I drive a lot. If you don’t like driving than guiding isn’t for you. It has taken me a few seasons to learn to enjoy the driving. We live in a beautiful place. I just drove to Port Angeles to grab the Hog and its a gorgeous drive…except that whole Tacoma part. Ugh. But I also spent a good chunk of last season driving to the east and south into Idaho and Montana. It’s amazing to see at 55 60 miles an hour towing a boat. I drive slow…I love how speed limits are jist starting off points for everyone to see how fast is too fast. Slow down people…enjoy the drive. You won’t really get there any faster deiving 8 miles an hour faster. Chill.
The upside of all the driving…all the floating. Which is my personal favorite thing about guiding. I love to row. The past few years I have improved those skills quite a bit. I take a lot of pride and work really hard to use the boat as a tool the way I do. I look forward to being in my boat. Over the years I have grown realky attached to my boat. We have seen some shit.
The boat was a big deal. 10 years ago or so…damn I am getting old, I was able to get my Hog. It opened up a whole new world of fishing to me. It wasnt until I finally started guiding full time 6 years ago that I really started to get really into rowing. The past few years I have been in the boat more than not.
My boat gave me a means to funnel my passion into more than just chasing trout for myself. It gave me freedom that I had never really had. With my boat I could fish just about anywhere that had moving water and trout. With my boat I found something I was naturally good at but with practice and time have become pretty darn good at it.
The measure isn’t the kind of class water you have made it through or how many miles or rivers you have rambled; the measure is time and consistency. Lots of time on lots of different flows and levels and you will naturally and intuitively become better at rowing. It becomes a feel thing just like the fly cast. After the basics are learned, experience and practice will continually improve your rowing abilities.
Sure hit some gnarly water, make your butthole pucker up from time to time…its good for you. Flirting with control can be an adrenaline rush and freeing. I have got most of that out of my system these days. Although I do drop into things that take me out of my comfort zone from time to time. Confidence helps but also gets tested constantly. Knowing where that line is comes with experience and troubleshooting, failing and succeeding while learning from it. It can make me come across cocky and head strong at times. But it is earned and it’s not like I don’t get humbled constantly. The trick is to own that shit. Own your successes as much as your failures. They are both required to become good at anything.
No one is magically awesome at this…at least I haven’t met anyone. We all start somewhere, with the cast, the flies, the rowing, and work our way up. The more you practice, the more you fish, the more successes and failings that occur the better you get.
A person who is good on the sticks has a major effect on the day. I have taken trips and floated with others who’s rowing made the trip or day less enjoyable. It makes a difference. On the Yakima for example, slowing down and giving anglers and trout more opportunities to see the fly immediately produced more opportunity for anglers. Those 3 to 6 additonal shots at the drift made a lot of difference. Once I slowed down I realized there were a lot more places and areas to fish. Trout move around a lot, and being able to slow down and pick the water apart from the boat ups your chances at troot swiping your fly. Changing angles with the boat and approaching trout and lies differently, or using the boat to play fish, all these things started to present themselves when I started fishing and rowing the way I do. It continues to evolve and show me new things and ways of moving anglers and boat down the river.
Its a constantly changing and improving process but you reach a level just like with the cast, where things are natural for you. It looks easy to others. That the thing I tell everyone who mentions how easy I make it look…with enough time and practice…thats what happens. You master the skills and it just turns into fishing…or rowing. Not easy by all means…but you reach a point where its like you stepped into the river through a different door. A door that only some have the key for.
Driving along the Yakima yesterday after schlepping back from the OP, I was floating the river in my head. I know the section from Easton to Thorp from memory. Updated every season for new stuff like trees and gravel bars. Like a daydream. It happens a lot until I am just on the river most days. You get attached to things with this life. Attached to the fish, the rivers, the places, people, and the boat. This season I am anxiously waiting for it to start. It’s been a weird and slow off season after a crazy year. It just feels like its time to get back to it and go for a better one this year.