It is starting to feel like spring here in the high desert of southern Idaho. The temps are warming, its starting to smell a little less like winter, and the sun shines longer. I am only a few weeks away from being riverside every day. This off season has been a slog. Don’t get me wrong I love hanging with my family, and if you’ve been following me or fished with me this past summer and fall you know a little about the hardships my family and I faced, which have made this offseason kind of a bummer. But things are really looking up, despite the inevitable surgery I have to get before leaving and the financial burden that comes with it, fishing…will commence very soon.
Its so much more than just meeting clients in the morning and then spending the day taking them fishing. There is science to do, weather and water reports to dissect and interpret, observing the river, watching as it comes to life, hunting and seeking trout. There is homework, new techniques and insights to discover and apply. The prep work, getting the fly rods back out, getting back into casting everyday, new methods of teaching and relaying information to people to work out. I have to get my body back up to guiding level. There is water and people to read, and trout to chase. By this time in the off season its all I am thinking about. The last stretch before fly fishing is all that I am focused on. I dream in trout and rivers. I long for the sounds of the river. Especially in the spring, as the whole world comes out of its slumber…that slow sleepy wake that comes after a long hard sleep. I look forward to it more than I can describe.
My off season is filled with mostly trying to enjoy the time off. I don’t like to sit still, so after about 4-6 weeks of being off…I really just wanna get back to it. Being bored is a killer for me. I’ve tied a few thousand flies, sold most, yelled at kids to brush their teeth, driven to basketball practices, helped my lady get ready for her new job, and I spend my weekdays chilling with my almost 5 year old. After a while that routine starts to get to me…and my lady has already started to see the off season wane on my sanity. She gets it, even if she doesn’t fully understand it. When you spend a third to three quarters of the year outside and on river…sitting at home can become a bit of a trial. I enjoy it, the sounds of my children playing, yelling, fighting. The feel of my wife lying next to me every morning, the sounds of her snoring keeping me up at night (sorry babe), a proper shower that isn’t outside…that kinda stuff. The time away from it during the guide season makes me appreciate it and miss it that much more. But now I am to the point where I am longing for the other side of my life. The time where everything about what I am doing revolves around fishing.
Fly fishing changes you when you do it enough. Sounds super corny but its true. Spend enough time outside and everything else seems frivolous. My wife is the one person who reminds me that there is more than just fishing. My kids to do, but when you spend a good chunk of time away from that family dynamic it takes a bit to realize that reality. Personally I am truly addicted to it fly fishing, and explaining that to others can be a challenge…one that I have all but given up on explaining these days. When you know you know. That thing so many anglers chase when they hit the water, that feeling of disconnect from one world and absolute connection to another…its hard to put into words. I meet people that have the hardest time explaining why they love fly fishing and what it does for them…but I understand it completely.
Being 800 plus miles away from the homewater hasn’t been the easiest thing. Watching social media posts of fellow anglers and guides getting after it during the winter hasn’t been the most enjoyable thing either. I get a lot of questions about why I don’t fish in the winter. A lot of it has to do with the fact that as I have gotten older I have worked a lot of that angst out by fishing constantly when I was younger. Plus I don’t enjoy the cold weather as much anymore. But moreover, I have responsibilities that need my attention in the off season. Finding that balance between family life and fly angler life is a constant thing. A struggle sometimes, but an enjoyable one.
As I tread through the last few weeks of home life I can feel that my family is starting to miss me. As my mind has started to disconnect already. My wife knows I am already starting to check out. My days filled with tying, talking about fishing, and lets be honest, complaining about the long wait. She gets it, even if she is annoyed by it. The financial side of it helps and this year is shaping up to be a good one. Spring trips already scheduled, more than this time last season. A new gig lined up on new water in a new state, new species to chase with clients, I haven’t been this excited about fly fishing and guiding since I started. I have been craving adventure, and after last season with the switch to a camp, guide, fish routine it really ruined my life a bit. Having that ability to just fish, live, and guide along the banks of the river was eye opening. The long times away from my wife and kids sucks, but the upside is…fishing. I fished more last year than I have in a long time. Every day for weeks straight. I would find myself sitting in camp contemplating what I was going to do before and after trips, on days off, and every time, even when I told myself I don’t need to fish…20 minutes later I was knee deep in the river. Having that freedom, the ability to connect that much…its a blessing. A blessing that I don’t take for granted. Without my family I wouldn’t have that same deep connection. I wouldn’t have anything to miss while I was riverside, and I wouldn’t miss the river as much if I didn’t have the time in the off season with my family. Its strange I know. But having things in ones life that you are passionate about makes life worth living.
I am reminded of Muir’s writings a lot. Having read most of his stuff. He had this desire, a drive to chase mountains and the outdoors. A passion that could not be rivaled. His sense of adventure and his ambition to conquer and discover himself through the act of mountaineering and observing the outdoors was truly inspiring. That call from the mountains was always there, something he would describe to his family in great detail to try and explain the reasons behind it. That connection…its very real. A life without passion is no life I want to live. It makes the struggles and hardships worth the strife, and it makes the joyful moments rise above all. Yes I have a family, and my wife and I never wanted to sacrifice what we wanted for ourselves individually in order to have a family. Something I think is lost on the younger generations these days. Having a family, watching my children grow is one of the greatest joys and adventures of my life. My time away from them chasing my own personal dreams and adventures makes me appreciate them and what they add to my life that much more. My children growing up learning and seeing that just because you have a family doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice what you want for yourself is an imporant lesson that is not easy to teach. Growing up knowing that you can find a way to support a family and have that kind of passion in your life as well as doing what makes you happy is something I am trying to teach my kids. It’s not traditional, its not always easy, and it tends to be misunderstood by many around my family and I. Happiness is something that requires work. That old saying anything worth a damn takes work is definitely true. My kids know that when I leave its not because I don’t want to be around them or anything like that. They are learning that life takes work, especially when chasing a life that is filled with joy, passion, and love. They are also learning that money doesn’t guarantee any of those things. One of my favorite quotes is from a Wookiefoot song, “There are people so damn poor all they have is their money.” If I can teach my children that money won’t make you happy but having a life with the things that fill you with absolute and true joy is worth striving for. If they can learn that passion, people, love, all connected through the outdoors can bring one a life of true wealth and richness then I will have succeeded in one of my goals as a father.
Have a life filled with things that make your heart flutter. A life with people that make you laugh, cry, love, and feel deeply. A life that doesn’t depend on material things, social media post likes, how much money is in the bank, what your credit score is, or how big your house is, its a hard lesson to teach in this modern era. When I leave my children are starting to see this, they are starting to understand it. And as the pit in my stomach grows knowing that I will be leaving them very soon…it makes it a little easier to swallow.
The season is almost here anglers.
See ya out there.