This past season was a big one. A busy one and probably the fishiest season I have ever had guiding.
Over the past 5 seasons I have learned a lot. I have learned about business. I have learned things about myself as a person and as a guide. I also continue to discover things about trout and the places they live.
I have become a very good trout guide. I am confident enough in myself to know that I am good at my job. It has taken a few years and a few hundred guide days to get there. It can make me come across as a know it all, cocky, and or intimidating. I am loud so that doesn’t help in some ways. I battled that my first two seasons. I was new to guiding but had a huge base in fly fishing already established for myself. Those first two seasons I was also heavily involved in conservation and had started snorkeling regularly. I was on river over 100 days each of those years and my mind exploded with everything I was learning about trout through guiding and conservarion work.
I battled what kind of guide I wanted to be and was still feeling out if this was really what I wanted. Heading into my 6th full time season you know the answer. This is my gig.
The example I had of a guide was this football coach style guide who was kind of crotchety. I was also working for outfitters here on the Yak and got to see a lot of different guides and how things looked in other boats. Call it market research, but I wanted something different in my boat from what I was seeing and familiar with. I realized that guides shouldn’t all be the same because every angler is different so why would guides all be the same with all the different types of people and anglers. There was no real guide standard. I saw a trip standatd at the outfitters but it always felt stifling how trips were set to run. The days always felt scheduled for people…not trout or the river. Off at this time, lunch at that time, start with this, fish dries for a little bit, but put them on the same amount of fish as everyone else. It just didn’t feel like I was guiding. It felt like I was kind of in an amusement park just turning on the ride and letting people on and off.
I wanted more. To get clients into the river…not the fish. I felt I had learned all this stuff over almost a decade of fishing myself at that point, and it was being wasted. So I quit doing it that way and started making my guide days look like the days I went out to fish on my own.
I started structuring my trips based on what the river was doing, I started dry fly fishing more than half the day and producing fish with it. Before dry fly fishing was 20% of the trip. Nymphing is consistent and easy. It produces fish period. But thats not really experiencing all the aspects of the river or the fish. I have been told to only dry fly fish for an hour or two of the trip and nymph the rest. I have been told to not do a lot of things. First thing I wanted to do of course is do all of those things that I wasn’t ‘supposed’ to do. Duh I am a millennial.
It started to show when running trips with other boats and getting sneered at for dry fly fishing. Or getting louder with fish, out here it kinda felt like eveeyone knew dry fly fishing worked but didn’t want anyone else to know. By my 3rd season I was only working for myself and was running my trips the way I do now.
I became much louder, I let all the secrets flow out, and I just started talking about all the stuff and things about trout and rivers with clients. I started to be myself but also found out more about who I was and who I wanted to be. It just took off. Clients loved all the details, loved being plugged in and getting to understand more about everything that was going on in the world of trout. If you have been with me you know the days are intense, fun, loud, fish filled, but more importantly, clients leave the trip fulfilled that they were guided through the world of trout at that point in time and got to truly experience the river. It made people want to come out and experience the river at other times of the year because it is ever changing. It created this schedule of trips that followed the rivers lead and all of sudden the fishing got kinda silly.
I learned that when you really tap into the river and learn its rythym, the tune it’s singing that day, that week, that hatch, those flows…when you truly understand the river and the trout and how everything works together…you have a much richer fly fishing experience. I felt like I was finally guiding the way I was meant to, the way I envisioned it would be.
I could not have got there without learning and educating myself on the things I was guiding. Over the years, the trips, all the clients I continued to learn more. Every day I learn more. These days they tend to be more intricate things. Like how fish move in certain flows and current types while hooked up, or how to time drifts to rising pods on a rhythm during a hatch. Or how to teach and relay all the crazy info I have stored in my noggin about trout in multiple ways to multiple types of people because everyone is different. I am constantly improving. Constantly humbled and surprised by fly fishing. Never bored. Never. Constantly rewarded in a myriad of ways both personally and professionally through fly fishing and guiding.
It has become a part of me. A huge part of me because I have dedicated myself to fly fishing fully. Not to be the best, or get the most likes, clients, or guide days. I set goals for myself and work to attain them. I accomplish them through fly fishing and guiding. My job brings me true happiness and fulfillment. Something I have struggled with as a man for a good chunk of my adult life.
It has changed me. Fly fishing and guiding has been a huge part of the person I have grown into. It has taught me to be more patient, listen to others, be more present in the moment on and off river. It has shown me what passion in ones life can bring you. It has rewarded hard work and has opened my eyes to things I never would have been aware of if I did not fish or guide. I have experienced natural wonders, shared experiences with people that will never be forgotten and always cherished. I have faced hardship in many forms with fly fishing always learning more about myself through it.
I recently had someone comment on how fly fishing has become a huge part of who I am. Discussing that and thinking more about it myself, I realize that I have made this life for myself and that the past 5 years have seen a huge shift in my lifestyle and myself. It has been a huge factor in my life both on and off river. It can explain a lot the things that have changed in my life especially recently.
The things I have learned, the things I continue to learn, and the life that fly fishing gives me have been a very positive thing. It fills life with so much that bring a richness to everything, it is hard to not chase such a life. And I am just getting started, there are so many more places to experience and things to learn and people to share it with. My career is just getting started…and that feels pretty good.
See ya riverside anglers.