Guide Tips via Twitter

Throughout this summer I have been posting fly fishing tips and tricks in short form on Twitter. What I have learned in the exercise is that why use 7 words when 4 will do.

It is easy to get caught up in listening to yourself talk when you are perceived as an expert at anything. Twitter does not allow the luxury…and I kind of liked that.

So here is a series of Glenn and The Art Of Fly Fishing guide tips that I have recently posted. If you enjoy them and find them useful, please share them with the troutbum in your life and follow me @artofflyfishing on Twitter.

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View From The River

It has been a perfect summer so far in the Roaring Fork Valley in the heart of the Rockies. Colorado is my native and I am proud to be one of the few remaining “born and raised”.

I wanted to share some photos of the summer so far, I hope you enjoy them.

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Why Counting Fish Is A Bad Thing

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“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,

Glenn

 

 

The Zen of Paying It Forward

In fishing, I believe that you don’t teach, you transfer your skills and love of the art of fly fishing.

I can teach technique and methods, I can drill over and over casting methods and discipline. What I can’t teach is the awareness of being on the river and watching the Barn Swallows swoop down to dine on the fresh hatch of Green Drakes popping out of the current. I can’t force someone to learn to be patient enough to wait to cast at a rising fish and just observe the way the fish is sipping.

What I can do is transfer my passion for the minutest details, the magnitude of nature, the gift of where fly fishing takes us, not only geographically but mentally and spiritually. I’m not saying that being on the river will change your life and you will find religion, what I am saying is it can’t hurt.

It is important when you introduce someone to the sport of fly fishing, be sure to mention that catching is only a part of the equation not the total sum of the problem.

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Photo credit Taylor Creek Fly Shop

Quiet Chaos, Part 1

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“Man, it’s really sticky!” That was the first thing out of my mouth when I landed in Belize as I stepped off the plane (and I use the term “plane” lightly). Belize is one of those places where you take a commercial jet to the mainland then “climb into” a small, commuter plane either ran by the government or by a disgruntled expatriate collecting a pension in order to get to your final destination. I traveled to Ambergris Caye with a short list of things to accomplish: One, to sight fish Bonefish in the turtle grass; two, to make close friends with a hammock; three, to get a guided flats boat and hunt Tarpon and Permit; four,  to try as many local beers available, and number five, to repeat the first four tasks everyday for a week.

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This story came back to mind recently because I was reflecting on why “we”, as fly fishermen, go to great lengths to seek out the most exotic places, only to catch fish that we don’t keep, eat or mount on our walls. It is kind of odd, really.  So I started to think of my first of many Fly Fishing trips I have taken, and a trip to Belize, 20 years ago, helped me solidify the reason for this passion/obsession. Sure, the reasons are numerous: the beach, the perfect weather, the bikinis, the topaz blue waters, the tropical fruit and the delicious drinks that can be made from them… Come on, there is no down side to an exotic place. But I was not there for a tan, I was there to hunt big, powerful fish with a fly rod.

So, back to the story of Belize:

In less than 20 minutes from the airport, sitting in a topless 1976 jeep with original tires, I arrived at the hotel. It was surrounded by a 10-foot stone wall that separated “their country” from “our perfect country”, at least on the inside. On the inside of the wall, ice and buffets; on the outside, Watermelon flavored Fanta and families without shoes. After I checked in with the front desk staff, sporting my tropical shirts, broken english and big smiles, they assigned me a room, complete with palm trees, flowers and a hammock within staggering distance from the bar. My list was getting checked off much quicker than I had imagined, perfect.

Once I got settled in (aka beer in hand), I started to make inquires with the concierge/jeep driver about where I can wade for Bonefish and who was the best LOCAL Tarpon guide to hire for a day. The information came quick. The answer to the first question was, “over there”, as he pointed out of the lobby towards the flats right off the hotel’s beach, which was convenient; and the second answer was just a walkie-talkie chat away.

He buzzes whomever was on the receiving end of his CB,  a distorted voice responded, “ahhhchhhhhaeee  haappppchheeeeee ah ttooo, and OUT” I have no idea what he said, it could have been the local language, slang or a bad connection. My guy, I call him that because somewhere within our 20 minutes together driving, I came to trust him, whatever his name was, and how can you not trust a 270-pound guy who appears to be related to everyone on the caye? He told me that the static voice guy said, “be ready tomorrow and on the dock at 6:30 am“. OK then, I thought to myself; no guide name, no boat name, no nothing. I wasn’t sure if I was going fly fishing or being set up to lose my money, rod and anything else I may have had of value. But it was only 12:15 pm, and I was eager to get my line wet. This is my first time fly fishing the salt. I am a trout guide; a born and raised Colorado native. This was all new, this salt water thing, I was excited. For this occasion, I tapped into to my “pro-deal gear” and geared up with a brand new Sage 9 weight rod, an Able reel, new line, a mortgage-amount of saltwater flies and 2 months worth of casting experience at a local park. All I needed to believe is that I got this saltwater thing under control.

I put on my flats booties, my fishing shorts, a small waist pack, grabbed a cold beer from the beach bar and headed to the flats. (By the way, this beats putting on waders, boots, gravel guards, vest and driving to a river for two hours.) I recalled my research and discussions with my friends that have guided saltwater about what to look for when spotting Bonefish. Impatiently, I casted at anything and everything that moved or caused a shadow, just to cast and to see if, in fact,  I could really cast the distance necessary to fish for any saltwater species.

I’m fighting the wind, I’m getting tangled in my line, the rocks are sharp…I am just floundering out there.  I didn’t event think that there would be coral and rocks out there, I was hoping for white soft sand. Then something happened, at about 40 feet and the wind at my back, I see a tailing Bonefish, just like they said. Its tail just out of the water, a bit of cloudy water around him from nuzzling in the sand and grass. This was it! My first Bonefish and my chance to acquire that “in-the-know” nod.

So I pulled myself together, calmed myself down and tried to remember everything I read, videos I watched and advice I was told over and over by experienced guides. Rule number one, “don’t line or spook the fish”. I am getting ready to cast my line, away from the tailing fish, trying to gage my distance, which was just past the fish, just a leaders length. I feel good about it so I load up my rod and shoot the fly line and fly to the exact spot I was aiming for. I land it and, more importantly, the tail is STILL there. I didn’t spook him. I put the tip down and start to strip, fast then slow, I didn’t really know. I stripped it past him and nothing, I mean nothing, not a turn, not a move, nothing. But what that meant was I still have a shot at this fish. Back to casting, one big pull back, sent line out forward, sent more line out in the backcast then shot the fly right over the fish. I started stripping and then something happened that I didn’t expect, he ate my fly.

Everyone tells you how to spot, cast and fight a Bonefish, but no one really tells you what to expect when a fish like this takes your fly. Imagine this, you cast at a Mini Cooper and you hook the bumper, then, exactly at that moment, the Mini steps on the gas going directly away from you. That’s the feeling, more or less. The fact is, I was not prepared. Once I set the hook, he took off. I had my drag of my reel set way too strong, which resulted in me diving in after my rod after it had been ripped out of my hands by that little freight train of pissed off. Luckily, I got a hand on my rod before it escaped completely and quickly loosened my drag and away we went. The fight begins.

As he swam away, I had the rod bent so much that I was waiting to hear that “gunfire” snap that you only hear when a rod breaks under pressure. Thank god that didn’t happen, but I was waiting. Reeling the best I can, letting it run when it wanted, reeling again, I was making progress. All I could compare it to is a foul-hooked Whitefish; strong, unmanageable, and angry.  As I slowly got my first ‘Bone near me, I realize that I don’t have a net… rookie mistake, so I slowly work my way to the beach and bring that #6 bundle of muscle to the shore, reach down, release the hook from its mouth and watched him swim away never looking back at me. I was pleased.

I didn’t take any pictures, have no prize to show for my heroic efforts, just the cold beer I drank while watching the turtle grass, closely,  for some kind of movement.

Be sure to hit me up this Saturday. I will tell you about the Tarpon experience I had the next day.