I’m a fly fishing guide.
I’m not licensed, bonded, insured, or endorsed by any of the big fly fishing brands. I’m not listed online, affiliated with a shop, or on anyone’s pro staff. You’re not going to see a website with lots of trophy fish pictures or celebrity testimonials.
I do have experience, though. Through years of working at it and figuring out what is effective, I feel like I have a functional grasp on the basics of angling. More importantly, I can communicate some of the fundamental principles of the sport at a level that even my clients can understand.
I know when they can’t make the cast that they need to make. We work through that together. I can still get excited when they miss a rising fish. We talk about how fooling trout is more than half of the battle. I can help them feel good about themselves if they don’t allow slack when a bass jumps and throws the hook. We laugh about how that is a problem I often have as well. Most importantly, I know when my clients are tired and just need a break.
If my clients want to talk about dragonflies, turtles, honeysuckle, or clouds, I do my best. I try to explain the difference between amphibians and reptiles, how photosynthesis works, and what plants you shouldn’t eat. Without being overt, I try to slip in some morals every once in a while. Patience in casting. Grace when someone is in a spot you’d like to fish. Stewardship of the creation we get to enjoy.
Also, I untangle knots and answer questions… and untangle knots, and answer questions.
If a day isn’t going well, if a client is a bit fussy, I make sure that I don’t push them. Even though I love fly fishing and I want to pass that passion on, I know that I won’t be doing them or myself any favors if I make them grind it out or if I lose my cool. My policy is to celebrate the wins, find good even in the losses, and to do it all over a donut or ice cream.
I do want my clients to love fly fishing, nature, and their time on the water with me. Although it isn’t the best model for job security, the plan is for them to get to the point where they don’t need my guiding. If I’m honest with myself, I hope that they’ll always come back for pointers or even just the company. If I do my job well, I don’t think that I’ll have to worry about that.
Of course, guiding today means less fishing. But the equity I’m accruing will hopefully translate into more fly fishing in the future. That isn’t the point: it is just the natural, joyful working out of doing a good job.
I do guide a handful of people on an intermittent basis. By and large, everything I’ve written holds true for anyone I take out on the water. You’re not helping someone if you’re helping them halfway. There is no way to love fly fishing and not have that overflow in some way, shape, or form into those with whom you share fly fishing.
However, I have two primary clients that get the bulk of my energy and effort. (There is another waiting in the wings, but you’ve got to learn to walk before you can cast.) They fill up my schedule and bring me the most satisfaction. They take the most work, but they’re the most rewarding.
Which brings me to the biggest complaint everyone has about the industry. Everyone says that this fly fishing business isn’t the place to be if you want to be rich. Maybe. But I guess I’m blessed, because what I get from my clients is providing me with everything I need and more.