the biggest, being the best guide, being riverside more than others, it’s not about any of that shit. As one of my guide compadres has said, they all pay the same, and they do, but money, still to this day has been a well appreciated side effect of being a trouty person. I have had the good fortune to have done pretty good as an independant small business guide. I have no complaints and have seen what hard work and patience can give a more business savvy angler that wants to make a living off what they love. More important to me, my children see it.
I had the opportunity to work in a cubicle and make large sums of money. Live a totally different life, a life like many of my clients, where fishing is just something I do occasionally and plan to do more of in my retirement. It’s the old story of the fisherman who meets the MBA client that tells him to get more boats, grow his business and run it for several years, make more money, make a name for themselves, and then retire and do what they love for the remaining years. The fisherman doesn’t understand because he is already doing what he loves, working for himself and his, and is…content. I am working towards being content. Working in the field I got a degree in until I am old enough to retire and spend my remaining years doing what I loved just seemed backwards to me.
Why not work hard at what I love my whole life and spend all my years doing what I love instead of only my older years? My work never feels like a grind, like something I have to do. Even the hard days, the tough clients, and the persnickety trout can’t turn this gig into something that feels like a chore. That’s the work part of this job. If I can show my children, my wife, and myself that ones life doesn’t have to be a grind to retirement I will have succeeded in one of the things I am striving to teach myself and those I love.
There will come a time when this life allows me to share more of it with my family. When it’s not just clients and anglers I’m sharing these places and fish with. This life has its perks. Living smaller, living smarter, and having time off to be just a father and husband gives me the ability to be myself and all the things I personally and professionally want for myself. As my family and I continue down this path we will have these opportunities to experience and share all the amazing things fly fishing entails together. While I may be gone and far away during times, my family and I are working towards the days when we are all together, travelling, fishing, and sharing it all.
I’ve had many riverside peeps and clients ask me about all the changes, check in on me, offer a meal or couch to chill on, and I am thankful to you all. Fly fishing just has a lot of good people in it. My family is grateful for the trips, the tips, and the support of our little guide operation.
Fly fishing is about the people you share it with. The more I do it, the more that simple concept sinks in. The younger angler I was selfishly ignored that concept for a long time. Yes I get excited for fish…but it’s more about the excitement I see in others that gets me going. If I could pay bills, clothe and feed kids with that energy I would. I have seen fly fishing heal, cure, calm, and invigorate people. The river and trout are the great equalizer in my life. Nothing matters to the trout except a good presentation and a respectful handshake before parting. My children can learn a lot from that. There’s a lot more going on under the water than meets the eye.
Unlike the dad that goes to the office every day and work is just what daddy does, the goal my wife and I are striving for, is that we as a family live this guide life, and we all share in what it offers. I cherish my time here on the river with clients, and look forward to the off season when I am just a Dad. A Dad that my children see doing what he loves and sharing it with them. Taking them fishing, which is so much more than just fishing, especially to a kid…trust me I know all too well what a simple boat ride can do. Tying flies with them, teaching them, coaching them, maybe one day guiding with them, but most importantly, sharing this life with them as they grow up. Never making it just something I do, and never just something for me.
This last push to the end of the season is the start of more to come. More to the business, more for my family. Working towards the ability to share it all with them and give my family a life that is content and happy, filled with trout, good casts, damp 20’s, new places and people, experiences not every kid gets to have, and a life that has a lot more than just fly fishing…but still…a lot of fly fishing.
See ya riverside anglers…