Originally this article was going to list my top 5 guide tips. The plan was for a distillation of wisdom that I have received from ﬂy ﬁshing guides the world over. After all, this is the time of year that our existence seems to be whittled down to a parade of top ten lists so we can reﬂect on the year gone by. I've been keeping a list of tips on my smarter-than-me phone to help determine the ﬁnalists. But the basic tenet of each tip seemed to hinge on one core philosophy, SLOW DOWN!
No matter the locale or piece of water, slow down and take in the surroundings. When I ﬁrst took up ﬁshing, I would charge out into the water like a perennial bench warmer being called into the game and forgetting his helmet. Only after whipping the water into a latte did I realize the hatch that was happening around me and I had walked right into the middle of the run or missed the nice seam that is so apparent now. Take a moment to really "see the water" and observe. Plus, take a moment to absorb the beautiful places that we chase scaled creatures.
A friend of mine always likes to have a little fun with the obligatory newbie on each trip with this sage advice, " if you ﬁnd you are struggling with your cast, there's nothing that cannot be ﬁxed with more power and more speed". It's a rare instance that I've had any guide try to hurry my casting stroke - whether it be single or double handed. In fact the only time that I recall being rushed while casting was when taking the 30th false cast to a tailing permit. However, in my defense had I been allowed to take that 31st false cast, I would have not put that crab on the ﬁsh's head. Some of us spend an inordinate amount of money on the newest and best tackle that never realizes its potential because of our fast back casts or supersonic D loops. Slow down, and let the rod do the work. In situations that are adverse, like wind or standing in deep water, your technique will crumble if you don't control your tempo. Trust your gear.
We go to a lot of trouble to catch ﬁsh. Sometimes spending thousands of dollars traveling, standing in crotch numbing water, getting smacked in the face with hail, being buzzed by rattlesnakes or being attacked by Geckos. Nothing will make you cuss like an episode of Deadwood than a broken knot. Slow down and make sure your knots are snug, your leader isn't frayed, your hook point is sharp, and that your trailing hook isn't tangled. And once you have checked those things, check them one more time. The most successful guides I know are obsessive compulsive in checking everything that comes between their hand and the ﬁsh's mouth. Slow down and make sure that you have identiﬁed what might be the weakest link, and ﬁx it before the ﬁsh points out your failings.
Inhale the Experience
No, I'm not referring to a certain substance now legal in Washington. Instead, I'm referring to the simple act of pausing during your ﬁshing time to relax. One goal of mine in ﬁshing is to get away from the daily rat race of deadlines, errands and obligations. Don't turn your day of ﬁshing into a frenzied episode of the Amazing Race. Occasionally it's okay to put down the ﬂy rod and take in the technicolor sunset, savor the cigar from a friend, sip some scotch, breathe really fresh air, listen to the melody of rushing water, or brew a fresh cup of coffee. I have a favorite poster of a ﬁsherman midstream with the words: no pews, no steeple, just the weekly devotional.
Say Goodbye to the Water
Slow down when you leave to take in the day and the experiences you've had and how blessed we are to just go catch ﬁsh for fun and the survival of our clan doesn't rely upon our prowess. Good thing, otherwise my lineage would have passed a long time ago. Take the time to put your gear away carefully. Here's where rod tips get crushed, sink tips get shoved in pockets never to be found again, favorite ﬂies get dropped on the roadside, oars get left under the tree. Organize your gear now and later you won't be stuck with such weighty issues like is that T 11 or T 14?
Yep, I'm from Oregon and maybe the aforementioned might border on feeling a little too groovy, but for what it's worth, it works. So, hurry up and slow down.
Hood River, Oregon