Guide Life: States Of Satisfaction
The satisfaction of a job well done is a common thread that binds all of us across jobs, employments and professions. For fish guiding, many factors play into such a declaration, especially after a multiday run with a trusted client and friend.
Getting into fish and capitalizing on those opportunities is obviously important. Did we catch the fish of a lifetime? Did we catch X amount of fish? Did we get every sipping trout to eat our delicately presented baetis spinner? Those questions all have different interpretations and answers. And maybe that's what makes fishing so satisfying and challenging at the same time – whether we answer yes or no to these hypothetical questions.
Six days on the Bighorn, mid-May guiding, is always a pleasure, despite the ever-present wish for some predictably clear water and fishable flows. Not only is it a treat to guide someone on a river he or she has never fished, but to show them the area, landscape and history makes for an all-around unforgettable experience.
We took a morning to tour the Little Bighorn Battlefield/Custer's Final Error, which is a brief drive from the river. Beautiful, broken landscape to catch the setting sun's shadows, and expose the subtle contours of eastern Montana.
Standard operating procedure on the Horn is to nymph 'em deep with midge pupae, sowbugs and the extended-body red emerger. Fairly quickly we realized that wasn't happening.
Baetis hatches were prolific enough in the afternoon – the fish had moved into the rocky shallows, not only to eat nymphs and spinners, but to queue up below the redds in wait for the floating Cracker Barrel to come by.
Observation and analysis – the thinking person's aspect to this sport – put us on the fish. I firmly believe that if something isn't working, change it up in 15 minutes. Try something different. Admit that you're not the almighty angler. Humble your mad skills. Explore some other techniques. There's always more than one way to catch a fish. Sometimes this is surprisingly hard to admit.
The other thing I really had to focus on was to guide to my client's abilities. We're all getting a little older. Sure I wanted the 40-foot-reach-cast-downstream presentation, or the dead-drift-at-the-riffle-corners against the wind. But I wasn't going to force something that was going to get both of us irritated.
If you're fly fishing, you're here to have a good time and forget about the facts, and figures, and the insanity of the human race. Appropriate persuasion, not a demanding verbal flogging.
We played the wind, kept the boat creeping and extended the drifts through the feed troughs and caught fish playing to our strengths, which was pleasure for both of us. Dry/dropper combos and nymph rigs with very little weight and long leaders got 'em on the flats.
The weather was unseasonably hot and dry, and the cooler May evening brought cold beer and grilling on the back porch at The Cottonwood Camp. The clatter of the pheasants and Sandhill Cranes provided the audio backdrop. My cooking didn't get either one of us sick and we ate pretty darn well.
The satisfaction of the trip was figuring out what we needed to do, realizing what didn't work and getting it done under the circumstances we were given. Catching the right amount of fish and being challenged just enough to improve and learn. That, to me, is what keeps this job so intriguing and I truly relish the pleasure of sharing that with others.
Stay tuned and I'll bring you up to speed on the Memorial Day weekend bedlam at the Henry's Fork, and deliver a few suggestions on to make the most of your upcoming fly-fishing trip, no matter where that may be.
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.