And So Begins The Season
I'm Phil Sgamma. I'm a trout guide. Sometimes I think out loud.
And so it begins for the fly-fishing guide season in the Rocky Mountain West.
The snowstorms this year are only beginning here in Montana. It was spring this winter, and now it'll be winter this spring – or at least it feels that way when all you want to do is get out and fish.
For the life of a fly-fishing guide in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, it ratchets up again. I can't wait for this time of year. I put away the skis, explosives and ski-patrol jacket and clean out the drift boat of last fall's beer cans and blood. The lust within is strong for the set and tug.
The reality is that for us to keep doing what we love – fishing and guiding – the work equation needs to be equal on both sides of the year. We ski patrol, or work at a resort, bartend, pimp, rob liquor stores or hope we've married a sugar mamma with a fat daddy. Whatever it takes.
Extremely prolific dirtbag guides can get through the winter just slashing powder and ducking rope lines. These guys ride a fine line between beer enthusiasts and having some real issues.
Some guiding seasons are longer than others. On the Bighorn or Missouri, you're guiding in April and you can stretch through October. The benchmark of a hundred days comes at mid-July. But most of the guide community has to wait 'til the snow comes off the mountains – at least enough to bring the caddis and stoneflies, and the visitors who arrive to fill out our calendars. A chance to meet some new folks and friends. Ninety-seven percent of everybody you meet out here are good people.
Anyone who's made a living and worked hard in Montana knows that it takes more than one job to do the trick, and you certainly can't count on mother nature year in and year out. You might be ranching, farming, ski-area running or guiding. It'll beat your pocketbook down if you don't have something else to fall back on.
At this time of year, you never pass up the opportunity to make some coin with a tool belt, chain saw or paintbrush when the waders and boat are in dry dock. The shoulder/mud season can be feast or famine.
I own and operate my own property-management company out of Bozeman, Mont. It's a year-round, part-time pain in the ass that pays a lot of bills and keeps my head above water when the snow doesn't fly or the anglers don't migrate and molt their cash into the drift boat. The spring storms can continue, and then the runoff can burn through June.
It's all about the weather, and the hatches, and the fishing.
The guides around the Greater Yellowstone region take this time of year to fish the shit out of our home waters or elsewhere, and satisfy that primal urge to hook, play, stroke and land all those fish that our clients will farm the rest of the season (God bless each and everyone of 'em).
I do most of my guiding on the Henry's Fork, for an outfit called Trouthunter in Island Park, Idaho. The continental divide's westerly winds and downdraft currents off the Yellowstone plateau meet in a meteorological vortex. You can get snow in July. It's an amazing and wild place – the cornerstone to the golden triangle of the Yellowstone-region fishery. The trout are wily and rewarding. The Henry's Fork, Madison, Hagen Lake, Firehole, Slough Creek, Lamar, Yellowstone River, Gallatin. The full potential and exploration is only for those with multiple lives to live.
Let me take you through the ebb and flow of the cyclic journey of our fishing season. We'll certainly talk about the weather and how the fish react to it. What's working and why. Just like my 2-year-old son: The dizzying highs and the devastating lows. The issues and concerns we have with an area and resource that's the foundation of our lives and our happiness.
Give you some reports, ideas, updates and water-cooler conversation material. Maybe talk about some of the techniques and philosophies that truly make fishing the ultimate legitimate waste of time.
As always, the glorious days of summer will melt into one eternal sunshine, and the fish stories will grow a legend of their own. Can't wait for the ride to begin again, and may mother nature keep us honest.
Phil Sgamma, who calls himself a "full-time explorer," is a Montana outfitter, Idaho trout guide and entrepreneur. He works and plays hard, fueled by an elemental mission to keep a smile on his face. Contact him through Trouthunter or shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.