Fellow troutbum, guide, and roommate and I were conversing porch side the other night. We were discussing how fishing and guiding the way we do has a compound effect on experience. Your average angler develops 30 years of experience fishing 30 days a year. 52 weeks in a year. Trout season is roughly 30 of those. Fish 1 day a week during the season. Some get 60 in a season, especially after retirement. I get 200 on water days for trout a year and have for the last 5 seasons in row. That’s not counting how much I have fished prior to guiding full time which had years with 100 personal days. That’s roughly 1000 river days with 75% guided if not more. Which sounds about right to me.
Now I’m not saying all this to toot my own horn. This gig and being good at it requires experience. In my tenure I’ve never met someone who is just good at it naturally. Everyone starts somewhere and improves until we reach a level of expertise that allows us to just enjoy fishing. There is no degree in guiding, no shortcuts, no flies that are magical, no YouTube videos that can supplement time on the water. Can’t catch a fish if your fly ain’t in the river.
Experience matters. If you wanna get good you gotta put the time in. I’ve got plenty of clients and angler friends that fish those 30 days or so a year and over the past several seasons have become incredible anglers. It’s all about time, repetition, observing, and tapping into the rivers rythym.
One of the great joys of my job is watching that development and transition happen. Being part of the process is a privilege to me and yes I’m compensated for it but it’s just as rewarding for me as a guide and a person to share in that process. It’s a very special thing. I don’t care if that sounds cliche or sappy…its fucken true.
Today’s client, has the makings of a great guide. And I don’t say that about every angler that says they’d like to be a guide. The majority of anglers really don’t understand the difference between 60 trips a summer and double that plus a season. It’s not just a side gig, and to produce and be good enough to keep it going business wise…it requires more work.
This client gets that. One of the most determined anglers I’ve ever met. Understands she isn’t at a level yet and wants to put the work in to get there on and off river. I’m a pretty laid back guide, but when you tell me you’d like to be a guide and want to reach that kind of professional level, I’m intense and pretty hard. Things have a way they need to be done. The tools of this trade have a specific way of functioning. But it also requires craft and artistry to present the fly at that high level. As a guide I am able to develop that with new anglers, refine and tune it with experienced. My goal with returning clients is to get them to that level so that when the come out for a trip the fishing becomes second nature so to speak. We just fish. All the stuff and things are known and we just groove through the day.
If you throw a baby wipe cast I’m gonna let ya know. If you throw a sexy one you’re gonna know. When shit goes south I’m going to help you identify why and how to correct it. I’m critical constructively and I throw you into it so you learn on the fly…pun intended, because experience is what it’s all about.
There is this moment I am chasing with clients like today. They are almost there…I can see all the pieces starting to come together. Then it finally happens and the fish is there and it all just clicks for them. It’s a large trout, they set perfectly, strip in unison with the moving fish, they counter and answer playing offense during the battle. They keep thier composure, and they do every single thing perfect…and that my friends….its what being a guide is all about right there. That moment right there…when that fish is in the net and all that work comes to fruition. The energy is literally thick in the air, I see it on thier faces, its addictive. It’s the juiciest of grooviest moments as a guide. Clients that I have shared that experience with know it and we are always chasing more of the same. That’s where experience gets you anglers…just chasin the juiciest moments.
We almost got there today on my trip. Almost….so close…felt the sting and the tug of the fish….just not there yet. Soon though. Really soon.