Wednesday 25th June, 2008
Procrastination sometimes has its rewards. For example, by waiting to the last minute to write this FP, I had a chance to read, experience, and be inspired by Magnus' terrific FP from yesterday where he sung the praises of the Tarpon guide as both hunter and angler.
That FP got me thinking about the other roles that guides play. I was a (trout) guide once, a few years back, and I can remember the many roles that I played. Most were enjoyable. Some were also ridiculous. I didn't get rich, but I had a lot of fun, and met some great people along the way.
Above all, I believe that the guides job is to show his clients a good time out on the water, while at the same time respecting the resource, and spreading goodwill. It took me a year of guiding to realize that it might not always be about catching loads of fish. Here are a few of my favorite roles that I played as a guide. Maybe a couple you haven't thought about.
Guide as Instructor
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to guide anglers of all skill levels, in a place that allowed every sill level of angler to learn and enjoy fly fishing at their own pace. One day I was guiding a 25 year fly fishing veteran. The next day, the clients had never touched a fly rod before, but decided to try it after seeing others doing it on the river. But everyone that hired me to take them fishing also wanted to learn something new. I know that because I asked them. Maybe it was something about the intricacies of a caddis emergence? Maybe it was just how to make a long enough roll cast to set up a decent nymph drift. One guy was more interested in learning how to row a drift boat than he was about fishing. I let him row. He made me fish. I swear. It was always rewarding to know that my clients came away from their time with me as better, more complete anglers. It was especially rewarding to see my return clients get better and better, summer after summer.
Guide as Entertainer
I loved guiding children and families. Maybe it was because I remember how much fun I had fishing as a kid with my family and friends. But youngsters don't always share an avid adult anglers patience. At the same time, some adults that I guided didn't have the attention span of an eight year old. Fishing is supposed to be FUN, an idea that is often forgotten by guides who are getting paid a good fee. Children cut through the tension created by the exchange of money. They aren't paying. All they know is FUN or NOT FUN. Sometimes, when the action slows down at midday, it pays to have a Nerf football in your tackle bag. I never knew what fun was before I lost a fishing "contest" to an 11 year old girl. Her prize? I had to kiss a whitefish. It got even better when I won round two!
Guide as Biologist/Geologist
If you're a fishing guide in a place as fascinating as Yellowstone Park, where I worked, you had better know a bit about the local biology and geology. When did the last forest fires happen? What makes the geysers erupt? Did you know that Yellowstone Lake is located in the giant crater (caldera) of an active super volcano? What are the best places to see grizzly bears? Are those wolf footprints? When were rainbow and brown trout introduced to these rivers? All of this stuff is interesting to many people, especially anglers who take a lot more away from a day in Yellowstone than the average tourist. Even on lesser known waters, it's great when a guide knows and can explain the complex relationships between the fish, river, and surrounding landscape.
Guide as Role Model
I was a guide in the years following the release of A River Runs Through It, commonly referred to in Montana fly shops as, simply, "The Movie". The Movie catapulted fly fishing into the mainstream. Suddenly everyone wanted to try it (and look like Brad Pitt, while casting like Jason Borger). One result of the boom was that there was a shift in the way people learned about fly fishing. In the old days, most people learned the ways of the river from a family member or friend. The ethics, traditions, and streamside etiquette of fly fishing were passed from generation to generation. After The Movie, a massive number of anglers looked to guides to teach them how to fly fish. In the middle of all the excitement, a lot of guides got caught up in the ultra competitive, "most fish, biggest fish" mentality, and forgot that their clients were learning angling ethics from them, by example. Some ugly things started happening on the newly crowded rivers. It was bad. I realized after a year of guiding that it was just as important to explain and promote angling ethics and streamside etiquette as it was to teach casting, mending, and catching.
So, here's to all the good guides out there, no matter what your role is today. I hoist my third PBR of this FP writing session to you. I know you'll have a good time on the water.
PS - If you believe that wild & native steelhead are worth protecting, and that without solid science conservative fisheries management is the only answer, please, take a moment to sign the petition in support of the existing regulations that prohibit killing wild steelhead on Oregon's Umpqua River. Over 875 have already signed online and who knows how many more have signed the paper copies.
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