To Love An Inanimate Object

IMG_3059

Above is a picture of my Simms guide boots, number 14.

I don’t know about you but, I burn through gear. Boots, laces, fly boxes, sometimes waders, tippet (as I should), guide vehicles, the list goes on and on. The reason being, is that I use EVERYTHING everyday, so I am hard on things. It’s part of my routine every spring I take stock in what is needed, wanted or trashed for the upcoming summer fly fishing guide season.

But in this task, I get somewhat melancholy and reflective. I like new stuff but I get attached to things that have served me well. My trusty “Old School” Simms vest which I will only replace if falls off my back and it better be destroyed.

That Simms vest is equivalent to an office desk you work at everyday, a toolbox to a craftsman, a paint brush collection to a painter, it’s my domain: a place for everything.

It contains, in each specific pocket, a purpose…

Upper left-hand chest pocket; is strike indicators, yarn.

Upper right-hand pocket; knife, Dry Shake, floatant

Right lower outside pocket; Nymph boxes: #1 Stoneflies, Caddis #2 Drake specific, PMD and midge

Left lower outside; Seasonal Dries. Drakes, Blue Wing Olives, PMD and emergers. 

Inside left, top; Leaders and tippet

Inside right, top; Current fishing license, nail knot tool. 

This hasn’t changed for ever. It works for me. 

But Let’s talk about those boots I started with… yep, boots are expendable, costly and needed. I have no problem burning through boots, I feel I should be a factory sponsored boot tester, somebody needs my abusive nature for truly, the betterment of the world. But I always get sentimental about my boots. They have seen a lot of adventure, the met amazing people, trudged across riverbeds in some the most beautiful terrain the world has to offer.

Over time, with constant river water molding and forming the boot to fit only my foot, knowing that I drag my toes when I walk and when I wade, I walk completely flat-footed for stability. They have seen a lot in a relatively short amount of time. amazing if you thin about it.

So I have been through 14 pairs of Simms boots. each one of them allowed me to do what I love, what I’m good at and share my skills and knowledge with aspiring and gifted fly fishermen. Call me out on ridiculous sentimentality but as any real angler understands, pay close attention to the water, the environment, the birds, the bugs, the seams and in my view, all the trappings that gift me the ability to enjoy the sport I adore.

Yes, I Speak Fly Fishing

Language can be a funny thing. You have people that only speak the language of the country they’re from. You have others that speak many languages that are experts in accents and dialect. There are people who sign and others are fluent in “body” language. But all of the have one thing in common: it’s a means to communicate with others.

IMG_2723

Let me introduce Riichiro. Riichiro is a fly fisherman from Japan and a damn good one at that. He travels all over America, Fly fishing some of the most desirable waters we have in this country; Colorado, Montana, Wyoming… All without a solid grasp of the english language. I’m not sure if you all have traveled much abroad, particularly in countries that don’t speak english, but its not easy.

I met Riichiro for the first time last year when he chose to check out the Roaring Fork and The Frying Pan rivers in my part of the world. I remember that day last year very well.

I get a call from Taylor Creek, the shop I have guided for for 24 years and Scott Spooner is on the other end of the call. “Glenn, We got an interesting trip today if you want it? We think you’d be perfect for this one..”he said, then silence. “Ok” I said, “what’s up?” ( I want to preference this with, I always get the out of the box clients or trips, so this one peeked my interest)

Scott responds with “Well, we have a very nice Japanese man here who, we think, would like to do a trip tomorrow, You up for it?”

I am so up for it! So to my understanding after I agreed to take the trip, we all agreed on a time, (by pointing at the numbers on the clock)  “at 10:30 am, tomorrow, Wednesday” was when we would start our day.

I get to the shop 45 minutes early, like I always do, to get all my shop stuff in order, get the flies for the day and shoot the shit as usual. I walk in the door,  standing there eagerly a cool 55 minutes early was Riichiro, smelling of a freshly smoked cigarette.

I knew it was my guy. I confidently walk up to him…) keep in mind that I am 6’4″ and he was maybe 5’6″)…with my hand out to say hello and introduce myself. His eyes light up, shook my hand and bowed ever so slightly in response, and because he knew we were soon to be out on the river and I was his guide. But this is where things start to get interesting.

I do not speak a lick of Japanese and he only spoke almost incomprehensible, broken English.

Challenge #1 presents itself.

If you haven’t taken a guided fly fishing trip before, there are a number of things that have to happen even before we cast the first fly. We have to get release forms signed, get the client fitted in waders, order lunches, make sure the client has what they need; sunglasses, fishing license, warm socks, whatever they need forgot to bring.

He and I worked through that like a guy trying to teach a puppy a new trick, with repitition and by example. The real question became evident, Who was the trainer and who was the puppy. He was doing his best to translate whatever visual examples I was giving him, and I was doing my best to take what I have been doing for 24 years without thinking about it and translate it into the most basic form of communication. Much harder that it sounds. I honestly was a bit embarrassed. How come this was so hard to do? Why can’t I simply explain what needs to happen?

20 minutes later, we got it pounded out. He’s licensed up, dressed up and ready to go. Hurdle #1 compete. Now comes the challenge, How do I find out his skill level? Can he wade ok? Does he have any limitations I need to know about? Has he ever done this before. I had no idea and nor did the shop. And it’s not like we live in a widely diversified   area where there is a Japanese family that lives next door that can translate for me. I was completely on my own. “I can do this” I said to myself…It will be fun.

We load up in my truck and head to a big open spot on the Roaring Fork. I did this on purpose. I felt I could see his ability to cast, if he could. See if he knew how to wade on the rocks or even just know how to use the rod?

I hand him my 5 weight and he proceeds to rip off the line off the reel, starts false casting and places the fly exactly where it needed to be. Damn! I felt something that I wasn’t expecting, equalizing. What I mean by that is, because we couldn’t speak with each other, we could fluently communicate by a shared understanding of a common interest, Fly Fishing.

This was monumental. We now communicate by showing, respectfully, how to cast better, how to mend the line on our water, how to recognize a strike and how to land a fish. The ONLY words that came out of our mouths were “FISH!” “WooHoo” “fish???” and my favorite “Satisfied”.

Every time this guy caught, fought, landed or lost a fish, he would do something almost ceremonial; he would take a quick picture of the fish in the net, never touching it. He would take a picture of the place he caught it, light up a cigarette, and take a small swig of whiskey. Ever time. And then when he felt he caught enough fish, he would tap his chest with his fist and say “satisfied”. Then we would call it a day.

What I learned is that fly fishing is the great equalizer, a humbling sport, and a unspoken language that is understood by many who pay attention. I look forward to seeing my Japanese friend whenever he makes it back to my part of the world, and I promise, I will be brushing up on my Japanese.

Satisfied

Glenn

“Get Out Of Here Punky Kid” (& Other Things Not To Say)

IMG_0062Do you remember when you first discovered fly fishing? Was it with a family member when you were a child? Was it through a friend? A girlfriend? Boyfriend? Or was it that it looked just plain cool and gave you a reason to be outside and explore? But think about it.

My first time fly fishing was when I was maybe 11 years old. In my family, there were two specific rules; To play pool on the big table, your belt buckle had to clear the top of the table, and to cast the fly rod you needed to know it was a fly rod and not something to poke my brother with from a distance. So with that established, I was taught first thing to respect the all the equipment. Very, very important.

My father was not a sportsman, he was a business man. “Games”, he would say, were only a game and only something to do once you have a good job… Thank god for my uncle. My uncle grew up in the wilds of rural Minnesota and moved to Colorado with his family when I was a really young. But one fact, in his soul of souls, he LOVED to fish. He fished for anything that would possibly bite what he had on as bait; bullhead, catfish, trout, sunfish, bass, anything and everything. He is the one I have to thank for teaching me, first hand, how to fish. But I need to be clear, he taught me bait fishing, not fly fishing.

When I was a kid fishing with my uncle at a lake by our house, I first noticed a guy fly fishing on the inlet of the lake. I remember that fly fishing looked really hard and not productive. Using the only reference I had was how many fish I had on the stringer? Me- 6, him-0.

You need to keep something in context, catch and release in the 1970’s was almost considered unimaginable. “Why would you let it go? You caught it?” is pretty much what you would say to a fly fisherman. I would watch them casting back and fourth, always picking up their line, do it again and again, hardly enough time for a fish to swim by and see it. Stupid.

Then I asked if I “could try it”? Bold for a strange, awkward kid to ask an adult he didn’t know to even touch his expensive gear, but I think he might of saw something. Maybe it was the way I watched how he used the rod, the rhythm of it all. Or maybe it was that I   really took interest in the flies he was using, they weren’t wet, slimy worms, they were cool looking things made of feathers and wire. I fell in love with the sport. And now I can’t remember the last time I put a worm on a hook or when I sat on the bank waiting for something too happen. I tie my own flies and have been a professional guide for over 24 years. I’m sure that guy at the inlet had no idea what he had started.

As a side note: I spent most all of my youth in my dad’s workshop making anything out of everything. I was the youngest woodworker in my shop classes to be certified to use all the power tools. My dad may have not been an outdoorsman but he was a great “indoorsman” that made sure I knew how to use tools, make things and solve problems mechanical and such. I still use those skills today.

You’re probably wondering where I going with this? It’s simple; Don’t discount youth, don’t misunderstand the slightest interest, share what you know and always be patient. You may never know that what you share will directly affect a person in ways you will never know.

What Exactly Do You Do? Confessions Of “A Renissance Man”

20080817_Fishing_004-1

Living in a resort area like The Roaring Fork Valley has it’s own challenges, above and beyond many other places to live in the world. It is inconsistent, weather contingent and most of all, tourism dependent. There is no guarantee that anybody will show up, that the rivers will be fishable, and/or your job will even still be there for you, especially if your work is seasonable. So you learn adapt.

So my what’s my game plan? (if I can ever say I ever have a game plan) is to fill my quiver with as many skills/talents that I can muster. Fortunately, I seem to be lucky enough to have a few that I can always fall back on: Artist, Chef, Builder, Comedian, Cooking Instructor to list a few, I have been called a Modern Renaissance Man, Jack of all trades.

img_1722
Me and Gary Gulman before or show ay the Wheeler Opera House
img_8913
Solo Show at The Art Base
img_0366
Teaching a cooking class at The Cooking School Of Aspen

I prefer to refer to myself as “My Major is Generally Undeclared”… I think it suites me well.

I think it would be safe to say that I have made the best use of my ADHD, O.C.D and A.D.D, or what I like to call acronyms of success! As a guy that takes interest in everything, it’s very hard to have hobbies, I turn my hobbies into jobs: I likes to cook, so I became a Chef. I was always the class clown and a decent sense of humor, so I became a stand up comic. Creating things and building them is something I always have done pretty well, so I followed my long time passion of being an artist and sculptor, and that’s going well.

As far as being a professional Fly Fishing guide, this was inherent. I had an uncle that was a very, very good fisherman, when I was very little, probably 8 or 9 years old, he would take me fishing every weekend to Evergreen, Colorado. We would fish for hours on the reservoir catching small trout on spinning gear, catch and keep with stringers and all. I loved it, cleaning their guts out and all. As I got older, I would enter fishing competitions as a kid with some success but little satisfaction. I liked the chase and not so much that catch and kill.

Enter the introduction of Fly fishing. It blended with my attention span perfectly, it’s complicated technique (so I thought)…All the variables of leaders, flies, knots rod stiffness and lengths, how beautiful the reels were crafted…all of it. Perfect for a guy with a personality like mine. I loved it, as they say, “If The Shoe Fits”.

What made it even more interesting, the sport is always is a state of flux, always changing; the water levels, water temperature, time of year, location, nothing is consistent much like living in a resort town. As I became older and moved to the Roaring Fork Valley and became a guide. It was great fit as well, more variables, every client is different, some good some not so much, but every day is different. Perfect.

Sure, my resume may never get me a second interview in the “real” world, but as a guy with a varied skill set and the belief that I can really turn any or all of them into a career is not unrealistic. So I do what I do.

I like to think back to my high school years when my college councilor was doing his best to direct me to a college degree or trade school that would give me a “good start” to a future career…what was never mentioned was that I could make a living fly fishing, cooking, doing stand up, construction, and visual artist. In my mind, that is one career. My advise to anyone who feels misplaced, Follow your interest to the very end.

Tight Lines

Upgrade If You Want…

20140309-183456.jpg

Many of you, myself included are captivated by shiny new things. The tempting glint of an anodized reel, this years new mid/tip flex darling of a rod, those spanking new gore-tex waders with a zipper….you know where I’m going with this, we have gotta have it. What is interesting to me is that I still fish with my very first RPL 590 2 piece sage rod and enjoy it very much. So why do I every year feel compelled to get the latest and greatest? Is it to keep up with the Jones’s? Do I think it will make me a better guide? Is it because The Drake is telling me that it is a must have and I won’t ever catch a fish again if I don’t have it? The truth is yes to all of the above.

Let’s first take a look at this from the manufactures point of view. They need to keep us wanting, needing, pining for their newest gear, if the don’t, its just bad business. All of these are “for profit” companies not non-profits trying to share the love of their passions. I get it, I’m a paid fishing guide I make my living by doing what people do for pleasure, but do you think that the average consumer would be able to tell the difference between a 10 year old rod and a new one? I bet not, does that matter? Not really, but the idea of having the newest tech helps. It helps because you believe in it. I used to race bicycles and became obsessed with my bike to an almost OCD level… $150 titanium seat clamp, a $90 water bottle cage for gawd sake! Was I any faster? Maybe, or was I faster because I trained harder because I spent a ridiculous amount of money and put more road miles on my bike? The fact could be I just plain got better fit, with nothing to do with the 310 grams I took off my ride. All the manufacturer did was just make the newest options available, thats it, it was totally my choice to dive in, with no regrets.

Next, let talk about those pesky Jones’s…. I have never been the one to covet, except a really nice Cafe racing motorcycle, a hand made watch and a truck without a broken windshield. I am a guy of simple needs. As any professional fishing guide will tell you, looks and presentation is/can be everything, even before you hit the water. The Jones’s in our case are other guides. Guides with the new trucks, double rod carriers loaded with the best of the best gear, a clean cooler. All of this can(?) make a difference. Hypothetically, If you drop a client in the middle of any fly shops parking lot without a single guide in sight and ask them to chose which guide they want to fish with by the appearance of the vehicle? You guessed it, it will not be the 1986 Nissan with the duck tape on the side window. But does it matter? No it does not! The gear is only good if the guide has talent. I have seen some very expensive rigs not catching a single fish. Point is this, Keeping up with the Jones’s is human nature, go for it, but don’t do because you have the cash to show off, nothing is more humbling than getting 1 up’d by an angler wearing neoprene waders.

Now the big one…will new gear make me a better fisherman? The answer is yes and no. I really like new things, I have more rods than anyone really should have. My fly boxes are the closest thing I have to a 401K. Again, This is all by my choice. I can tell the different nuances between a slow action 3 weight and a stiff 4 weight. I know the different supple feeling of different fly lines, and yes “mono” does knot differently than “fluorocarbon”. This information matters, and does make you a better fisherman, but there is no promise that you will catch more fish.

But what makes all of this really interesting, is that none of it is better or worse than the other, it is all YOUR preference, your likes and your wants. That is what make this sport so wonderful.

In Short, I can say with complete confidence the fish really doesn’t care what rod your casting or if that shiny, machined reel is a “palm” drag or resistance drag, that stuff only matters to you. The way I justify all of my gear is simple; all my light-weight rods take me to my favorite rivers and my “big” weight rods and reels take me everywhere else that is beautiful in the world.

Tight lines
Guide Glenn Smith
Glennandtheartofflyfishing.com

 

6 Things To Do Before You Cast A fly.

20080817_Fishing_004-1

We, as humans, inherently are impatient. Remember the time while you were sitting at the stop light and the light turns green and the car in front of you didn’t move as quickly as you thought it should have? Or that time you were at Starbucks and the customer in front of you hadn’t made their drink decision by the time they reached the counter? How did you feel? Stressed? Angry?

What’s important in these examples is that, why were you getting bothered? More importantly, even before those incidences happened you were ALREADY preparing to be bothered. You were locked and loaded with frustration waiting for a reason to get rattled. You’re thinking, what does this have to do with fly fishing? In my opinion, everything.

It has to do with expectations, what you believe should happen. You hit the river with expectations about how many fish to catch, that your favorite hole will always be open, you’re only going to fish dry flies, so on and so fourth. Fact is, none of those things are in your control. What is in your control is that you know you’re going fishing, that’s it…unless there is a car in front of you refusing to drive fast enough, you may be late…

What I want to offer is simple 6 things that will make your day on the river perfect, before you wet a fly:

1) Be thorough; Just take the time to look at your stuff and take inventory. Look in the box and see what flies you have and what flies you need. Make sure you have everything you need for a day out on the water.

2) Ask questions and be open minded; Be the guy that comes in the fly shop that the shop guys are happy to see and the guides want to talk to. Leave the fishing ego and stories at home.

3) Don’t run to the water; I have seen it a million times, people race up the road and jump out of the car to be the first on the river. Staking out territory is, unfortunately, a residual effect of more anglers on the water, but it is unnecessary. There is always some place to fish, be open to new water, it might be a new great spot.

4) Look up; Every fisherman, I think, is to eager to start casting. Take time to watch for birds, Where they are? Are they high or low? Are they feeding? What there eating? This can tell you a lot and give you great information. If the birds are high, you are best nymphing. If they are low, a hatch is starting and that’s a great thing.

5) Make and take time; Notice everything…the trees, rocks, the weather, the weeds, the colors and the smells…all of this adds to your experience. Most importantly, it’s why we are out there.

6) Remember; Remember that you work hard, remember the chores you still have to complete, remember that we are lucky and that a fish eating our flies is a gift. So remember to remember.

If you add these tips to your day and learn to expect nothing, you may find that you will always have the best day ever.

Tight Lines

Guide Glenn Smith

Tenkara? I Don’t Even Know Ya!

Tenkara? I Don’t Even Know Ya!

Tenkara Frank

The sport of fly fishing is always evolving; from the introduction of the newest materials, cutting-edge designs in reel development, different rod composites for casting speed, or lack thereof, and even high-tech strike indicators made out of space age polymers that also went to the moon. Evolution is just that; a continuous and never-ending change.

Does evolution really matter? Will it help me catch more fish? Will I gain rock star status and the inevitable cool factor that comes with it? Even more to the question; why exactly do I need any of this? Do I need it because I’m fishing with a $15 rod and reel setup from a big box retailer? Am I so experienced and savvy that I can tell the subtle nuances of the casting characteristics between two high-end rod company offerings? It makes you wonder…

In my youth, I started fly fishing with a very cheap rod and was very concerned that I was being ripped off because I spent the extra six bucks to upgrade to the $21 “top-of-the-line” kit. The best part of that story is that I didn’t even understand the difference, but yet it seemed to matter. So, just like anyone that discovers a new found passion, I started to do my homework.

I casted a new “real” fly rod at my newly discovered fly shop and actually felt the difference. It casts lightly, it loads slowly, is responsive and light in weight, complete with reel seats made of real silver and birdseye maple. Sold! After 21 years as a guide, my rod and reel collection is pretty nice. I’m sure you can understand that I’m just keeping up with the Jones’…the Jones’ with a bitchin’ fly rod collection!

Now, keeping in line with the evolution theme, I started looking into the latest rage in all the fly fishing and trade magazines; Tenkara! I like the whole idea of it; simple, clean, but with a doctrine. It goes back to the absolute basics of catching a fish with a line and a pole.

I like the marketing ploys of it. If I fish in the traditional tenkara way, I will become a wiser, enlightened, at-peace-with-the-world and in-touch-with-my-inner-Zen, kind of angler. Fantastic!

This spoke to me. I have been a student of Zen Buddhism ever since I read, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” back in high school during 1979. I like the idea of it. I have done this style of fishing off and on, but never in a full commitment kind of way. So begins my journey into the far eastern style of fly fishing. I picked up a Patagonia tenkara rod (which we sell at our shop) and all of the other things that I needed to become a simple, uncomplicated, unencumbered tenkara angler. I have to admit, I like the fact that all I really need is tippet, tenkara flies and a net. All that I had left to do is to dive head first into the depths of the internet. I read blogs, watched videos (including Japanese YouTube videos) and sorted through as much beta as possible. I had no clue what they were even saying in Japanese, but I’ve always been more of a visual learner anyhow. I did pick up some good tips, but not really anything that I couldn’t have figured out on my own.

Here comes the philosophical rub; I have spent a lot of time on the river fishing in this new/old way and have caught some fish using the Far Eastern methods that the Tenkara purist (sensai) would recommend, and I do enjoy that but…I also like to catch fish. Truth be told, tenkara may not be the best way to achieve that end result.

I found it funny that in most of the foreign YouTube videos I watched, all of the tenkara dudes were smoking cigarettes while fishing. This must be because they needed something to do between their lack of strikes! I love the origin of the tenkara technique but not so much the end game. I suppose that makes me a bad Buddhist.

Instead of counting the reasons to never do this again I wanted to share with you my love of this technique and why I will always keep a tenkara rod me. I believe them to be superb fishing tools. All that I had to do was evolve the method to my own personal needs. I wanted this to become that special tool I keep “in my bag”, like a 6 degree fairway wood is to a golfer or a custom plane is to a woodworker.

A tenkara rod is an absolutely fantastic dry fly rod. It casts the fly perfectly, effortlessly, and presents the dry fly gently with the line rarely ever seeing a tangle. They are built for “high-sticking” pocket-water and force you to become a precision caster. After all, you can’t false cast to be a hero with a wind knot in your line. In tenkara, you look, you cast, and that’s it. I had to give up exclusively using traditional, reverse-hackled tenkara flies with the traditional line setup and adapt it to my own personal line set up using Western flies. It may not be the purist approach, but my catch rate and action increased exponentially.

Another benefit to this discipline is that it teaches you how to manage a fish during the fight. Before you even start to fish tenkara style, you need to look closely at your surroundings and choose where you’re going to be able to land that big boy, making sure that you are in a good position to move. You need to plan which eddy you are going to lead that fish into. There is no reel and no drag to rely on. The length of line you have is all that you’ve got, and trust me, this is easily the most interesting challenge of tenkara; landing the fish. Thusly, you have to be aware of every rock and be in tune with the environment around you. Now that sounds Zen-like to me!

Where I found tenkara to be the most rewarding, was in the hands of a disabled veteran. I had the pleasure of being one the guides that took a group from the Wounded Warrior Project out for a day of fishing on the Fryingpan River this past summer. These heroes’s have sacrificed enough and needed some joy and some diversion. They have literally given life and limb to help secure our way of life and deserve the utmost of our respect.

Two Great Soldier's I had the pleasure to take Fly Fishing.
Two Great Soldier’s I had the pleasure to take Fly Fishing.

One of the soldiers I fished with had very little movement in his arms and upper body. He could not stand on his own, so we brought a bar stool for him to sit on in the river. Though not the most conducive situation for traditional fly casting or fishing, but what he could do well was to hold and move a rod in a few workable positions. I decided to set him up with one of my tenkara rods that allowed him unencumbered casting and no fly line to strip or manage. He could easily roll cast the fly and simply lift the rod to set the hook. This guy nailed it! He set on every strike and we landed two really nice trout. He was thrilled. It was the essence of “fishing with a fly”. I could not have been happier helping others find some joy.

What is important to remember is that everything changes and evolves, or de-evolves over time. I am very pleased that I discovered tenkara and that I can now share it with others. I may not follow the idea of traditional Japanese fly fishing culture to the letter, but be it between technology and tradition, I always remember to ask the question, “What will make a difference to me or someone else?” Keep that tip up!

Best

Glenn