I love my job. I’m a professional fly fishing guide in the beautiful Roaring Fork Valley…Angling on the Fork, The Frying Pan River, The Crystal River and even down on the “Big Muddy” aka The Colorado river. as my mentor, John High use to say. We have so much access within an hours drive, no matter what direction you point.
We are lucky.
During the high season, many of us guides are on the water from 7 am until dark, 6-7 days a week, by choice. As the saying goes, “Make hay, while the sun shines” or something like that. In short, we need to work all we can, it will ineveably slowdown and guide work will dry up. But the inevetable will happen as summer passes by and the days get hot, we all start to get crispy, grumpy, short, sarcastic or more fishing appropiate, salty.
Just the other day I was out with some great people, some neverevers, but still nice people. Our day was strong, really strong, however that caused me undue stress and my temperment to be tested. Trust me, I was pleased with our success, but what triggered me was that the clients thought that this was the norm. They began to make it a compitition with total disregard for the fish and the art in which it took to catch them.
Nothing will set me off more than that. So I bit my tongue and tried to educate the newbies that we’re out here for more than numbers and a InstaGram photo.
This bring me to why I wanted to write a post on the 10 things I believe that all of us guides need to remember. So here we go:
Always be educating all aspect of our sport from technique to etiquette, habitat to knots.
Remember it’s a day of fishing for you, but it’s the clients “big trip” they may only do once a year. They are paying real money for your full attention.
We are to be the example of what our sport coveys: Tradition, Awareness, Problem-Solving, Beauty, Stewardship
Treat the fish with care and respect. They’re not disposable entertainment, they are our business partners
Try to limit photos. There is no reason to take pics of every fish. Truthfully, if you do that it’s kinda sad really.
I love this one. Think of how many “family memories”, stories, photos you’re part of. Daunting if you think about it. We are many peoples “life highlights”
We are ambassadors out there-act like it. Don’t be a dick.
Let things go, literally and figuratively, Release the fish quickly, let go of conflicts, don’t get agro if someone snakes your water, don’t get angry with lost fish, bad clients always go away.
Try to get away from “numbers” as an endgame. Fact is, if you condition your clients to count fish that make it to the net and disregard the ones that “long distant released”, their next trip may not be as successful due to a number of varibles, so it will never produce enough as last time. Remember why your out there. Catching fish is awesome but a memorable experience and leaving happy far surpasses the count.
Be a class act, we have a great job, the best job, that many people wish they could have..
This Covid 19 (which is a great name for a highend reel) has and will change our lives for a while unfortunantly. We have involuntarily become a nation of mask wearing germaphobes; scared of anyone we don’t know personally. We avoiding touching anything that may have been fondled by “that guy” and we tuck and roll away from anyone that clears their throat. The funny part is, I am totally good with it. I’ve never been a fan of close talkers, who are overly enthusiastic conversationalist that spit their words. I am also pleased that I have a free-pass on not having to fist bump people I don’t want to or even worse, bro hug. This is newest, freshest kind of expected antisocial behavior I’ve been longing for, it’s fantastic! A harsh POV, I know, but pretty apt.
So, you may be asking yourselves, what does this have to do with anything remotely resembling the topic of fly fishing?
Let me answer that with one simple fly fishermen’s reality and a value we all, by design, share, we “social distance” as sport. We actually like being by ourselves. Think of your last road trip to the river? Admit it, even if you and your 3 best buds arrived to the river in one car, you bolted to your own spot “just down there around the bend, find me if you need me” kind of spot (and liked it).
Historically, fly fishing is the best activity, the best way, the most quietly independent, soulful thing to do to let the world wash by us. It allows you to forget that the world is burning, it allows you to deeply care only about the 50′ stretch of flat water with sippers right in front of you. My reality of social distancing is that if I can cast a decent line and hit the eddy you are creating, you are entirely too close.
This pandemic has taken us all by surprise, but I’m not all that shocked. As a whole, we as a society have taken pretty much everything for granted, we maintain the mindset, ”Naw, that won’t happen here or to me, I’m not at all worried,” Well are you worried now?
This “new normal” is a much needed learning experience, a reality check of sort.
I would love to give you some real life examples that may not have directly touched you, but in fact, created massive losses of a different sort of life.
Remember whirling disease? Myxospolus Celebralis? The parasite that killed all the juvenile rainbow trout? It was devastating. It was spread to different rivers carried in damp felt soled waders or unchecked hatchery stocking procedures and/or other human driven methods. It wiped out countless fish. The solution was equally tragic, hatcheries had to dispose (kill) of all the fingerlings to curtail the spread of the disease. (Sounds all to familiar except for the culling of the population)
Just for fun,
I was also reminded of another variation and threat that affects our waters that was in today’s newspaper. Wait for it…..The introduction of invasive fresh water muscles! When introduced it becomes a destructive, almost impossible plight in fresh water lakes. Remember, none of this is not done by malicious intentions, it all happened because of just not knowing better or not taking precautions until it’s too late. But we have the power to make good choices.
On a side note, I am a little disappointed that I haven’t had to deal with any “Killer Hornets” I wanted to be part of that!
In short, all of this should not be a deterrent to getting out and enjoying the fabulous out of doors and chasing trout. We simply have to be a bit more aware and diligent.
I know there are doubters out there and some who believe it’s a hoax, Just say’n, it’s not. All that needs to happen is just a few things that I think might make this all more bearable and hopefully curtail some risks;
If you are chatting somewhere or you want to talk on the river or the shop, stay a good 9’6 fly rod distance away. Don’t be shy and put this method to the test, poke at them at will.
As far as masks are concerned…Wear your BUFF, They are always badass, they look cool and you wear it anyway. Remember, keep it pulled up in full-on guide fashion and keep it there, Especially if you are closer than a rod length of somebody.
Wash your hand in the river if you have any intention of touching people. The added benefit is that when cars pass by, the occupants will think your just released a fish, it’s a win-win!
Be nice out there. We are all involved in this, some others may or may not be freaking out. That’s ok, but if it bugs you, move 2 or 3 rod lengths away and act like the river flow is too loud to hear them. This method has work for me for years.
Keep sanitizer in the car. Really, it’s no big deal, also I believe that straight-up vodka works, but don’t hold me to it.
Lastly, before I step off of my soapbox aka my YETI cooler, I have forgotten to mention something important, I am not an expert in Emerging Infectious Diseases nor am I Doctor, but I do believe in precautions, preparation and being aware if risks, no matter how big or small they might be.
As a reminder, it is in everyones best interest that if you don’t buy into all this covid stuff and claim that you know better because you got the information off of social media or from that guy at the gun-shop or a talking-head newscasters/radio personality, stay quiet. Unless your sources have a ton of letters after their name, what you are spouting it just unproven hearsay.
Let all do our best to be good people and better sportsmen and sportswomen and most importantly, Don’t hate!
Well here we are, it’s mid-October, the first snow has fallen and the fly fishing season is slowing down. It is that time of year that the army of amazing guides start to migrate to other waters or sunny destinations where the water is clear and the beer flows like beer.
I had every intention of writing a blog post once a week with magical stories of fish caught and the newest, freshest techniques, as well as videos of showing knot-tying, beautiful water, and tours of our local rivers. As you can see, my feed was as dry as a spring creek during a drought, yes, I did none of what I promised myself to accomplish.
But the year is not over! So here I am, trying to backpedal and make journalistic amends. I got busy, the bar is next door to the Fly Shop and 6 AM comes early during a 7 day a week workweek.
Enough of the filler content, let’s get right into fish pics!
So this photo series is just proof to recuse me of the appearing unengaged and lazy. Truth is, I was fishing like a bandit and making memories for my clients as best as I could. So please keep checking back here for new and interesting content and I promise I wont disappear like a dry-fly hatch on a windy day!
No matter what Sport you decide to take up, it all requires stuff, stuff you need, stuff you want and stuff that just gets in the way. This article is about the extras, the add-ons, the things you buy because you think you need it but find it a year later in the gap between your car seats. It’s OK that you do that, I do that. Sometimes it’s cool just to have those things, This blog is only meant to bring it to ones attention, not divert your American right to buy anything you please. So read on…
Newer is not always better. That widget may be the newest tech in the coolest colors but that does not make you any better of an angler, it makes you a chaser. Get good enough to need the latest.
Don’t fall in love with shiny things. This is a hard one for anyone, pretty things are just that, pretty. I have dirty waders, a vest, spooged with floatant and whatever else. Hey, I still catch fish. Also, $150 anodized clipper to cut 5x tippit seems more of an ego boost than a necessity, for that price it better cook me dinner.
If it’s sitting at the Point Of Sale, it’s a want, not a need. Yes, things at the counter are things you might need but you should already have. Remember they call it a POS for a reason.
Don’t try to keep up with the fishing Jones’s. We all have that rich friend or obsessed friends who gets everything and goes everywhere. That’s cool as long as you can pay that credit card bill at the end of the month. If not, do what you can do, don’t go to the poor house because you want to live someone else’s life.
Rooftop Rod Holders. Again, these things serve a purpose, for some. But most people, it’s a way to brag, showboat, set your “rig” apart, whatever. It’s nice to have as a Guide but as your average Joe driving around the city with it and you only fish twice a year…you’re selling an image instead of filling a need. AND why would you want to invite a possible thief? Dude, if I was a dishonest chap, I would look at that Rod carrier as a reason to look in that ride because, man, this cats got some good stuff I might want.
A leader straightener or any other weird things to clip onto yourself. Tippit, clippers, hemostats and maybe a knot tool, That’s it!
Any Gimmick. If it claims to be Hi-Vis, “Fool any Fish”, Celebrity endorsed gadget, avoid it like the plague. If you do buy it, I have some top secret fish attracting stank to sell you as well as an affordable property on the Frying Pan.
Any Fly that your brothers best friend’s uncle says is guaranteed! This is the best way to burn through your fly budget a buck or two at a time. Listen to the shop guys, local fishing report or what you hear Guides talking about at the bar that afternoon.
Guide Beers. Truth is that guides like their beer and they like their shots, and some don’t, but most do. You may think it’s a way to get free advice and/or make a new friend to shoot the shit with… that can happen. But don’t count on it. Guides are good people but also keep things close to the vest. Not that they don’t want you to have success but we want to be an “active” part of your success, aka make a days wage and hopefully a good tip. To make this point more relatable, would you go up to the Golf Pro at your country club and ask him to give you free tips on your golf swing? Just say’n.
Don’t be egotistical. Everyone is out there for the same reason, you weren’t born a Fly Fishing prodigy when you came screaming out of your mother so lighten up and be humble.
I am sure that you might call BS on some of these items on my list and others you might agree with, that is what makes this such a great sport, we all are in our own world and make our own decisions. Decisions like putting on a BWO emerger instead of an Adams Parachute like your buddy did with no success.
So if you want a machined aluminum tie-dyed autographed leader straightener with a web-enabled automatic blood knot tying feature, have at it, more power to you. I’ll stick to my years of diligently practicing my knot tying for the sheer joy of mastering a beautiful skill.
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!
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
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!
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.