Tagged: river

The Outsider.

Welcome to my newest adventure, I am very excited to say that I am heading back to the river and become a professional guide again, It is in my blood. The city is nice but nothing like the serenity of a mountain stream.

The focus of “Glenn and the art of fly fishing” will be on just that, stories, people, styles, tricks and river philosophy.

 

I am so looking forward to this and I hope you enjoy what I will be posting

Thanks,

Glenn

The Outsider..

The Outsider

The Outsider

Smokin fly


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.

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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.

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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 knowing my history, my story, until we are out on the water and quietly proving that I’m a gun and not calamari.

Top Ten Survival Tips for a Broke Fly Fishing Guide Living in an Expensive Place.

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(This is an article I wrote for Taylor Creek Fly shop which I was a professional guide for 18 years.I also submitted to The Drake Magazine, I think it’s pretty good. Let me know your thoughts.)

Aspen. The mere whispering of the word congers up images of Paris Hilton, Man-Furs, Range Rovers and million dollar homes. And for the most part, that would be 100 % accurate. But Aspen, like any mountain resort town, is also filled with mountains and rivers that provide great outdoor activities. Many wealthy people enjoy that – as a matter of fact, most people enjoy that. Unfortunately, that “access” to the great outdoors, indirectly costs money.

You have to find a creative way to live in one of the most expensive places in the U.S.. Common sense told me that since I loved the outdoors and mastering legendary trout waters like the Frying Pan, Roaring Fork and the Colorado, becoming a professional fly fishing guide for a living was an obvious choice. But we guides are dealt a difficult set of cards.

First card: Getting on the shop roster is not always an easy task, even if you do happen to be one of the best anglers in the valley. I have been a guide with Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt for the last 18+ years and I only landed it because a) I got a good referral from a buddy that was a guide there, b) I spent so much money there on new rods, flies and every other thing I needed to “fish properly” (besides, I felt it gave me a bit of credibility) and c) I was able to “talk the talk” and “walk the walk”.

Second card: You need money both for a place to live and so you can eat. This lifestyle can be especially difficult if you are on the bottom of the guide ladder. It’s only when the senior guides are not available when you get the trip. Being the low man on the totem pole, you have to hope for a last minute booked trip or wait by the phone all day hoping you’re next on the list to call. The lack of consistent last minute trips or senior guides calling in sick or being on vacation, can lead to financial stress and inconsistent diet. The only known consistency for a guide is understanding that the last minute bookers are not typically the seasoned fishermen you hope for. And chances are, these people will have recently watched “The Movie” and now they want their spoiled 5 year old daughter and disinterested 14 year old son to experience what catching a 20 inch rainbow is like – “just like the one Brad Pitt caught in A River Runs Through It” while yelling across the river, “You haven’t caught one yet?” only ten minutes after hitting the water.

But I digress. What I am trying to say is that guides need money. So I’d like to share with you my ten survival tips on how to live, eat and breathe fly fishing as a professional guide when you are broke and have to make it in an expensive area.

Tip # 1: Be nice, polite and humble. Nothing will keep you from getting trips or moving up the ranks more than arrogance. Chances are, you are not the greatest fisherman alive and you didn’t really “land a hundred” or “get the biggest cut-bow in the Pan”. The fact is, the guides in “real” fly shops are ALL great fisherman. The best thing you can do is go fishing with the senior guides and prove you know how to fish. But most importantly, be cool about it! This will pay off in spades. You are more likely to be the first one asked to accompany the senior guide on group trips. That equals no bottom of the totem pole which means more money.

Tip #2: Top Ramen is not all that bad. Really. Throw in some fresh vegetables and soy sauce and you’re golden.

Tip #3: Having a truck is helpful. It provides a comfortable ride for your clients as well as a great place to sleep. The forest service provides camp areas for up to 10 days or more. Not only is it a practical mode of transportation and lodging, but that it just makes for a good story when you decide to give up guiding in order to finally use your Political Science degree.

Tip # 4: Beer is not food. Once you get a couple of trips and you make your first tip above and beyond your guide fee, try not to turn that extra money into a series of cocktails for the boys. You need that money. It won’t be there in a few months. (Note to the veteran guides: hang around the new guides, they’re rookie enough to always be buying! By doing so, you can keep your tips.)

Tip #5: Network and always carry business cards. This is a must. Anybody on the river that isn’t already a fishing guide, wants to be. That instantly makes you the most envied and the coolest person they know. Use that to your advantage. Your perceived coolness, especially if you make the client think they caught that brown all on their own, equated to referrals, shop status and money. Don’t be a slacker trout bum, it’s still abusiness. Always be selling (yourself)!

Tip #6: Remember, the rich are different. Embrace it. It is likely that a fleet of Range Rovers show up and they all step out with enough gear to stock a new shop. That doesn’t mean a thing. The fish don’t care and nor should you. They’re people – just like you (but with a lot more money). There’s no need to suck up. Treat them like you want to be treated and, trust me, you will be rewarded by either a great tip or a new regular repeat client.

Tip# 7: Practice the three “T’s” – Teach, Therapy, and Tolerance. Being a great guide is not how good of a fisherman you are (although it helps), it’s more about how well you understand your client. I did a trip one year with a client that I had guided a few times before. This trip she wanted to fish a little bit, but what she really wanted to do was to learn how to drive a stick shift. So our day was planned out where we fished for an hour, teach her how to drive my stick shifted-car for three hours, then fish again for an hour. She was a client for years. She booked consistently and always tipped well but what I found the most rewarding was never knowing exactly what we were going to do the day I was fishing with her.

Tip#8: Don’t sleep with any of your clients (see fishing above). Nothing good can come from this. Worst of all, you have turned a paying client into a non-paying client with “benefits”. And if it turns bad, like it always will, and their husband or wife finds out, there goes all of their referred client friends and any potential for new referrals from them.

Tip# 9: Have another skill. It can be anything from tuning skis to bartending to instructing snowboarders to practicing law. Also, being a trust funder, salt-water fly guide, or a chef, will work. It is not only important to have a plan, but as a fly guide in a touristic, seasonal, resort destination, with unpredictable run-off and conditions, you must also have a Plan B, and C all the way up to Z. Sure, some people can and do make it as a full time guide, but only if you are willing to budget. Unfortunately, most guides are fiscally inept and easily led astray by being surrounded by pro-deals and new gear in the shop – there is always that new reel or new 9-weight rod you might need for that Christmas Island trip you’ve been saving up for. This one I know from experience.

Tip # 10: If you really love fly-fishing, you love the river and everything it offers. Remember that you weren’t born an expert fly fisherman and your clients want to learn from you. You’re on the right path. It’s not hard to survive if you’re smart about it.

So if your ambition is to become a wealthy, full-time fly fishing guide, traveling around the globe and living the lifestyle, go for it. The fact is, I live that life style. I may not wear Man-Fur or have enough money to date Paris Hilton, but I am rich in experience and I have made a bank load of friends. The only cash I have is a CD in my truck of Johnny Cash, Folsom Prison Blues. To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Glenn Smith