An Unexpected Career Path
So what do you want to do for a living? This question is asked to most everyone as they grow up. The people that usually ask this question are people who believe that they have found their path, their purpose and somehow feel they know all the best methods to achieve success.
I am here to tell you that they don’t.
If these guidance experts are truly enlightened, they will be wise enough to realize that their advice should be more of a suggestion of sorts or a catalyst for action, not a platform to preach their personal gospel to their own personal success.
I have 18 years under my belt as a professional fly fishing guide. I make part of my living by teaching the skill of catching & releasing fish. The other parts consist of cooking things (as a professional chef), building things (as a General Contractor), designing things (Furniture, Flowers…), solving things (as a Consultant). The fact is, I have done everything that my student counselor never even suggested.
I would wager that there is not a single career guide book written that would suggest “You should pursue a career as a fly fishing guide” or “Your skill set suggests that you should be a jack of all trades”. There are many of us out there that was given career options that were more suited for the advisor than they were for people they were advising.
The truth is, I found myself as a guide by chance and bit of bad luck.
In my beginnings, I became a chef, working in amazing places and evolved into a top-shelf ‘private chef’ in Aspen, Colorado, with a cliental that could not be rivaled, all without formal culinary training. My food is really good but my personality is better. Making my way in that industry came through good relationships, honest interest and wanting to get really good at the craft. Secondly, I also liked the image of the chef, being in the social mix, being the guy that made a restaurants reputation. Another perk that was appealing is I tasted and ate what I made, and it was free. That was very important back in the day, because I was flat broke at that time in my life.
All was going as planned (if to say I had a plan), then I was struck with terrible news, I had heart issues. The chest X-ray from a routine check up discovered that I had a leaky bicuspid aortic heart valve. In short, being told that I had a big heart was no longer a compliment, it was now a real problem. Open-heart surgery was inevitable.
After meeting with specialist I was given three choices:
1) Have the valve replaced within a month,
2) Wait and have a heart replacement,
I was actually excited to hear this, I like those kind of choices. Clear cut and no room for indecision. I choose door #1.
I am not to going into what happened with lengthy details, sympathy stories or life changing religious experiences, I’ll leave those to a yet to be addressed medical blog. The long and short of it all is, I weathered the surgery and all is good. Except one thing, I was told by my Doctor after my recovery to change my lifestyle, to limit the stress in my life. Hmmm, as I hummed to myself, wondering what I’m going to do now. The fact is, anyone in the elevated, highly skilled culinary world knows, it is nothing but a high stress, high pressure occupation.
But changes had to be made. I had to find another career, so I reflected back to all the career aptitude test I have taken throughout my lifetime. The Myers-Briggs test, self-help books on changing careers, my high school aptitude tests, anything that could give me some sort of direction.
After reviewing my results, my best career fit was, according to the test; a hair stylist, an architect, a graphic designer and my favorite, an Assassin. Best part is, I have done something in all of these fields, accept the Assassin thing, unless you consider hunting turkeys a hit man job.
Here is the reason I am bringing all of this to the forefront of why I am concerned about advising someone about there future. I believe that the people who are quick to give career advice forget to look at the person as an individual and not just a common type of person that fits the career profile. A great counselor understands fundamentally that a person would rather find or discover their spot in life by accident, or take to the game of career “Twister” and choose a different spot of different colors on a daily basis, spin the wheel for a new color and see where they end up.
I grew up living in my dads work shop, tinkering with everything i could get my hands on. Woodworking, building bike, tearing apart motors (and rarely getting them back together again). I made plaster sculptures, knitting and countless Estes Rocket, model cars and planes. I did it all. When summer showed up, I went fishing with an Uncle maybe twice a month. Who would of known that I would be a professional fisherman as a living? I didn’t.
Recently, I looked in all the career guide books, no mention of Fly Fishing guide as an option, I knew I loved fishing, as a hobby, but a career? You hear the stories from Pitchmen and Bakers, “My Passion is buttercream” or “I live for making the perfect plumbing fixture”. I get that, but I would say most people can’t really pinpoint their passion. I never once uttered “my passion is fly fishing” or “my life’s works to create a perfect method to catch a fish”. It never passed my lips, until I took a close look at what really made me happy and why it did. That’s when I started to think about my “love” of fly fishing.
Having a passion for something is best, but the way I looked at it, fly fishing gives me great joy. I am content on the river. I also like teaching others and take joy in their successes. All of this was discovered because of circumstance and happenstance. I had a really bad thing happen to me that I thought would never happen, but it did, unexpectedly.
I live in an area that is known for its fishing, Basalt, Colorado. There are four major rivers within 60 miles of each other. The Frying Pan, The Roaring Fork, The Colorado and The Crystal. Every one of them, perfect fishing habitat and beautiful. I reflected back to what I knew was engrained in my psyche as a tinkering, fishing kid and looked for options that could possibly be new career. I asked friends about their favorite unexpected job they have had or ever had. I looked at my hobbies, I paid attention to what magazines I would grab from the book store. Then I looked out my back door, talked with my local fly shop, Taylor Creek Fly Shop and the rest is history. Thank you Tim Heng, a Fly fishing guru and the guy who gave me a chance.
I love helping people find a direction, not a path. (You might say that is my passion). You can never be sure of exactly, pin point accurately, what they are best suited for. Are they up for a climb or better fit for a stroll? If you feel the need to guide, advise, or try to help someone find their path, take a moment to ask the right questions and not dictate.
Instead of saying:
“I think you should be a doctor, it’s a good living and you can make some serious money.”
You should maybe ask: “Do you like helping people? How are you about solving problems? Why do you care?” and so on.
If a person seeking advice on how to become a structural engineer and wants to design bridges but lacks in basic math. You might say “well, you have to be good at math, I don’t think thats a good fit for you.”
A good counselor would not advise against it but would try to understand the reason why they would enjoy that career and look outside the box.
I believe that what you choose to do for a living can be dictated by situation, by your ecosystem, by happenstance, by luck but mostly by how wide you keep your eyes and mind open. I would never have thought that I would spend my days with a rod in my hand, a fly in my line and an office that is supplied be nature.
If you are ever asked to advise someone about career choices or what they should do for a living? Be sure to reflect back to your own life and see if the advice that was given to you fulfilled your expectations of what your life has become.
When YouTube Can Be More Than Stupid Cat Videos
The internet is or can be a wonderful thing. Most the time it’s “redunkulous”, as the kids say, but then there is content out there worth digging for. It must contain great info, be well produces and not include a single cat or some dude being hit in the privates with various objects, but if there was a video of a guy being hit in the nuts BY a cat, well that is a different CATagory, Ha!
Please enjoy this find on Tenkara and wet flies.
On a side note, I will be posting my take on fly fishing how to and the Zen of the art here very soon!
Best and tight lines
Accused of Stalking…
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.
High Sticking Dogma
There is a new kid on the block that seems to be shaking up what we “dyed in the wool” fly fishermen hold sacred. It has us questioning our technique, our skill, our pride of years of practice of becoming seasoned anglers. This “Kid”, this trend, is called Tenkara.
Tenkara is not a kid at all; in fact, it is very old. It is a fishing technique that originated in Japan hundreds or millions of years ago, when a pole, a short line and a lure were all you needed to catch a fish. A fishermen back in the day would take this basic combination tool to their streams, catch and keep some fish, and live happily ever after.
Now let’s fast forward a bit. Fishing has become a sport. Fish are caught for the enjoyment of the chase and the fight, and then they are put back in the river for the next fishermen to catch. The equipment has evolved as well. We now have micro-technology rods with specific line speeds and weights, made with exotic woods and sterling silver. Reels that have more engineering involved than the first lunar module and fly lines that float and sink at our will. And a selection of flies for sale that the shear number available surpasses the actual number of living insects. Amazing. Evolution is grand.
Tenkara is here to put a bit of perspective back into our primal needs. It is here, I think, to stay. John Gierach is behind it, Yvon Chouinard is an advocate, and guess what, I think I will follow suite.*
*By no means completely
If you have taken anytime to read some of my other blog posts, you will understand why I would gravitate towards Tenkara. It sums up my deepest personal values in a compact, retractable, graphite package. Please let me explain.
I have spent my entire fishing career pondering exactly why I love fly fishing. As you would expect, there are countless reasons: the hunt, the riddle, the fish, the surroundings, the peace and quiet, mastering my skills, showing up my friends, the stories, and simply, being part of an exclusive club. After a hiatus away from the river, it became clear that there was something I was missing. It was the religion of fly fishing I enjoyed, the Zen of the process I loved, the unity between me and my environment that keeps me coming back. Then, enter Tenkara.
A few years back, Daniel Galhardo of TenkaraUSA set up shop ( I will provide the link to his site to explain his history). My good friend Frank, a fishing and motorcycling buddy of mine, who, also in fact, seems to be in the forefront of undiscovered cool, introduced me to this new style of Japanese fishing. The equipment is simple – it is a smallish telescoping rod, some nylon line, a bit of tippet and a Tenkara fly, which is a sparse wet fly. There is no reel and no ferrels. Think Huckleberry Finn meets the 20th century.
I was intrigued. I asked Frank if he would let me use his Tenkara rods/pole/graphite sticks or whatever you want to call it, and go fishing. He excitedly said yes and made plans to meet at my shop. Frank shows up right on time carrying what appears to be a short metal tube that looked more like an extra long holder for a “Churchill” cigar, one small flybox and a 3-inch custom looking spool wrapped in multi-colored filament, and that’s it.
I have all of my gear which is a 5-weight rod and reel, and a fully stocked vest as well as a lanyard…just in case. I placed my rod in the back of his truck, carefully feeding it through the back window to protect the tip. He stuck his Tenkara rod in his back pocket. I have a similar feeling when I go skiing with my snowboarder friends; I carry my boots, poles, and skis. They wear their boots and toss their board in the truck. Very easy, unincombered, and very Zen.
So we take a drive up the Frying Pan looking for some good water to try out this new technique. Frank is pretty easy about where we go and was open to my suggestions being that is what I do for a living. We stop near the 7 mile marker where there is a great mix of pocket water and good runs, it was perfect.
Frank brought two of his new fangled rods, each of different lengths and flex. He hands me the “soft” one then proceeds to give me a short tutorial on how to set this thing up. It is a series of simple slipknots from the tip to the fly. The Tenkara flies are sparse; a hook, some thread, a forward facing hackle, again, simple. When I looked at them, it all started to make much more sense.
He had a process that he liked to follow. Keep the rod retracted and tie on the end of the line, then slowly extend the rod as you carefully unwind the line from the spool. Deliberate, thoughtful. Then we chose a fly and tied it on in my traditional way, a modified clinch knot. We put on zero weight, you fish these flies more like a wet fly, not so much as a Dry or a Nymph.
We hit the river and away we went. The way you fish this rod is as if you are high-sticking pocket water. Sharp, laser-focused casts with emphasis on the action of the fly and less focus on line control. Up to this point, there were very few differences between Tenkara and fly fishing, but this is one of them. There is no “ten to two” motion, more like “ten to noon” motion but curt, prompt, decisive.
At first, I wasn’t really loving this. It seemed rudimentary. I felt amateur, like a kid with a long stick and a leader on it hoping something possibly will take my “bait”. Then, suddendly (and finally) I had a strike. My focus changed. My thoughts went from the rod and awkward process to wondering why I got a fish to take that fly. On my next cast, I stuck him; instinct set in and I reached for the reel, but there was no reel to be found. Calmly panicked, I lifted the fully engaged, beautifully bent rod above my head tin attempt to lead the fish to calmer water. I maneuvered the rainbow to the nearest eddy, carefully grabbed the line and brought him to my net. Grabbing the line this way is taboo in my world as a guide but I apparently common in the Tenkara world. Funny thing is, this is the part I fully enjoyed. It made me realize that I need to take ALL variables into account: where I stand, what I am going to do when I get a fish, looking long term at the short term process and recognizing problems and solutions before you need them. I couldn’t just horse him in or let him run into my backing, I had to antisipate where and what he was going to do with only 12 feet of line attached. I had to think of my positioning and my next ten steps. Nothing is more Zen, becoming exclusive with your environment, simple process for a complicated task. Pretty cool.
I will say this, I will not give up any of my rods and gorgeous reels and replace them with Tenkara rigs, but I will for sure have them as part of my routine as a refreshing change of pace. One thing is for sure, you will find me on any day that the hatch is going strong with a single short line and a long rod pulling fish off the top looking as if I had reached Nirvana. It is that cool.
Be sure to look me up at Taylor Creek Flyshop if you are in the Roaring Fork Valley if you are interested in learning Tenkara and enjoy another level of river philosophy.
The topic of ethics can be a very touchy subject. Depending on whom you are discussing it with, it has always come down to the “Who made you king of the world?” or “Is this right or wrong for the greater good?”
I think about the challenge of ethics often, probably more than I really should or need to. In my life timeI have had many debates and arguments, discussions and disagreements about all kinds of ethical issues. Be it agreeable to others or not, I enjoy the various points of view and the passion this topic evokes. Whether or not you have a strong opinion on a ‘standard of conduct’, or you really don’t care either way about how people “feel”, it comes down to the breadth and depth of how important ethics play in our lives and everyday social behavior.
Ethics can touch us in every part of our lives. There are business ethics, legal ethics and life ethics. People try to live by The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. All in all, good advice.
As fly fishermen, there is a code, an ethic model that we all SHOULD follow….How to be respectful to the fish, the environment and other fellow fishermen. Again, this is solely my take
I have featured a photo of a sign that is posted prominantly on the first big ‘pull out’ on the Frying Pan river, in my beautiful stomping grounds outside of Basalt, Colorado.
Giving thought to the message that the DOW is hopefully conveying, I expanded this list with my translations that can be brought from the river to your everyday life.
Fishing Ethics Brought to Life
*Use barbless hooks and a landing net Transl: Choose your words carefully, don’t be hurtful and handle with care.
*Land fish as quickly as possible. Don’t play it to exhaustion Transl: Be concise, be clear and do not labor your point. Brevity is the soul of wit…
*Keep the fish in the water as much as possible when handling and removing the fly or lure Transl: Understand that everyone will always thrive in their own environment when difficulty becomes present.
*Wet your hands before handling fish Transl: Understand that others should always be handled or treated with care, physically and emotionally.
*Remove the hook gently, trying not to squeeze the fish or put your fingers in its gills. If it is deeply hooked, cut the line. The hook will corrode or dislodge within a few days Transl: People will always get hurt. Take time, listen and help if you can. Remember that sometimes the best help is time and patience.
*Release fish after it has retained its equilibrium in quiet water Transl: Be thoughtful, be caring and not in haste. People and fish benefit greatly from a compassionate attention to detail.
Everyday I’m on the river, I pass that sign and wonder if the Department of Wildlife knew that they have also laid out a pretty decent list of ethics and philosophy for living a pretty decent life.
Next weeks blog will take on the gigantic task of how a Zen Buddhist justifies my love of catching fish.
The 9 Essentials That Every Fly Fisherman Should Know
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.
Kirk and Trico- “Quiet Companion” photo of the week
Here is Kirk Webb’s submission for my Sunday “Fly-fishermen and their quiet companion” photo contest. Kirk is a true man of skill and talent, he has taught a dog a many new trick. As one of the “Big Men on campus” at Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt he is truly the best in knowing what’s happening on the river.
Be sure to send me your favorite photos of you and your dog to be featured here on my blog. Hashtag and/or tag @artofflyfishing or #artofflyfishing on Instagram or Twitter or sent them vis email firstname.lastname@example.org