Passion. It is something that has been on my mind lately. The business side of this gig as a fly fishing guide can really wane on ones’ sanity. You would think there would be very little stress and bullcrap to deal with when taking people fly fishing; but like all jobs, fly fishing has its share of drama. I try and keep myself removed from it, and my confrontational nature at times gets the better of me. I also tend to open my mouth when I shouldn’t. I also don’t like asshats and trying to have an adult conversation or discussion with one can be quite painful. When it comes to asshats and fly fishing…I have a hard time associating myself with fellow anglers that seem to lack passion and respect for other anglers. I respect all anglers, especially those that are good at their craft. This sport requires a lot of skill to do it well…but you can still be an asshat and be a good fly angler. I can respect you…but I don’t have to like you. That seems to be a underlying factor with Americans. Somewhere we lost the ability to be respectful of each other despite our differences. Fly fishing has no place for disrespect, prejudices, judgements, or arrogance. And confidence, should never be confused with arrogance. Being confident requires one to be humble…if you are a fly angler and haven’t learned this yet…you need to fish more…or maybe you’re doing it wrong. This sport has two things that I have always seen as inherently fly fishing. Respect and Passion.
Respect because this activity requires a lot of it. Respect to the river, the trout, the craft required to tie a fly or cast it, or read a river. That respect is necessary to be successful and fulfilled by this sport. You are raised to know what respect is. I can’t fix or help disrespectful people…you just have to deal with them. It’s like dealing with whitefish in a sense. They are there, you don’t wanna deal with them, but sometimes…that damn whitefish just makes a mess of everything.
Professionalism, which goes hand in hand with respect, in business was taught to me in college. A degree with business and management background is a good way to learn how to treat and interact with people in a business setting. Something that is unfortunately lost in the fly fishing community. There is a proper way to go about every type of situation a person in the business of fly fishing may encounter. It sucks when people you respect disappoint you by showing you their ugly side. Losing respect for someone is not a good feeling and it seems to happen too often. It still amazes me how rude people can be to each other, but apparently that’s just how it is here in America. Getting any person in a heated discussion or confrontation…and they will show their true colors. Much like how trout fishing gives you a sense of a person.
Why am I talking about this? Well…trout fishing with people gives you insight into them as a person and their personality. The way an angler interacts with trout, the river, the guide, the other anglers, is important. It can tell you a lot about a person. It also lets me know if I want to fish with them again. I get paid to take people fishing but on my days off…I have a short list of people who I call to go fish with. Those anglers and friends that know me well, know that 80% of the time, when I go fishing for myself…I would rather be alone. I fish with people all the time…where there is no solitude. And personally, fly fishing is a completely different animal when done solo. Something I have touched on before and will again.
So on my days off, the days you don’t hear me post about, the days I take no photos, and all I do is lose myself in the river and wild trout, those are the days that tell me about myself and the kind of person I am. Those days are filled with self reflection, self discovery, and complete and utter disconnect from the world we are plugged into. Those days are off grid, where its just me and the river. Throughout my fly fishing tenure I have shared a few of those days with individuals. Not many, but a few. If you are lucky enough to be invited on a day like that…consider yourself the closest of friends, of which I have few. Those days there is a connection between anglers, river, and trout. It sounds super cliche but there is something special about a good fishing partner. I get to take fishing partners out for a living, two good fishing buddies…sometimes college or childhood friends, husbands and wives, brothers, father and sons, I get a kick out of sharing a day on the river with two in tune fishing partners. As a guide when you end up with a set of fishing buddies its like a switch of awesome fishing is turned on. Even if the fishing is slow its still awesome when everyone is in sync. That good boat tempo, that groovy vibe, mmm…nothing better for us guides. Shit gets real. But as an angler who fishes more than most…I look for it too. I have it with my son who is 7. Something I cherish completely. My son and I may guide side by side one day and that is just f’ing cool as a dad let me tell you. The respect I have for my son and what he has been through and the little person he has become through it all makes him one of the best fishing partners I’ve had the pleasure of chasing trout with. I learn just as much from him as he does from me. That’s one of the keys to a good fishing partner. Skill level is of no consequence, but respect for each other, the river, and the trout is of the utmost importance to have the connection to a fishing partner I am describing.
I have lost two of my closest fishing partners. My mentor, we only fished together a handful of times but the time we spent together on and off river I cherish more than any amount of time I’ve spent or will ever spend on the water. I lost my last fishing partner to suicide last season and it hit me hard. I spent a week on the road trout bumming it up through Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho to heal and am still healing. I think about him everyday, and there are places in the upper headwaters that I have not fished since we last fished them together. When you take away the buzz of technology, the fervor of family and stress of the world, and you share a river and wild trout with another person something happens over time. You learn more about the person you fish with. Sometimes without saying anything. There are days when I fish with a partner and not a single word is said all day long. We are 100 river yards apart all day, sometimes for several days, nothing is said. Just casts, smiles, handshakes, and water reading. A connection begins to form. Other days everything is said. This connection forms over a shared passion. I feel a great loss at times as I am unable to share the river with my mentor or my late fishing partner. I find some solace in fishing the stretches of river we have shared…but there is always a void now. One that I fill with fishing…just on a different river, or chasing a new species. That shared passion, no matter where it comes from or how it is formed, is something that can tie anglers together, some for life. That passion is the underlying thing that always seems to pop up. Passion. Let’s talk about my passion. As I seem to have had a lot of comments on my passion for fly fishing and its lifestyle lately.
My passion for fly fishing runs deep. Cliche but true. It fills a void in me that nothing else has been able to. I tried to fill it with music for a long time, but also the other things that people try, sex, alcohol, many know I have had issues with depression, and in my recent adult life have made monumental changes that focus on keeping negativity out of my life. This is all because I have felt as if something is missing from my life. I found it through fly fishing. I can look back at most of my adult life decisions and at the root of every one…is fly fishing.
When I almost lost my first born in the hospital…I went fishing to heal and calm down. When my wife and I separated for a time…I lost myself in the mountains on a secret trek to Canada, playing with small high mountain trout the entire time. When I was homeless with a newborn…I went fishing to remind myself that everything will be alright. I hiked to the source of one of my favorite rivers where it literally comes out of a mountain when I learned that I was going to have a son. When I can’t sleep due to my chronic insomnia…I roll out of bed while my family slumbers…I warily pull on my wading boots, I fumble with my fly, tying it on through the fog of sleep deprivation. But…when I feel that worn cork in my hand, the rod spring and load to life with every movement of my arm, as if the cork is the outlet and I just have to plug my hand in, I am overcome with something. Something that washes everything away. A good cast, a beautiful drift, and an eager trout. Everything becomes stagnant for an instant. Like when your fly hangs in the current of a seam for half a second, and your heart skips because it gives a trout another chance to see and take the fly. In that moment, when trout and angler meet and the natural wild world is invaded by human…I lose myself completely. It is a primal thing. That survival instinct kicks in, if you learn to keep calm and quiet, that feeling becomes something more than just the need to conquer nature. At it’s core, that adrenaline rush one feels when trout and angler meet is a survival response. Take away everything and put a human in its primal state, pre-civilization, and that interaction with wild animal excites us because we are hoping to eat and survive off it. That awe or tingly sensation you feel when you see a bear in the wild, deer fever, when you reach the mountain top, ski the perfect line, or release a trout back to the stream…that is that connection to the world around us that we just don’t have anymore. Stay with me here it got a little weird there.
Well…I don’t need to eat fish. So in all reality I’m just an adrenaline and endorphin junky. My preferred method for getting that adrenaline/endorphin goodness…is by tricking trout with flies. I used to get it from creating music with people and sharing it with others. I have got it through mountain tops, long trails, starry nights alone in the woods, but nothing…compares to getting it from wild trout for me. That…is in part where my passion lies. Fly fishing is part of what makes me…me. But like all things one can be passionate about…its much more than just feeding that need. Fly fishing opens a door to the wild and natural world. The river is life…it is teeming with it. Evolution and nature before your eyes. Happening right in front of you with every cast. The reason that fly tricks that fish is just a study on the intricacies of how trout interact with the natural world. When you move past just tricking trout for the joy of tricking them and start to understand why it all works, read between the lines, look under the surface; things begin to take shape, perspectives change, new things are learned. Respect and appreciation for not only the river and everything that it encompasses, but also, for ones self and life in general starts to form. The relations one has to the natural world, loved ones, people in general, all those things show themselves to the angler that wants to watch and listen. That is passion. That is my passion. Like a vision quest, or an epiphany of the self and the small place we have in the grand scheme of life. It’s hard to explain because every angler can become connected to this sport in a different way so its inherently unique. As unique and special as each person, like each trout, each their own fingerprint. There is this diversity to fly fishing and the people who become addicted to it. Like the life histories of steelhead: intricate, unique, diverse, and unknown, fly fishing and the anglers that do it are similar. It’s just another facet of this sport that makes me love it more. I get to experience all those differences and intricacies among anglers…by guiding. I am double tapping that shit. I am so addicted to this sport that I have to have two anglers fishing simultaneously just so that I can get the proper dosage dudes…I got it bad.
I know I am a little weird, and some…well a lot of people who meet me and go fish with me…think I am way too into this shit. I understand where you are coming from. I’m weird…its all I’ve got. A wonderfully funny quote from a show I love, “Weird is all I’ve got…that and my sweet style” IT Crowd. I’ve got a style to this fly fishing thing. I call it flyanglerlife. This is a lifestyle. And I’m not talking about the millennial dude with long hair living out of his 70’s Westie, with the best Simms gear, sage X rods, and a bunch of flies from MFC, filming themselves fishing all the famous rivers and putting it up on youtube or whatever. That’s a facade of the lifestyle. My life revolves around these trout and their home. I work year round to keep this fishery going and I will continue too. I’m an advocate for the wildlife that I have come to understand and cherish. I am a steward for their home. My home. I am not fishing everyday, because I know that a day off the river is a day where a wild trout can act like a wild trout without any interruption. Which is one of the most if not the most important things about living this lifestyle. I can catch trout any day…a good angler knows when to go fishing…and when not to. Ask the few people who fish with me on my days off…I typically catch one or two trout during the day. I look for that one opportunity…that one fish…that one moment with a wild trout that will sear into my soul.
When I chase trout…that’s what I am chasing. A moment like no other. My good friend Ross knows all about it. For some reason my buddy Ross has become witness to many of these moments. I always feel bad when they happen, I inherently want other people to experience those moments as I have had so many over the course of my fly fishing I feel greedy getting anymore. That’s not to say that I don’t crave them from time to time. But I have found that a trout is much sweeter the more patient you are. The one thing I have found in these moments though…is they usually take a level of experience and skill that I myself didn’t know I possessed. It humbles and astounds me every time I am successful in these moments. Those that get the opportunity to witness it see me in my most organic and vulnerable form. I am at my truest self in these moments…and there is nothing quite like it. As I have said, I lose myself…completely. Passion…passion in life is what is needed. The root of passion…is love. Love is something this world needs more and more of it seems. There is a disconnect between people. When I guide, when I fish, when a trout and angler meet…its establishing that connection again. Its plugging us back into each other, the world around us, and it washes away all the bullshit…and there is nothing left but something pure.
When people ask me what I do for a living I tell them I am a fly fishing guide. Most people just think its a cool gig. And damn right it is. But in reality…people are paying me…to help them reconnect. With nature, with the world, with themselves. I see it all the time. Some days are work, but my goal for the day with all my clients is to help them feel that sensation I feel every time I trick a trout. They may not know it, but that is what they are after when they come out fishing. I do my best. I feel success for my day when shoulders are relaxed, backs and arms are tired, brains and fried, faces are sore from smiling and laughing, massive endorphin rushes, high fives, and those things that made the client feel the need to go fishing and get away from it all…they don’t matter so much anymore. Not every client is like this, some just wanna catch a trout, others are just starting out and are getting a taste for it, some have been doing it so long they just want someone to share it with. That passion is there at the core of it all. The guides that have it…are the ones that stand out. I never really thought of myself as standing out. There are a lot of people that guide in fly fishing. But it humbles me every time someone says hello to me and says they read the blog, or love my photos, or really want to get out and fish with me. It humbles me that complete strangers who have years upon years of fly fishing experience mention their respect for my passion. It blows my freaking mind that people make videos of me talking about this river because they just dig my vibe man. Fly fishing makes you look cool…there is no doubt about that fo sho! But you look even cooler when you are prepping your boat for a trip among other guides and you get singled out because of your passion. That pulls a lot of weight in this sport. I don’t do it for the praise, or recognition…its just a byproduct of me doing what I do. Just like this sport…is a byproduct of trout…doing what trout do. When it all settles out…I just wanna chase trout…and take people fishing. The fact that I get to pay the bills and feed my kids by doing it…that shit is cool.
Passion and respect…they mean a whole lot. A life filled with passion is a life filled with love. Respect for life and others brings richness to life. For me that means a life filled with happy faces, loops in the air, drifting flies, and tricking trouts.