Friday, November 6, 2009

Doing it the hard way

Doing it the hard way:
No short cuts except for the rich and famous.

In reflecting on the process we all go through as we become better anglers, I have come to the conclusion that the journey itself, with all of its successes, defeats, and frustrations makes the angler what he or she is. It is hard work. We all can think back and recall with shudders all of the myriad errors we made. We waded over fish, blew strikes, struck the wrong way, botched the landing, tied bad knots, chose the wrong fly or incorrect hook, tied dry flies that sank and wet flies that floated. We fell in the river, cast to the wrong water, misread the water, used improper or bad tackle, dunked our camera, broke a few rods, tumbled down a canyon, got buzzed by rattlesnakes, and even caught a few fish if we were paying so little attention that when the fish struck we were distracted enough not to botch it.

These memories are precious, and the process in which we realized we had goofed up and then learned and grew is the food that drives our journey. It should not be cut short.

Not all learning has to occur through mistakes. There are a plethora of good books and videos explaining the how-to’s.  Classes can be taken, lectures attended, or friends advise sought. In the end though, it is we alone with our own thoughts and with our own two feet that make the journey. Thinking and learning…

However, if you happen to be rich or famous, then it gets a lot easier.

If you happen to be rich, famous, or in some cases, just a good-looking young woman in the sport of fly-fishing, you can buy or be offered short cuts. We all know the rich angler who without the proper skill-set, buys himself a trip to the Dean River, and pays a guide to get him into the fish of a lifetime. The guide has to work hard at it too, since the guy can’t cast his top of the line rod and reel more than 30 feet. That guide is given gear by tackle companies for next to nothing, and gets his or her face on the cover of magazines that take advertising from the very lodges and outfitters they work for. Pictures on their blog abound with lobster dinners, piles of the most expensive tackle, and porn-shots of fish and locations most of us can only dream about. Some of these famous industry guides and tackle reps get free admittance to closed waters in storied locations because it helps to sell more bookings. The fish become a commodity.  The price of fame.

The rich man buys the fish.
The guide pimps it.
The tackle manufacturers collect the cash.

Meanwhile, most of us will never be flown to Atlantic Salmon rivers by film production companies. We won’t stay in expensive lodges, nor be guided directly to the fish. Instead, we will sleep at rest-stops, eat convenience-store chili-dogs, scrape another year out of leaky waders, and have to make all our memories the hard way through long hours on the water. I think it is better that way.

Not all guides, wealthy individuals or famous anglers do this. Fact is, it is the minority in search of fame or fortune that often stand out through self-promotion.

However, if you do happen to become a famous guide, please don’t put your logo on underwear and sell it.


  1. I will be the first to comment:
    Take this as a bit of tongue in cheek humor with a ring of truth to it.
    I know I am going to get killed here...

  2. ahh lad, I happen to be of rest stop, old car, bad food school myself. nae worries

  3. Actually, that's one of the reasons I quit guiding. Far too many folks with more money than sense, who didn't know how to fish, yet had no interest in learning to do so. About all they were interested in were bragging rights, as in "yeah, we went to Alaska last summer for a spot of fly fishing you know..." One day we got stuck with a real winner. He treated us badly, he treated the other guests badly, heck he even treated his wife badly. He wanted silvers on the fly, and silvers only. The fact that they weren't in the river yet was of no consequence. "I paid good money for this trip: make it happen." So my partner bust's ass for this guy and actually gets him into an early fish. A couple years later I see this guy holding that fish in a high gloss magazine. I know it was the same one, since I was the dumbass who snapped the shutter. My partner had been thoughtfully cropped out of the picture. I guess neither of us were thinking right eh? Heck we coulda been on our way to fame and if not fortune, then lucrative tackle deals.
    So permit me dear friends, to share in the cynicism when someones name drops heavily. Many of these people are truly gifted, innovators and thinkers, but many are not. As Erik points out, many simply happen to be at the right place at the right time and own a flair for dramatic self promotion.

  4. It seems to me that ,when someone gets put in one of these magazines ,he or she (cause i know who your talking about , ill let my lady wear the underwear ,and if it is a guy putting his name on the roos thats just not right ).They seem to be put into god like status ,hell if you get to fish all the time you will catch fish at some point to . Some guys ride the coat tails of a group of people and take credit or just get put above the rest . They pay their dues to though . To me it kills the sport .
    Im that guy who hikes the roads ,eats cliff bars for lunch cause i pack as light as possible ,jump eight feet in the air because i hate snakes ,rattlers scare me to death ,but the fish are on the other side of the rattler ,I dream of that fish all day everyday (like a sickness )
    I likr the old ways of taking your time getting up at three am to hike to be the first one at the pool and watch the sun rise ,and see the river come to life from its dormant night state .just to hook one fish ,sometimes not for months ,tying flys till im just beat and then drive two hours to get to the river . ot me thats what its all about the reward is a fish of splender and beauty in my hands that gave me a heart pounding fight and made me feel like i was five again fighting my first fish .That is fishing and we real fishermen see right through you rich wannaB's cause your fake and so are your lives ,greed is the root to all evil and fish are a gift not a trophy ,sorry of the long winded email this just arose out of reading your super cool blog
    Thanks the nutman

  5. You know, I agreed with most of your post, but then you stumbled into an envy-driven rant. Some of the best fishermen I know are quite wealthy. Yes, they're good because they get out a lot, but they're damn good regardless. Wealth may be the root of all evil in your world, but it might also be the source of your income. I'm sorry, I spend a bit of time fishing with guys far wealthier than I, and with only one or two exceptions, they are superb human beings, and as I mentioned, many of them are superb fishermen.

  6. that may be so ,but the kind of guy im speaking of is the kind who doesnt have to try ,walks in the store and buys the best gear ,just to look the part ,hasnt paid there dues and does nothing to help the fish ,the fish is a thing to have on the wall or a picture of him with his rod in his teeth .
    Real fishermen care for what is there ,it isnt about how many you catch just becayuse you can afford a guide . Ive seen these guys on the river their the ones who low hole you who tramp through the water while your working a run they can be poor to for all it matters they just arent fishermen .
    We have become a society that thinks we own the fish and the land and can do whatever we want to it ,we need to learn to respect it ,i fear it is to late though .

  7. But you can attach that stereotype to any group you want. I've seen twenty-somethings that have that same attitude, center-pin fishermen, too. There's always going to be a part of every group that acts that way, and sometimes it's not rudeness as much as ignorance. I find that especially with low-holers. Sure, I get irritated (or worse) when low-holed, but I truly believe many of them just don't know any better. Sometimes I try to politely educate them. Occasionally it works, but usually you get the idea that they don't like being told how to behave. What you're describing is known as a poser, and the nicest thing about these guys is they usually give it up pretty quickly and move on to some other "sport." If you think it's bad now, you should have been flyfishing after the "movie."

  8. well yes i was fishing before and after the movie ,the " movie " just made fly shops make money and the fly swatters come out . I dont know how many times i was low holed this year ,and no they dont like being told what to do .Yes it is ignorance . This year 30,000 steelhead came over the boniville dam the dechutes went nuts .guys use there trucks to hold holes to make people think they are fish there ,guys live there and think they own the river and you need to go when the arrive .it is never ending real fishermen just want to fish and enjoy the day .
    To me it isnt about how many i catch it is about the day ,sure i want to catch a fish . I have seen guides with 13 foot spey rods showing clients how to indicator fish with them . It has become a nut house out there . I respect the the guy infront of me and behind me ,I try to be the angler i was taught to be . ignorance is bliss ,what happens when you are ignorant and kill a wild fish ? or maybe run into the wrong guy who has been working for that fish and you low hole him ? Yes there are idiots out there i just need to rant about it ! Ive done it the hard way ,for real I moved all the way across country to fish here ,and help the fish ,which is a battle all its own . tight lines guys sorry to rant but sometimes my a post like this gets me fired up !

  9. I thank you all as usual for your excellent comments. Much appreciated.

  10. Oh, and BTW...
    The rich guy comments I made were not intended to refer to those who can afford to do what I and many others cannot, but referes to the guy who can simply purchase the best equipment and gets flown into lets say... the Dean river and then without any skills, appreciation, or time on the water get guided into a fish of a lifetime. That is what sells.


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