My hands are bruised. Beat up from the boat and oars. I have broken fingernails caked with dirt and glue, and river sludge. I have tippet and line cuts in my fingers and the hair on my knuckles is singed.
My eyes hurt, strained from looking at moving water every day for weeks, and tracking flies. Lost my sunglasses the other day too. My arms are tired. Legs and hips too. I move a lot on the river. More than most of the other guides and anglers I see. In and out of the boat. The anchor feels heavy as I heft it out of the cold water and walk the boat downriver. Careful to let the anglers fish before the boat goes through. My feet roll over boulders and stone. My feet more sure footed these days than ever before. It’s always interesting how the end of the season leaves my body.
My mind isn’t thrashed this season. A lighter guide year will do that. But the fishing this late season has been nothing but fantastic. Even the slower days produce some fantastic fishing experiences. I can’t help but feel a lot of people missed out. I’m leaving early but I can already feel the slow down coming.
The rain pelts my tent outside. Only a few more days of camping riverside before I’m home with my family. I miss them terribly. Feel like I’ve forgotten their faces and the sound of them around me. I miss my dog. But the pull of trout on my soul is still ever present.
I have fished almost everyday… for months. Guiding or on my own I can count on my two hands how many days I haven’t fished. But still I want more. Don’t want it to end. I feel this want to chase finned critters that eat flies. Even the days this season where I found myself saying, nah I won’t fish today…and an hour later I’m knee deep in the river casting flies. After all this time I’m still addicted. More so than what I see riverside. I don’t see a lot of familiar faces fishing on days off…at least not as much as I would have thought. But it just leaves more for me…and I’m greedy for it. And have gotten really good at it as a result.
The late season is my speed, slow, cooler, days with low hanging clouds, a biting breeze, and trout that takes flies slow and with purpose. The dry fly fishing this late season has been fantastic and I’m ending the week during the peak of the upper river BWO mayfly hatch. Waiting to set, watching the fish come slow for the fly, or the aggressive smack on the skate, the take of the streamer, or even that all too obvious indicator drop…I still feel like I can’t get enough of it.
The end of the season also makes me care less about things. I care less about the other anglers, other boats, the drama, the politics, it’s the end of the season and I just want to catch fish. I’m an angler first, and a guide as a close second. My guiding changes in the fall. I’m more direct typically. Trout want it a certain way, hold in specific water, and I have learned all the intricacies and secrets the upper river here has been willing to share. I know the upper in the late season. I don’t fish anywhere else…because it’s too good to waste time in the other water. Fish want it perfect, and want an angler to be attentive and focused. We threw 6x today…and it was the only way to get some of them to eat. They also want a perfect cast and drift which make the difference between a few rises and takes and a lot more.
The fall rewards good anglers, and clients who listen, watch, and trust. I don’t like to be second guessed on how I read water in the fall. I get a little cranky about it. I spend a lot of time learning the fish in the late season. I’ve spent a lot of years learning it. It works and that’s why you book me in the fall. I’ve consistently caught fish every day for weeks, and as a guide its not all about the fish…but I am a guide and I put people on some fing trout in the fall. Some of them big, some really pretty, some small, some that just take the fly so damn good, all fun, and all part of the gig. They are all good fish, and we have a lot of fun getting after them, still to this day I think we are having more fun in my boat than others no matter how many fish.
Get into your work, get into your angling. You’re fucking fishing…its amazing, and a privilege for so many so don’t waste the opportunity or time when riverside. I cherish all my river time. This job constantly reminds me how rich a life I have to spend it out here with these animals and in these places. My clients remind me. This is a special thing, fly fishing. And yet I still can’t explain it, but spending so much time on the river these past 4 years and living on it, waking to it, enveloping my self in it even more, it changes you. Hard to explain, but all anglers share that…something…that fly fishing can do to an angler…if they keep walking up around that next bend.