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, touris…
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.
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.
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.
Guide Glenn Smith
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.
Guide Glenn Smith
Tenkara? I Don’t Even Know Ya!
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.
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!
I have never been accused of not having an opinion, so as my first video, I am addressing tenkara. I hope you enjoy it.
When a client walks into my shop Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt, I greet them with a “how’s it going, ready to catch some fish?”, make some small talk, get them “wadered” up and load ’em up in my truck to take them fly fishing. This is just business as usual, an everyday ritual. I will be the first to admit that it is easy to take all stuff, the ceremony of this for granted. I am here to tell you first hand, that I have learned a valuable lesson as of late; I do not underestimate the importance of what this day on the river might mean to these clients or shall I say, my guests.
Allow me to back track a week or two:
I just had my birthday at the beginning of September…thank you, and the opportunity came up for me to take a trip to Bozeman, Montana with my beautiful bride to be. If you don’t’ know, Bozeman is theoretically the the center of the fly fishing universe, it is a pilgrimage, a fisherman’s right of passage. I never have been there and was very excited to go. I wanted to earn my stripes.
When the dates of our trip were solidified, I started two weeks in advance to line up a guide, I started to buy bugs from my shop that would be unique enough to impress my guide and have some out of state special sauce that might just be the ticket for those legendary Brown trout and Rainbows from that Big Sky state. I spent time, a lot of time, going though my gear, getting rid of the things that I didn’t need and getting doubles of what I did need. Tippet, leaders, Dry Shake, Hoppers, Mice, Ants, everything. I made sure I had all the bugs I was told by my friends, clients and guides that have been there. I was very excited.
At my shop, we have a great guy named Rich that lived in Montana, (in his truck, perfect) for a couple of years and offered to mark out his favorite places on a Rand McNally map of where that he love to fish, with add commentary stating “classic scenery with an old barn in field” or “fish the island loaded with Hogs…”. I’m not sure if that was exactly his wording but you get the drift.
I was thrilled to have his insight and a taste of a locals intel.
When the time came for us to catch our very early flight out of Aspen, I looked like a guy taking a fly fishing trip, somewhere else. I had my rod case in hand and made sure I didn’t let it out of my sight, ever. I checked all my gear, twice. I called the guide I hired to let him know that we were still on our way and I would hit him up when we got into town just to confirm that we were good to go. We went straight from the airport to the fly shop to get our licenses just to that out of the way, done and done!
The point of this article has nothing to do with my fishing trip in Montana, which was epic BTW, but everything to do with being a engaged, hard working, understanding as a working professional fishing guide.
Now that I have been on the receiving end of the service I offer I now I meet my clients that booked their trip with me, as if they were as excited and prepared for their day with me as I was, when I first met my guide, Brett Seng at 6:30 in the morning in front of Rivers Edge Fly Shop in Bozeman. I was absolutely giddy, in the most macho way possible of course. By the way, Brett is the BOMB, hit the link and look him up…
I have seen a number of guides treat the day of work as a day of work. Get in, get out, done. Trust me, I have felt that way from time to time, especially at the end of season, we can get a bit “crispy”… but I am doing my best to remember, I have know idea of my clients story, I don’t know if they are excited to be out there or if it was just a lark to try fly fishing or if this is a fulfillment of a chance to fish in the Roaring Fork Valley. But what I do know, is what I felt when I was a client and not the guide and how everything was memorable. So whatever you do for a living, what you do will always be someones fond memory.
As we say, keep those line tight,
Be sure to follow me @artofflyfishing on Twitter and Instagram
Not many people in this world has an occupation that you “choose” to take a vacation or shall I say for tax purposes, an R&D trip for what you so everyday. I am one of those very lucky people. I am on way way to fish the great waters of the endless stories in the Big Sky state of Montana.
As many of you know if you follow my blog postings that I am a professional guide in the the beautiful Roaring Fork Valley in Colorful Colorado. The fact is, I have 4 Gold Medal rivers right out my backdoor, so it is very hard to leave. This is why the Montana trip is so exciting.
I plan to post this entire week documenting the events of a guide in foreign lands. I hope you enjoy this series with the first photo of the mouse pattern I intend to use.