Please, Try to “Act” Like An Angler

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Explaining the “act” of fly fishing

If you ask a seasoned angler, not necessarily the gray-haired weathered old dude you might imagine sitting at the local small-town bar, drinking his third, second cheapest beer,  with an air of deep-seeded river knowhow. His conversation with whomever is next to him riddled with “dead drift this and Trico that”, you know he speaks fluent trout. This is not what I mean by seasoned. Seasoned to me is understanding. Understanding what the “Act” of fly fishing means. 

It may be a counterintuitive statement to claim, that catching a fish, or shall I say, netting a fish is not the endgame, it’s an added benefit. Most Fly Fishing diehards that I know and respect are throwing a fly line for a very different reason; that reason is to recognize, address, and solve the riddle. 

The “riddle” is exactly that, unpredictable ever-changing problems, the riddle is about difficulty, the riddle may be “What the hell are they eating?” or “How will I possibly land this fish if I hook one?” or “How do I even cast to that lunker under the brush?” They stopped feeding, Why? Was it because of that temperature change? The bright sunlight? Did the hatch end? Are they on emergers? The riddle changes every day, hour by hour, minute by minute, be it on the river or not. 

Let me take a moment and attempt to approach this for a different angle. Why do you fish? Why did you choose the way you chose to catch fish; be it spin casting, fly rod, Tenkara, dynamite, bait, lure or fly? 

Why are you out there? Is it to catch as many fish as possible, hook the BIG one? Get away from the family for a day or week? Is it to spend quality time with the kids or alone? Is it a reason to see the world? or just a great reason to drink beer with your buddies? Truthfully, It’s almost a trick question, i’ve been out there for all the reasons I just listed. Some good and some not so much. But we all have our reasons. But with that said, most seasoned fly fisherman will say the reason they are out there is “just because.” I understand that answer completely. 

Wherever I go to try to catch a fish, I choose to fly fish 95% of the time. The other 5% I have fished with lures, even garlic scented rubber worms and that nasty neon orange eggs that just plain feels like cheating, but I have done it. But I prefer to tie a fly on any day of the week. I prefer the “act” or ceremony of fishing with a fly. 

Do I believe I’m a fishing snob or elitist? Maybe. In contrast if you excel at bass fishing with crank bait because you like that action, it’s your first choice, you too can be considered a snob and that’s ok. I just enjoy all the process of fly fishing over other techniques.  

This brings me to the original point of my musings, What do I mean by the term of “act”? There is a book on Zen that is called “Chop Wood, Carry Water” that can easily be translated to the actions, processes and methods of fly fishing from start to finish. It basically states that do whatever you’re doing, no matter how simplistic or complicated the task may be, treat it with perfection efforts. If you mop a floor, mop it perfectly, If you build a wooden box, build it with full attention. This is what the act of fly fishing is. I want to give you some things to think about:

  1. When you first get to the river, don’t rush to the water, take time to notice the trees, the sky, the birds, the smells, take it all in.
  2. Never or minimally have your rod rigged up ahead of time. Try not to have a predestined idea of what you might think is hatching. Trust me, you wont know until you step foot near the water.
  3. Always treat your equipment with respect and awareness. Take stock of everything you need, like tippet, floatant, leaders, clippers and so on either before or after your day out on the water. Nothing is more frustrating than 4” of fluorocarbon when you need a foot.
  4. Do treat your time on the river as, your time on the river. Think about your friends that have to work, or the people that will never have the opportunity to fish that stretch of water. never that the experience for granted.
  5. ALWAYS take time to admire and that the fish for eating your fly. Remember, it had a lot of choices, it chose yours. (and also remember that you also messed up their day, what they thought was food was a trap. just say’n)
  6. When you talk about your success of your day at the local watering hole, be humble about it. Nothing is worse that a braggart that thinks he a big dog when truthfully, someone else in that bar caught a much bigger or more then you did and is sitting cool like just waiting to call you out.
  7. Listen. Listen to the guys is the fly shop. Listen to the guys picking out flys or talking about the day before.Listen to the water, listen to the silence of the forrest.
  8. Don’t try to keep up with the Jones’s. You don’t need to have the latest and greatest. use what you got the very best you can. Having new stuff is nice and treat yourself if you want to, but don’t think you need it to have a great day out on the water.
  9. Arrogance and Ego should never be part of an anglers game. The fish don’t care who you are. If you are that good, actions scream much louder that words. Remember that Fly fishing   is inherently a “quiet” sport. Its the only group activity you do by yourself
  10. When you cast, treat it like poetry or music, great fly casting has a beautiful cadence, practice and make it fluid.

Above are just a few examples is how I define and think the word “Act”. 

I also think of getting lost in something. I feel as if I’m fully engulfed. This is what I believe that people that are deeply involve in yoga, meditation, art, or even fully focused accountant is when working on an Excel spread sheet. Fly fishing is what you are not what you do.

Tight Lines

Glenn

Aspen Press Is The Best!

 

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Summer is over and fall is defiantly in the air. There is no question that winter is right around the corner and godspeed to that! We need the snow, we need the snow pack and we need the water (desperately) to bring the river and water levels back up to it glory.

The fact is, trout need water, period. So do your rain/snow/moisture dance to entice the weather gods to do their thing.

Enough about that, lets talk about me! LOL

This spring I was asked by Aspen Sojourner to be part of the summer issue featuring stories about fly fishing in the Roaring Fork Valley from a guides POV. Also included in the article was the legendary Tim Heng and the master “guidess” Shannon Outing.

It was a ton of fun to do, the photos are great and is so well written, click the link below!

Thank you Sojourner!

Best

Guide Glenn Smith

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Here is the link: Aspen Sojourner Aspen Fly Fishing

What a crazy summer!

Now that September has come and fall is very much in the air, it is time to catch a breath and reflect on what a crazy summer it has been.

First and foremost, the fishing has been great all summer long. Don’t believe what social media tells you… If you keep up with what’s happening in our little hamlet, the Roaring Fork Valley and the quaint town of Basalt, you may be aware of all the excitment that has happened here; we had the Lake Christine Fire that happened on the 4th of July and thereafter burned for over a month. I provided a link to the stats as well click here and it will direct you to the photosIMG_1308

 

We also had a terrible winter last year which in turn made our water levels in the Roaring Fork critically low which forced the DOW to regulate the times in which we could fish due to the water temperature. At 66 degrees and above, the stress on the trout can kill them (and we don’t want that) so all the valleys guides did their best to “keep’m wet”, honor the request of the experts and take great care. Bravo to all who did their part.

But we persevered!

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From my POV, I had a great summer and a very interesting one to say the least. Due to the challenges the fish was great but different. What I found day in and day out was that it felt that all the hatches were somewhat off. It seemed to be a month ahead of schedule as well as thin. We didn’t get that chocking caddis hatch, nor the full on “steak and potato” Green Drake hatch in August like normal. But you know what? It still all worked out. The PMD’s were strong, the BWO’s were off the hook, Hoppers are falling in the river  like candy and a prince nymph is always money…

Another super cool thing that happened is that I was featured in The Aspen Sojourner Magazine with a sweet photo spread about fly fishing. I will post more about the article but want to share some of the photos they used. Online

 

Now the part some of you have been waiting for, the 2018 season of badass photos of fish and awesome clients, so here we go!

 

And last but not least, as not only a Fly Fishing Guide at Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt I am also a producing artist, which makes this next photo even more amazing. I had the opportunity to fish with some of the top Artist, Curators and critics! Here is me with Heidi Zuckerman, Director of the Aspen Art Museum,  Hans Ulrich Obrist and wonderful fly fisherman and world renowned conceptual artist Joseph Grigely

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Now that it has become a bit more quiet, I am planning on making Guide Tip videos about shortcuts, affective techniques, fly selections, drift tips and much more.

 

So that all I got to say about that!

 

Tight-lines

Glenn

 

 

Pre-Game Pre-Trip Checklist!

Hello Trout Hunters, Anglers, and soon to be Hooked on fly fishing!

This is a great bit of great information about what you NEED to do before you show up for a guided fly fishing trip. We use this at my shop Taylor Creek in Basalt and it makes everyones life a bit easier as well as getting you on the water that much quicker!

Follow this link and Give it a read: Pre Trip Check List!

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Tight Lines!

Guide Glenn Smith

To Love An Inanimate Object

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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.

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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”

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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.

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Me and Gary Gulman before or show ay the Wheeler Opera House
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Solo Show at The Art Base
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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