The river was quiet today. I love guiding on overcast dreary but warm days. Good sweatshirt weather guiding. Today was rain jacket weather, which I’ve never minded. It’s why we have those expensive jackets. They do work. Rainy days are always a little slower, little more chill, sometimes they give tremendous fishing. Today wasn’t that day.
Guiding isn’t just about the fish. It’s a good part of it don’t get me wrong. But it only ever takes one good fish anglers. Only 1. I’ve been fishing this river for a long time and I’ve done a lot of guide trips. Met a lot of anglers. It only takes one. That’s all I need to say. Guiding comes down to 80 percent people and 20 percent fishing. The fishing part of guiding has a steep learning curve but once you get through it the fishing takes care of itself.
Here’s an easy breakdown of what I mean on a slow day of fishing when that 20 percent really matters. I guided in tandem in a short 4-mile float with a very experienced guide. One who trained me. We work well together. We got into 6 or so fish between the two of us.
Here’s my breakdown for my boat:
Nymphing. Started out single weighted pats coffee size 6, 4.5 feet down. Nymphing 4 to 6 foot shelf and boulder water with minimal current but near or next to moderate speed water current. Long 20 to 30 foot drifts, following with boat, light oar strokes to allow for mending at 90 degrees to the boat. Front boat angler fishing 10 to 15 feet out of the front of the boat, back anglers fishing outside lanes 15 to 20 feet from the boat. Drifts are 45 back up stream mending, in the zones by 90 degrees to the boat, 15 to 20 feet of drift from 90 degrees following with boat to 45 degrees downstream, recast. 1 to 3 drifts and casts through water. Holding line 100 to 300 yards at a time.
One fish 2nd cast 12 inches. Ran those lines river left and right for half a mile. Added second fly, pheasant tail Jig tungsten bead, and added split shot 10 inches above lead fly. Adjusted indicators to 5.5 feet to bottom fly adjust rowing lines for slightly deeper slower water, ran for 600 yards. Nothing.
At this point saw other boat in different lines hit a fish. Held my lines for 10 more minutes, adjusted, and ran a secondary line behind other guides, with no success. Came to a stop and changed to olive pats and smaller mayfly trailer fly, same depth and split shot. Ran slower water at 4 to 6 foot depth. May have missed 1.
Switched to dry dropper. Fished 1 to 4 feet off the bank with a size 14 Jig head pheasant tail, 16 inches under a skwalla dry. Nothing for 600 yards. Other guide had one come up for skwalla when stopped agin. Waited for 30 minutes for bugs, coming up on 2pm.
Small hatch more rain, moved on with dry dropper rig, working tight water going slow. Ran laps on a 80 yard stretch 2 times once with dries bank lane tight, and then again with previous nymph rig. Other guide ran different rigs similarly. May have missed 1.
Nymphed for a mile targeting various types of water speed at 4 to 6 feet depth. Went to 8 to 9 feet in slower deeper water. Saw risers and skwallas on the river. Switched to dry droppers. Other guide hit one on dry landed. Ran 3 laps 2 with dries 1 with nymphs on a 80 yard stretch. Nothing. Ran 3 laps in back eddy with dry droppers, nothing. Saw large trout rise. Got out and casted to it with no love. Other guide caught up, no love for them. Take out nearing, 6 love. Other guide gets take out trout. Hear two rise. Back row and run laps 3 times. Rain comes on. No love. Take out.
That’s the 20 percent of fishing and rowing of a half day float on a slow day.
The other part of the trip, the 80 percent is people. It’s teaching anglers how to cast. Why we are using these flies, why we are fishing this water, why we are changing, waiting, what are we seeing. Stories, fishing and life related. Snack and pee breaks. Re rigging flies. Untangling 6 to 24 times. Losing 2 to 20 flies. Only 4 today.
Keeping the energy and the vibe of the boat up. Talking about the river, answering questions like where mayflies hatch, and what bug is that, what is that bird, why do the trout have spots. Are there Brown Trout? Why not. It’s checking in with clients, seeing if they are in good spirits, making sure they are understanding all the why, what, how, of our process and getting stoked even if the fishing is slow. Laughing, having a good time. Putting that energy out there, and keeping it up and there no matter the fishing. That’s a good chunk of the people part. If they are experienced anglers. New anglers or kids is a whole other thing.
That’s just part of the work that goes into a single guide day. It came with several days on water prior dialing it in similar and different ways in different water. It’s looking at flows, water temps, miles of river to do in what amount of time, where to be and when to get best results, what water is coming up, what the weather is doing, did do, and might do, this is all done as I get to the river. I’m on river then I’m in it.
I’ve also gotten fuel, lunches, which are expenses, I’ve bought or tied flies both of which have cost, I’ve bought leader and tippet, I’ve lubed bearings, checked lights, got boxes organized, gear ready, boat prepped. I launch and take out the boat. I run a shuttle. Get off river. Take a shower if I can. Eat dinner by 8 if I’m lucky. I’m in bed by 11 ish, up at 7 ish to get it going again.
I squeeze social media posts, phone calls, emails, invoices, follow-ups, errands, bills, and other life stuff in between it all. When I have days off, I usually just go fish. I don’t stop. It’s makes me good at this. It’s also what I want and choose to be doing. And I love it. But it’s what the work looks like in a general sense. There’s more. Of course, but it’s a good portion of what guide life looks like for me.
I’ve done 21 guide days and fished almost every day in between since the start of March. I’d rather shove all the adult shit into one day off. But also hold off doing all that stuff until last minute or a windy day. Otherwise, I want to be on the water from now until October. I love the work. I love the life.
I get to wake up with the river every day. And while I do have things I miss. I am quite content with how I live. I spend every day I can out on the water. Feeling the pulse of the water against my boat, my oars, my arms, and legs. I enter into the world of trout through fly and rod, a cast and drift, a fly presented with purpose and intent. It is craftful, beautiful, and requires skill and intricate knowledge to be performed well both as angler and guide. I get to meet and interact with a diverse and amazing number of people who all share a love of water and wild things. We all have an appreciation and respect for the space, the skill, the work, and the energy that fly fishing and taking a guided trip can bring. What a trout truly can give you. It only takes one anglers. Only 1. If you know, you know. If you don’t. I can show you.
The trials that this life brings are worth it. The things I get to experience and do are unlike most things in this world. It is my pleasure and privilege to be able to do this for a living. I’ve worked very hard for it. And it’s allowing me to chase the things I’ve always wanted out of life.
The season is just getting started anglers. I invite you to come out and put the work in with me on a guide trip. It will be worth it that I can promise. I take pride in what I do and work very hard no matter the fishing.
See ya riverside anglers…in the guide life grind.