“The first rule of flight club is you don’t talk about fight club”. This is one of the many famous quotes from the Brad Pitt movie, Fight Club. There is a wisdom in this quote. Some things are best kept to one’s self and those that know the secret. I believe this deep into my fabric of my soul.
I spend a lot of time writing about the “experience” for fly fishing, what it means in the big picture? and how it can change you when you are living in “the moment”, as you follow the perfect drift to a splashy strike of a big brown. What I don’t like to do is gloat about it.
Recently we had our annual guide meeting at Taylor Creek, the fly shop I guide for. When I say guide meeting, I really mean, a bunch of pretty unkept guys and gals with mad fishing skills, drinking cheap beer, giving each other a full rationing of shit and listening to what is expected from us as guides and ambassadors of the shop. I have been to countless gatherings like this. This is also the time when the veteran guides, more or less, stake claim to our seniority and rank in the shop. Yes, it is a pissing match between people who fish for a living. I smile and get a kick out of every one of the “meetings”. It is just plain fun.
But a topic was brought up by the guides this year that I wasn’t expecting to discuss. It was the matter of not publicly “advertising” the amount of fish you and your clients caught on any given day. To not walk into the shop and blurt out “We got 10 to the net” or “Man, we killed it today!” This, I thought, was progress and something I take very seriously. Let me explain why…
As guides, it is our job to help you catch fish. I have always joked with my clients by saying “You can’t catch fish on your own, you don’t need me standing next to you, talking and not catching fish…” There is more to that quote but I will share this some other time. The point is simple: We will catch fish. But what exactly does that mean? Will we catch a 100 fish? Will we catch 3 fish? I believe that numbers are all relative to your clients expectations or the “total experience”.
We, as guides, should do exactly that, guide. Sure it is important to catch fish, that is what we do but it is not our job to assume that the only thing our client wants is to catch countless fish.
Case in point: I have had days on the river when the fishing was off the hook, and I have had days that it was difficult to even buy a strike. We have those swings out there, so if I am on my own, I continue to walk, wade and cast as the day passes by. If it’s slow, I find another spot. If the fishing is on fire, I stay. It’s that basic. But when out there with a paying client, guides think that their purpose has changed. They feel compelled to prove that they are fly fishing gods of the universe and all swimming creature are at their complete beck and call. We all know that this is not true and the that the only thing that has changed from your normal day out fishing is that a few extra people are tagging along. The difference is you are being paid for your knowledge, not by your fish count. With that said, why the pressure on numbers? Are you out there to stroke your own ego by vicariously upping the number of fish your client is catching? Does it challenge your manhood? Are you less of a guide than you thought? Do you think that you will impress the shop and other guides by how many fish you brought to the net? Not at all, not even close. Your client only knows the experience you are giving them and their own past history fishing; and the shop only cares if your client was satisfied by their day out on the river with you.
The definition of satisfaction is:
“sat·is·fac·tion noun \ˌsa-təs-ˈfak-shən\
: a happy or pleased feeling because of something that you did or something that happened to you
: the act of providing what is needed or desired : the act of satisfying a need or desire
: a result that deals with a problem or complaint in an acceptable way”
If your client wants to learn how to become better at casting, and you teach that, they will be satisfied.
If learning about the habitat, history of the area, insects, how it relates to our sport and the environment, they got what they wanted, they are satisfied.
If you get a client that only wants to catch big fish and a ton of them, do that. But be prepared to address this expectaions if the fishing happens to be slower than usual. What else will satisfy this client?
So to wrap this up, when you walk into the shop or at the bar next door, your fish count does not matter. Anyone who has been fly fishing for most of their lives and guide for a living, truth is, we don’t care. Every fly fishermen should remember one thing, an average or below average day to one person could be an amazing day to another, quote me on that. Let your clients do the bragging because they paid for the right to do so Our reward, as professional fly fishing guides, is knowing a job well done, securing a future repeat client and hopefully a decent tip to put towards our cheap beer that we love so much.
Keep that tip up,