“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,
It is a bright, sunny day and I am a meager 6’4″ guy trying to be stealthy, trying not to spook fish. It begs the question, “Is creeping around, being as quiet as I can, really make a difference in my catch ratio”?
Truth is, I don’t know… but how can it hurt. I prefer more of a quiet fishing experience, no yelling, no Yee Ha’s or Yoo Hoo’s, just quiet action. I know that it is exciting to share with everyone around you that you have a massive, potential state record trout on the end of your line if, in fact, it is true. But take it from me, don’t do that. What’s the point? To cause envy? Jealousy? To be the P. Diddy of the river? More like Kanye West really, arrogant without reason.
I subscribe to the soft little voice in my head that say’s “I know this is awesome, I want to do that again” school of thought. It’s simple. It makes me happy and keeps me from a) looking like a dick and b) being called out if, in fact, it is NOT the record breaking. Nothing is really worse than being the guy who called “fish” for no reason.
So, be quiet, be sneaky and be humble. Only good things will come from this technique.
It’s early in the morning and you are getting ready for a day out on the river. Do you have EVERYTHING you need for a successful day of fly fishing?
As a guide, it is important that I have everything that YOU might possibly need as well as everything I need. It is tantamount, as an experienced guide, not to get caught looking for something you need or worse, not having it and appearing completely unprepared.
Here is a bit of insight about my daily routine and my daily checklist for a great day of chasing trout without worry, stress and looking like a pro. This short list of nine are important to me but please, feel free to email, comment or add to this list. I would love to share your best tips in a future blog.
1. Polarized sunglasses: It is in my honest opinion that polarized sunglasses are THE most important item that any serious fisherman should own. I love SMITH Optics, I won’t guide without them, because:
a) They give you an incredible advantage of seeing the fish if you know how to look for them,
b) They provide a much safer way to wade and to see the river bottom and any other obstacles and,
c) They enable you to see the fly on the water when a delicate little ‘sipper’ takes that #20 midge.
2. Great wading boot, or at least OK waders: Buy the best you can afford but think about how much wear or “time in the saddle” you’re going to give them. I have always been a dedicated SIMMS guy. I think they understand what professional Fly Fishing guides need and that can only benefit the recreational fisherman with great R&D and history.
One thing to assess, if throwing stacks of 100’s at something, you’re “just going to get wet”. I will stress buying really good boots and medium priced waders. Cheap boots fall apart and can be dangerous. Always think safety.
3. A decent rod: You might notice that I didn’t mention a rod and reel – that’s coming up. What you do want is a rod that feels right to you. When you’re shopping for rods, do not start with price. First thing you should do is go to a shop that sells real Fly Fishing gear, not fishing gear and baby cloths and iPods. The only other thing that is acceptable in the store, other than flies, is other fly fishing related goods, and maybe a mug.
I have Sage and ‘Winston rods. These are the rods that I feel best casting, but there are many out there I haven’t casted that I am sure I would fall in love with, I will have to wait until the next fly fishing show or a generous Rep to show up at the shop!
Anywho, ask to cast a bunch of rods in the weight that is appropriate for the fish you’re chasing; #0-#5 are great weights to start with. Be sure to cast these rods with reels and line. Don’t just stand in the shop and shake it around, it looks cool but doesn’t tell you anything. Choose the one that you connect with, I can almost promise that it will not be the one your friend suggested you get. Now you can look at the price. If it is too much, the shop guy will lean you into a good second choice. If you choose one that feels right and you can also afford, BUY IT. I, still to this day, fish with a old Sage RPL 2 piece that I love.
4. A good to great reel: This is sometimes a sticky wicket. I own great reels, I own not so great reels. I own them both by choice. Personally I find it hard to spend $600 on a 2 weight reel, but no problem with that much on a 9 weight reel. One is to “put the fish on” and the other is simply to hold line. My thought is this, get a reel that has a warranty, looks great and balances well with your rod. I will leave it up to you to choose between practicality, a piece of jewelry, or both.
5. A REAL fly box: Be sure to have a box that is easy to open and more importantly, stays closed. Do not keep the bugs you just purchase in one of those plastic specimen cups with a snap on lid….so rookie. This is the best way to lose the $30 or more worth of flies and look stupid doing it. Also, the box should fit in whatever pocket you keep it in… securely.
Again, nothing is worse than bending over to net a fish you have been working for an hour and watch your fly box float down stream.
6. A great set of snippers: Nail clippers don’t cut it. Buy a good set designed to cut “mono”, then buy another.
7. Everything else: Be sure to always have enough tippet. It is best to double up with floatant, weights, leaders, and hemostats. This will ensure that you will not to be caught with your pants down when the fish are rising and you’re not digging through your pockets looking for that 6X tippet and all you can find 3X. Get my drift?
8. Light weight rain jacket: A must have that should never leave your car, unless you are wearing it on the river, in a rain storm.
9. Gas: Always fill your transportation with gas. You don’t want to be worrying about running out of fuel when you should be running up the river to get the evening hatch.
This is the basic list that I pretty much follow everyday that I get in the car and head out. I hope it is helpful and at least gives you a base of good preparation.
Next week will be my list of things you absolutely don’t need but think you do need.
Just the other day I received this comment on my blog l posted last week about staying humble and in check:
“Ah well said…but I was hoping you might touch upon the truly self absorbed, hot shots….the ones that often work in a shop…the trout bum. All the obnoxious traits above are trumped by the bum”
I will do just that Mr B. Some of them shop rats are dicks, but most all of them are not. I will have to agree that the ones that act “Holier than thou” do leave a really bad taste in a persons mouth.
First off, I need to make a few quick points:
A) In any sporting industry be it skiing, snowboarding, skate-shops, and the mother of them all- surf shops, there is always the “chip on the shoulder” guy that believes there is no one better than him in his world. (You never see this in a hockey store; it’s the only sport where ego gets a punch in the face).
The fact is, there will always be those guys that feel it necessary to misrepresent their love and skill of their chosen sport with a pedestal built of arrogance, What sport doesn’t?
B) Some shops actually condone this behavior. It either stems from the owner that by nature is grumpy to the bone and it trickles down to his small and unpleasant staff or it’s just a bad shop. By the way, I love those shops, it can be so much fun just to ask stupid questions to get a rise and wait for what might spill out of their mouths. It can be priceless. But if you chose to do that, remember, many life long fly fishermen are hunters, more than likely they are locked and loaded.
Here is the truth. It is a shame that you had to experience this type of shop guy, it is in everyones best interest not to be that ” asshole” behind the counter. It is bad for the customers, it is bad for the guides and it is just plain bad for business. I have new clients that come from other shops to fish with us because they could not stand the fact that they were paying a lot of money for a trip and the owner was just disrespectful, and a good guide lost his client because of that owner. Totally uncool.
In my experience from both sides of this, as customer and guide, you can do a few different things:
1) Don’t buy anything, leave and go to another shop in town that is more than happy to see you. Simple as that.
2) Call him out. “Dude really? You’re awfully cocky for a 10 year old…” I have found that a bit of quick wit and carefully placed sarcasm can be a very powerful tool when have to defuse an unnecessary ego fueled situation. Word of caution, don’t pin ego with ego. Your goal is just to punctuate his attitude, to make him realize how stupid he sounds.
3) If you’re going into the shop for a fishing trip, I suggest talking to everyone in there and stick with the one that engages you in return. We ALL walk into a room and form our opinions of everyone in there way before anyone is introduced. I do it, you do it, everyone does it, it is human nature.
My only comment I would have to make is that a “trout bum” is a person that is so enamored with the sport that they are willing to live “that” lifestyle; they are OK with being broke, always chasing trout and working in a fly shop. The guys that bug you are just punks with rods or a shop owners without a business plan.
I hope this answers your question.
I am a sucker for #oldschool stuff, be it #motorcycles, #watches or fly fishing gear. I know that this reel is far from the best, but it served its purpose for someone very well. Look at the wear of the finish and the dirt on the handle from this persons thumb and fingers.
What stories would this reel tell? How about the angler? Where in the world has this reel been? To me, Fly fishing should always more than one’s fish count.
#flyfishermen #flyfishing #trout #travel #stories #reels
Every Sunday I am going to post the best photos of Fishermen and their animal companion. Dogs, cats, snakes and so on. I regularly fish with my two girls whenever I can, I think it makes their day and I know it makes mine. So if you are like me and love to fish with “a Quiet Companion” and want them to be featured on this page, and Instagram, please send them my way.
I will give photo credit, as well as link to your site or Instagram!
There are 3 ways to submit your photos;
Send to firstname.lastname@example.org
Post them on Instagram and hashtag and/or tag with #ArtofFlyFishing @artofflyfishing
Or, Just send them to me through messaging on my Facebook page, Glenn and The Art o Fly Fishing
I am looking forward to a long standing tradition of highlighting ‘The Angler and their companions.’
(This is a repost of an article that had written a bit ago for the Taylor Creek blog. I posted it here but. it was posted in the most horrible layout and unreadable font…but I fixed that. Please enjoy)
When you live in a small-town resort area, your perspective over time can become a bit skewed.
I made a living for nearly twenty years doing what most people dream about; spending my days on a beautiful river casting feathers, threads and hook to a waiting trout. But alas, no longer. As with all things, life changes can be good or bad.
My path and life changes (always when a girl becomes involved) have recently led me to the beautiful city of San Francisco, far, far away from the hustle-bustle of Basalt, Colorado and the magnificent Roaring Fork Valley: The same Valley where a roundabout caused a wild uproar with the long time residents, many of whom are still upset that Highway 82 is four lane highway with God forbid, stop lights. Coincidently, these are same residents that welcomed Whole Foods like a favorite aunt coming home from a five year stint in a hippy commune. I love that. That is the charm of living in a small town.
As a local, you just come to understand and accept, -almost expect- a somewhat closed mindedness of our type. Of course I mean that in the most complimentary of ways. We forget what the pressures of city living is like: the traffic, all the in-our-opinion, the speed of life, and the idea or belief of how work is supposed to work.
First, let’s define work. In a city, work is a way to provide for your family. You keep your head down and grind it out to save for that two week vacation that will include your obligatory 1-3 days of fly fishing, all the while making sure that there is something else for the family to do. The difference in a valley like ours, is that you do the work that you want to do, avoid the work that you don’t want to do and fish before dinner, or more accurately, fish through dinner. That is really the way it is.
Now, my tables have turned. I am now a city dweller, thinking and longing for the river. My perspective has now changed drastically. As a professional fly-fishing guide, your biggest concerns are as follows; is the water clear, what is the flow, what is the weather going to do today, is my client a gun or a squid? It’s true. Just like you would prejudge your guide, “he looks nothing like Brad Pitt” or “this is nothing like the the movie“. One of my personal favorites that was said to me from a client the moment we shook hands was, “I’ve read about a 24″ brown trout that John Gierach caught behind Two Rocks on the Fryingpan. I want to catch it”. We as guides sometimes make judgments too, but they are soft judgments that we never stick firmly to, as I have been surprised more often than not.
I have now become a pedestrian, living miles, not yards, away from the river, mentally planning my next trip to get out and wet a line. This is a new perspective for me. It has given me a much needed, new point of view of what an out-of-town client really comes to expect and what to leave with; serenity. I now get it. I am willing to pay, willing to travel, willing to spend my day with someone that is living a life that people dream of. I absolutely loved being a guide. I looked forward to hearing the stories about lifestyles that I never wanted to live; the grind, the tow, the stress, all things that make an urbanite tick. I am now one of them.
As of today, I have a couple hundred bucks saved up to make a trip back to the Valley and actually do what I used to get paid handsomely to do for years. What I have learned since leaving my amazing home in the mountains is to simply appreciate every day, and to be light handed on the judgment thing and to remember that everyone has their own story
When I tell people what I have done in my life, as I’m sitting at a craft beer bar in the Bay Area, they are captivated and awestruck by how I have lived my life up to this point. When I ask about their path, I often find that they are a major player in a well known social media company that I can only describe in 140 characters or less, that they are just 24 years old and have more money and toys than God. Somewhat amazingly, I never have envy. I have lived a life that they could only dream of living.
The river is part of me. I miss the sound and feeling of the current pushing against my legs in waders. I miss the rain at 4 o’clock everyday and the “pop” of a caddis busting through the surface. I now know what it’s like to be in the hype of a big city and looking for a fly shop just to check out what’s going on; it’s woven into me. I will always make trips back to the waters that I love, now fully understanding just how special they really are. And I will never take it for granted and realize that I too, will be “lightly judged” by the new guides, not know my history, my story, until we are out on the water and quietly proving that I’m a gun and not calamari.
[ I am now as I write this note, moving back to my native Colorado to Guide once again in the beautiful Roaring Fork Valley. Let’s go fish’n]
It is common knowledge that 7:30 in the morning is standard start time for most of the guides in our shop. Some consistently show up fifteen minutes early, while some of the veteran guides show up late, pretty much all the time. That’s not because that we veterans believe that we’re privileged, it’s because we have our system down, mastered like YoYo Ma approaching a cello. Our fly boxes are stocked with the right flies immediately after we get off of the river. We make sure that we have plenty of Dry Shake and tippet, including back-ups in the glove box. Our client lunches are already made or ordered. Check, check and check.
It’s more than that though. Those of us with a lifetime of trips under our belts are fortunate to have many returning clients. We keep in touch with our fishing guests both before and after their fishing trips. Many know the routine as well as we do. Because of that, many of our repeat offenders don’t want to take part of the morning frenzy at the fly shop, rushing to get fitted in waders that don’t fit as well as they could and being told, “If they’re a bit tight, that’s okay. It is to suppose to fit like that.” In reality, that’s just a line of guide BS to get you out of the shop and out onto the water as fast as possible. A guide that knows his client(s) well has already pulled their gear out in the correct and appropriate sizes. We’re that good.
To me, the truth is this: As a professional fishing guide, no matter how well you know the fish, the water or the bugs, the most important thing to know is your client(s).
You know that they prefer to throw a dry fly over a nymph but that they are okay with a dry-dropper because you know that works too. Or that they like a turkey sandwich on wheat with no mayo. I have some clients that just want to fish in beautiful places, which isn’t too difficult of a request here in the magnificent Roaring Fork Valley. Other clients of mine only want to fish from 10am – 2pm so that they can sneak in a quick round of golf. My personal favorite request is when a client informs me to just make sure that his significant other is well taken care of, thus enabling him to book a return fishing trip, confident that she’ll allow him to do so again.
I would like to share with you one of my favorite client stories that happened a few years ago that has yet to be topped. I call it, “The Three Requirements”
I arrived at the shop around 8 am and was told by one of the fly shop managers, Bob, that I had a pick-up in town. What that means is that I am going to meet them at wherever they might be staying. This client happened to be staying at The Aspen Institute. This information immediately screams a couple of things; the client is an out-of-towner and assuredly, is going to be in the upper percentile of income, and more than likely, an intellect. The Aspen Institute is a “think tank”, loaded to the gills with the world’s best movers, shakers and game changers; in other words, my kind of people.
So, Bob tells me that Ms. Fischer is expecting me promptly at 9:00 am and that I’d better get a move on it. He then rounds out that statement with, “And good luck”, said in a half snicker – half we’re praying for you, tone of voice.
“What do you mean by that?” I say.
Bob stumbles his wording a touch, realizing that he might have slipped up. “You’ll see. Never mind. Just saying.”
‘Great’, I say to myself, trying to figure out how he can have such a strong opinion of Ms. Fischer with only a 5 minute phone call made to book this trip for her. What did she say to him? I was intrigued.
So, I get my gear for the day, jump in the truck and head to Aspen as fast as I can so that I wouldn’t be late, remembering the word “promptly”. What I did know is that I had twenty minutes to fret on what Bob wasn’t telling me about this trip at the shop.
I roll into The Aspen Institute and I see my client for the day standing exactly where she told Bob that she would be. I pulled up, stepped out of my truck, walked up to Ms. Fischer with my hand out, ready to shake hands and greet my client.
“I’m sorry, I don’t shake hands.” she says.
I bring back my hand and say, “Okay then, it’s nice to meet you.”
“It’s nice to meet you too” she says. Now, I’m thinking that there might be some hope for today after all.
Not ten seconds had past and she blurts out, “I have three requirements for today.” Then, an odd silence came over us.
A-ha, Bob’s words at the fly shop are becoming much clearer to me now. I ask politely, “And what might those three requirements be?”
She said, “One”, as she reaches in her bag and pulls out very beautiful short rod. “I only want to fish with this rod.”
It was a gorgeous, handmade bamboo fly rod that was her crown jewel. “I want for you to fish with that rod all day”, I said in the same voice a kid would use as they’re just about to open and play with a new toy that they’ve been wanting for a while. “Sure, no problem”, she obliged.
“Two,” she says sternly, as she put up a peace sign with her fingers, “I want to catch fish that are only this big.”, as she lowers her hands to measures a gap between her two index fingers, something no bigger than six inches.
I have to ask, “Why’s that?”
As she reaches into her bag again, she proceeds to lift out a very small, handmade, birdseye maple wooden net with a hand-knotted basket that could not fit a fish much larger than 6 inches. The net was also made by the same artisan that crafted her impeccable fly rod. I am slowly beginning to understand my client. I could not wait to find out what the third requirement might be.
I ask with a light tinge of hesitance in my voice and slowly say, “And three?”
She says without missing a beat, “I want my experience to be lyrical”. She went silent again, looking at me with a cold stare waiting for my answer to her challenge.
I look at her calmly, grab her bag of tricks and load it in to my old Toyota truck. “Let’ go, I have an idea”. She was pleased with my confidence and of my acceptance to her requests. The truth is, the only idea I had had was to get in the truck and figure it to on the road.
One thing a good fishing guide should be is becoming an expert of small talk with a purpose. Kind of like being a private investigator without your mark knowing that they are quietly being cross examined. Here is what I found out:
a) She is in an unusual high-pressure job
b) She is an older, single woman and a bit too busy for a social life
c) She is very well traveled
d) Lives in the heart of Manhattan.
e) Enough said – I have a plan.
I told her, “I have the perfect place in mind, but it will take us about 30 longer to get there. Is that okay?” I knew it would be okay. I’m driving and thankfully she had no idea that there was great fishing less than five minutes from her Aspen hotel. So we drive along chatting, talking about the sites and local history. She thinks that she wants to go fishing, but what she really wants is to simply get away.
Twenty minutes later we bypass two major rivers in our area, the Fryingpan and the Roaring Fork. I know you’re thinking…why? Well that’s easy for me to answer. My intention is to take her up into the high country creeks and oxbows that are filled with little brown and beautiful brook trout. No other fisherman in sight and a perfect place for a 6’6″ bamboo fly rod.
I pull my truck into a pull-out along the side of the dirt road that’s littered with open range cows and cattle guards. I open her cloth rod sock, set up her rod and grab her net with a smile on my face and say, “Are you ready? Let’s go.”
All dear Ms. Fischer had to say to me at that moment was, “This is perfect.”, then that odd little silence showed up once again.
The importance and beauty of getting to know your client is really one simple rule: Try to know what your client wants before they even know what it is that they are truly seeking.