Teaching your Kids about Fly Fishing
As any experienced fly fisherman knows, fly fishing is a skill that takes time, dedication and lots of practice to master. For kids, this can be a trying skill to learn. Frustration and boredom might ensue with some children, no matter how even-tempered they usually are. So before you set out to teach your kids how to fly fish, take these next tips into consideration.
Kids have short attention spans. Be patient with them. Try short fishing trips the first few times, and make it about having fun rather than catching fish. The main goal, after all, isn’t about fishing but developing a love for being on the water and connecting with nature. Over time, they will become more proficient, and the real fishing can begin.
Teach the Basics
Don’t dive off the deep end with all of the fly fishing odds and ends. Start with the basics: rod, reel, line and fly. Teach them the proper ways to hold and cast the rod, straight over the shoulder. They don’t have to know everything all at once; overloading them with too much information may overwhelm them and lead to a poor experience.
Get the Gear
One of the great things about teaching your kids to fly fish is that they get new gear. It’s part of the whole experience, so outfit your kids with good boots and a quality vest (We suggest Carhartt’s line of fishing gear). A decent rod and reel that won’t break the bank is instrumental. Temple Fork Outfitters has combo pack for youngsters at less that $160- The Bug Launcher Kit will have you ready for the water in no time. This will help them feel more connected to the sport.
Kids work well with clearly defined and achievable goals. This can include casting skills or knot tying. If you start with casting practice, we recommend challenging the kids to aim at larger objects, slowly working down to smaller ones. Learning these crucial skills early on will make your kids expert fishermen later in life.
Kids need feedback when learning a new skill. Let them know when they are doing something right. It can be as simple as a “good job!” or “great cast!” This affirmation will feed their confidence and encourage them to keep working to get better.
Keep It Fun
Remember, your kids are just kids. They won’t master this skill for months, weeks or even years. And that is okay! You are laying the groundwork for a great life skill. Keep it fun so they will continue to enjoy the sport for years to come.
Make it Short
Far too often we want to make an afternoon or day outing. Most kids have an attention span lasting no more than 20-30 minutes. Better to keep it short, allow the kids to break up the monotony and catch frogs & turtles or look for snakes. Grab a submerged log and a few rocks, turn them over. I have yet to meet a child who was not amazed at all the little bugs who live in the underwater world we are enthralled with. This should open a page for life long passion of natural sciences.
Don’t forget that you are not the first to try to get your child to love the river or lake as much as you do. Find your local Trout Unlimited Chapter & Federation of Fly Fishing, attend a meeting and get involved. Both groups are eager for younger and new members and often have an annual children’s event aimed at exactly what you may be trying to do. When other kids see friends who are getting involved and active in river clean-ups or fly tying events, they are more likely to stay interested.
Don’t Forget the Fish
What is fishing without the fish? Don’t forget to teach your kids about the different types of fish they might be catching. From trout and panfish to salmon and bass, rivers and lakes are full of interesting creatures. You can even include the best flies to use when fishing for the different types of fish. Just don’t get too technical. For instance, smaller flies are used for smaller fish because their mouths are smaller. You could also talk about using specifically colored flies because of the surroundings. These are all crucial parts of fishing that often get overlooked for the more fun things, like casting.
We hope you and your kiddos have a great time learning to fly fish. Don’t forget the gear for your kids as well as yourself. It might be time for a new vest!
From a distance, whether mowing the lawn, tending to the animals, or cutting wood, I can recognize the Fa-Thump, Phathump, Fa-Thump amplified rotation of the tires and diesel engine working up the motivation to travel up the long hill a mile away from our house. A sudden increase in my heart rate, eyes get dilated, hair stands on end, my senses are alert, vision sharpened and hearing more acute than ever as the big Brown truck makes a rounded left hand turn on our dirt road kicking up a dust cloud common in northern back roads. I can can usually tell in a split second if he is about to accelerate or coast in order to make the wide turn into our driveway.
What could be in the big box? The possibilities are endless. There is a chance they could be new curtains or bedspread for my daughters room, but I am hopeful it could be a new slew of rods from TFO or a replacement net for my broken Brodin wooden Guide net. My wife is privy to my game. She knows I have a secret code with the guys glad in pooh brown to store boxes inside of my garage door so I can intercept before she gets home. Its all in good fun. Is it a genetic disorder? My father had a serious problem ordering online and getting things he really need needed, like shark fishing rods, fish finders, Ice-augers and other miscellaneous items from Cabelas that I inherited. Do we as males have an inherent ability to bond with other males in this delivery secret ritual or is it more?
Jump back two decades and I was living in a much larger metropolis where I would drive to the mall or one of several Fly shops to purchase the majority of fly tying materials or a much needed new line from Scientific Anglers. I simply could not fathom living a life ‘Up North’ where one didn’t need to drive across town to actually pick up a rod or feel a pelt of deer hair prior to purchase. My brother-in-law bragged about how he would accomplish all of his Holiday shopping from the comfort of his EZ chair online. Inconceivable. Now days, I see the virtue in compiling of list of tying materials and making a bulk order to Feather-Craft for my Sex Dungeons and Hog Snares, along with guide flies from Catching Shadows and Anglers Choice Flies for next guide season.
As I was roto-tilling the garden last spring, standing amid the fresh aroma- a nitrogen rich potpourri, compliments of goats, sheep and chickens wafting through the promise of fresh spring air, I quickly shut down the tiller to say ‘Hello’ to my local driver. I had the idea of ‘getting to know’ my UPS and Fed-Ex guys. Why not? Really, they know me, and he often asks how the fishing is. These guys know more about you than perhaps some guys at the office. For instance, he knows I prefer getting camping equipment from Sierra Trading Post and on a more personal level, my monthly prescription for Humira injection for my psoriasis needs to be chilled and kept in the shade. So I had prepared a set of questions for my driver.
What is your name? How old are you? How many years have you been delivering packages for UPS?
“Jack. A little older than you. 28 years next month.”
How many kids do you have? What do you like about delivery packages?
“I had three— I lost my son in Afghanistan four years ago…”
Whoa~ did not expect that. How do I continue? I don’t. It was understood. We both had a moment. I paused to reflect how it gut wrenching it would be to lose a child, and then have some forty year old punk on my route have the audacity to ask about my personal life. He was a little choked up, I apologized and expressed my condolences. I can’t even imagine. It made the moment that much more real and I quickly realized I had found what I was looking for. Jack always sees my on the way to the river, beeps his horn as I fly by to meet clients, leaves a dog treat on my boxes at the door inside the garage and in return I leave him fresh SweeTango apples from the farmers market. This is a good relationship. I encourage everyone to get to know their delivery person, from every company. Find out something about their home life. Especially this time of year. They are transporting millions of boxes to more homes than ever before, in some off the most inclement conditions. Traveling thousands of miles each week to make sure you can light up someone’s face with that special box under the tree. The least you can do is let them know how much they are appreciated.
I am not much for making resolutions. They are often false promises one makes and never really intends to keep for an entire year. I quit smoking when my eldest was born, put down the bottle some years prior to that. Can honestly attest to those resolving to quit the nicotine addiction that it was easier to quit drinking. Both will require you to be ready and dead honest with yourself. I suppose I could lose some weight, really? Nah, Who am I kidding. Working out would do wonders for my mental stability, but trying to fit that in a schedule with family, restaurant and managing the guide business would take the deft balance of a trapeze artist. So my workouts will remain mending fences, shoveling snow and rowing a boat, along with other menial farm chores.
The past year was another amazing and spectacular trip around the sun for True North Trout. Met many new clients, fished again with old friends and had a few good laughs while watching fish gingerly sip blue winged olives from glassy rippled edged pools. The next year already promises to be bigger and better. Added Randy Monchilov to the crew, booked a few trips, one request for overnight camping accomadations and the ever eternal hunt for new waters to explore. We plan to expand our skinny water trips with an inflatable watercraft and eventually do more on the North Branch Au Sable River, with potential for cabin rental on the river. The SUPonthefly venue will certainly gain some traction and attention as we ply some still waters for pike and smallmouth bass in between floats on the Jordan and Upper Manistee rivers. Happy to be on board with Temple Fork Outfitters and Scientific Anglers bringing the client what we feel are the best products in the market for our guests. Last season we met and did some filming with a couple of different media companies and intend to do some spring steelhead and opening trout season filming to wrap up a possible episode or commercial for publicity. The CRA looks to be on track for the Chestonia/Old State Bridge removal project to start sometime in 2017, and we eagerly anticipate being able to drift under a new open span bridge sometime in 2018.
The snow is gently wafting outside the window, and the county road commission just barricaded my drive, so I must get back to my work out. So, no new promises from TNT in 2017, only that we aim to keep our clients on as many fish as we can find, teach them as much as we can share about our resources and entomology while drifting a few nymphs. We will provide the freshest local food, scones and produce from our favorite purveyors while keeping it reel, wet and fun for you and family. Tight Lines and Happy New Year!!
See many of you January 7 and 14 in Grand Rapids at either Celebration of Tying or the Great Lakes Council Fly Show at East Kentwood.
For the record, 2016 was a warm one across the Midwest. Whether you subscribe to Climate Change or Global Warming, we broke a few records and continue to do so. Besides a healthy amount of SPF70 sunscreen in the boat, there were a couple key items that made my days on the river more comfortable and enjoyable. I would like to share my experience with you from the past year so that you may prepare yourself for next summer, in case we see more sun filled days than the previous decade.
The Simms Current Shoe has surpassed its reputation for being an all day long comfort shoe, whether on the boat or on shore. The Right Angle Technology footbed provides the angler with a definite lack of fatigue in the lower leg muscles after standing and casting from the bow of a drift boat in Montana or poling platform in the Keys. I have waded many cold water feeder creeks and found the quick dry mesh and smooth uppers were very comfortable and prevented any sand load from depositing in my shoe. These are fast becoming my favorite shoe at the beach and on the power boat, keeping a snug fit from the bungee lacing and preventing the tops of my feet from getting scorched from the high midsummer sun. My original interest for purchasing these began with a search for a good wading shoe for SUP fishing. When I came across the Current shoe, it made total sense. Perfect for canoe, kayak and SUP advocates, they stay on your feet, and are comfortable, while protecting your feet from jagged rocks or cedar branches. For years I have been an advocate for Keens, still appreciate the slip on comfort of a good trail sandal, but the deck specific design of the Current Shoe is hard to be overlooked. A couple of clients had purchased the Current shoe and we have had similar experiences pertaining to all day long comfort and appreciation of design. There were three colors available last season, black, chartreuse and blue, Simms may have a few new ones lined up for 2017. They have branched out and tapped into the casual shore shoe market with the RipRap Sandal, Westshore Boat shoe and the Challenger Boat shoe, with many leather upgrades for the lasting comfort that can take you late into the evening and far away from the rivers edge. I have yet to test them out, but have given them a close eye at the Midwest Expo.
Perfect idea for your Holiday shopping list, they are a priced at close to cool C-note, they will last you more than one season if treated with some care. Two other items from this past season I could not imagine a day without, the Simms Surf Short and SolarFlex Crewneck, with SPF70 and quick dry technology, I never had a moment concerned with overexposure to the daily beat from solar rays. My only drawback on the SolarFlex is the staining from perspiration or from a recently wetted Buff around the collar. The water stains seem to be semi-permanent, but these are the least of my concerns when the alternate is melanoma.
NEW for 2017!
Last year, I was interested in the BUGSTOPPER Hoody from Simms. Seemed it was only available in women’s options. I inquired from our Midwest Rep’s at the EXPO, Kim-Tony Ferrie and was pleasantly surprised to see a mens Hoody for the next season. I had to purchase, and will follow up later this season on how well it works in the skeeter infested cedar swamps of northern Michigan. Simms has been busy twerking waders, boots, jackets with latest from Gore-Tex and coming out with a few really cool T-shirts- “Rain Delays are for Baseball” very cool. Check out the entire line up or SIMMS HOLIDAY Gift Guide to get a new hat to stuff someone’s Christmas stocking. Simms has been amping up the rod/reel storage and travel luggage in the passed few years. They have also been making some notable improvements in their vest & hip packs in recent years. I hope you have a chance to check them out at a local Fly Shop and remember to Shop Local. Have a safe and Happy Holiday!!!
The past year has been a whirlwind, in a good way. Many trips, new clients, old friends and more places to fish with even more exciting venues for 2017. A few trips have been multiple client days on the river and True North Trout is ready to accommodate parties of 4 for double trips with the addition of Randy Monchilov.
Randy has lived in Gaylord for the past 17 years, has guided since ’02 and previously owned a tackle shop in Saginaw- “Tackle Land”. Randy has two great children, Mason, 16 and Morgan, 13. They like to spend their time on nearby lakes in the Gaylord area and are very active in school sports. Randy has fished many of the rivers we call ‘home-water’ in the northern portion of the Mitten, especially the Au Sable where he has a cabin on the North Branch which will be utilized for beginner casting and fly fishing lessons. Randy has had the opportunity to own and row many drift boats in his career, from Hydes to Clacka’s and most recently a RO, but chose to get an Adipose FLOW. In eye catching Montana Big Sky Blue, you will find it hard not to notice another Adipose floating down the upper Manistee River. Randy likes to fish for anything that swims but his passion is for trout. He used to compete in BASS tournaments but felt it no longer provided the challenge that rivers and trout offer. Simply put- “There is nothing more exciting than watching a trout sip your dry fly.”
We are looking forward to many trips this year and have already started to book some prime dates in 2017. Say ‘Hello’ to Randy when you see him at the Midwest Expo and welcome him to True North Trout team and the Adipose Family.
Last week I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes of Michigan’s very own line making facilities at Scientific Anglers HQ in Midland. It was eye opening to say the very least and pretty amazing on many levels. First off, how does one actually make a fly line and test it to meet the various scenarios we as anglers and guides regularly put our equipment through? Next, the technology involved, what is AST and how is it you can make a $100 fly line? Logistics, packing/stocking and shipping lines to fly shops and individuals around the world while keeping minimum inventory on hand, what is the method to the madness? These and many more inquiries were answered throughout the day by the staff and crew at SA.
First off: proprietary technical stuff not privy to. There was the ‘Blue Door’, behind which a magical room where potions are formulated and make the Goop to eventually become what we know as fly line. “Goop” is formed and depending on which specific line type, AST(Advanced Shooting Technology) impregnated, color added, and or teflon powder for various sinking rates. The vast majority of us were not majors of Analytical Calculus w/ Vectors at MichTech so I shall spare you the dreaded numbers and figures that spewed forth on actually designing a high performance casting line. As the name implies, Scientific Anglers does not lack in providing the highest standard and technical R&D for a final product before it hits the shelves. I have always thought AST stood for ‘added slickness technology’, so I apologize in advance if a Freudian Slip should occur.
So, POOF! the line is spooled and a variety of colors are aligned on big reels in front the Coiling/Converting station where a wonderfully patient lady named Mo showed us ‘Mitt Monkeys’ the ropes.
The tricky part is feeling the bump in the line, knowing where the next segment starts and when to cut, place the fuzzy white twisty and prep the line to the next stage- loop welding. The former SharkSkin had issues; besides the noise, the weld was not smooth. They have reconfigured temperature and pressure when heating and cooling a fresh weld. You will see on the next generation of lines, a much more refined and smoother transition in the weld. The skinny on new series of lines: Sharkwave is still onboard and a great line for added distance, Wavelength, Sonar, Frequency and Mastery Series round out the line-up nicely. The buzz around the room is the line we have in our hands. The suppleness and smooth yet textured line has a mesmerizing quality about it. Baby butt smooth. The new AMPLITUDE has added AST+ actually has glass bubbles impregnated into the line, which adds longevity and value to a higher price point. It is estimated a 40% longer life on the water versus competitor lines, which makes it worth every penny. As one cleans the line, more levels of the plaston bubbles migrate to the surface and are exposed, revealing new life and releasing dirt and grime. This is a game changer. Check it out, you won’t be sorry you did.
The board room was later assembled by the majority of fly talent from across the state- Chris Lessway, Mike Schultz, Russ Maddin, Ted Pitch, Mark Hendricks, Jimmy Chang. We had the opportunity to talk with Josh Jenkins and Erick Johnson about what exactly goes into the R&D side of SA. Packaging is simplified, easy notation for taper style and fly choice that each line is made for, fresh and saltwater destination. We don’t think about it, but a saltwater line needs to be more rigid, because when it is exposed to extreme temperature, it becomes supple, just the opposite of our cold weather zone lines, which become more stiff as it gets colder. We also had a good discussion on what we might like to see in the future for clients and anglers alike. There is a lot coming from Scientific Anglers in the next year, keep your eyes peeled.
First and foremost, this will be written as non biased as I best I know how. There are some areas of concern for local guides and anglers happening on many of the rivers we all love and fish. My best intention is to shed some light on the issue and that a serious discussion ensues with a possible resolution that we can all live with. This may involve many individuals, local parties, businesses and the Department of Natural Resources to find a resolution. I promise not to name names or point out anyone individually – they know who they are. I strongly believe that many of you know where my passion lies: with the rivers and denizens of these ecosystems, not ever wishing to do any harm or demonstrate reckless behavior.
Hex 2016- The Season of High Water.
A few weeks ago, on a night of fishing a rather lackluster Drake Hatch on the lower Camp Chicago stretch, a Hyde drifter coasted up behind us, asked what side to pass as we were patiently waiting for our feeder to show himself. We said right, he complied and slid along our starboard side as silently as the night. We exchanged fishing reports.
“A few bugs, couple risers, South Branch was a mess. Shut down quick.”
“Same here, heard there were a few trees down in the swamp.”
A few minutes later, a long boat slid up behind us. I asked how they were doing, and received no response. They just kept on going through the same water we had been watching for the better part of a half hour. My clients thought it was a little rude how the anglers were dismissive of my inquiries and just floated through the water we were mesmerized by. I said, “it happens.” Sometimes they lose a really big fish and they carry that burden all the way to the take-out, or perhaps a boat was already set up on a big fish they had hoped to see in their net, maybe that boat was mine…
The Take-out was surprisingly pleasant. Mind you, it was early in the season. There were only a half dozen trailers in the lot and I was only boat #3 in the waiting line. Funny part was, I knew both boats in front of me. They were from the Petoskey/Harbor Springs area. I chatted with the guys in the Hyde while waiting for the Au Sable long boat to secure and put away gear. They were as disappointed as we were about the short feeding window and our ever early anticipation of the big bugs, but happy the bulk of the massive hatch had yet to happen.
The next day, out of the blue, I received a text from an unknown number asking me if I had floated the South Branch. I pondered my response. A) none of your business, B) No, we put in at Townline, C) I have before and it has never been an issue. The concerned guide from the local fly shop informed me that the South Branch is too dangerous with all the downed trees near the confluence, and with a high profile boat with oars sticking out I would scare all the fish. He continued that, of course, it’s not illegal, just highly frowned upon by local guides because it should be for long boats only. This would include the Holy Waters and the North Branch. He also made the comparison that it is not illegal to take a 20 foot Bass Boat with a 90hp twin Mercury motor up from Connors Flats, not that it is fair or right, but totally legal. Especially when the the water is so low.
I can’t recall time, except maybe back in the eighties, that the rivers and lakes have looked so good and high. Not the point. I disregarded the memo and continued about cleaning my boat and prepping for the next night on the water. Late June and early July, phone is ringing, client’s special requests and booking dates through the next month is crazy- a good problem to have.
The next week, I called to arrange my car spot, my clients wanted a little bit of late afternoon fishing before we set up for evening Hexin’ so I thought Stephan down to Connors would give them a little dry fly early evening action, besides, I often meet clients at Gates so they can buy a few flies/tippet, hat or bug spray. After half the day had gone by and no word from my spotter, I got concerned, so I texted him again regarding my shuttle arrangement. He finally replied that the car spotters have arranged with local fly shops not to shuttle any drift boats in the Holy Waters, South Branch and North Branch. This was due to the many complaints from property owners who don’t appreciate the riffraff from drift boats that come down the river and have a party every night. Hmmm, I am perplexed. For the most part, I am not a ‘Partier’, and the South Branch? The entire thing? Wasn’t that a gift from George Mason, hence the Mason Tract, deeded to the State, to the people of Michigan, to never be developed, but always be enjoyed by the many anglers who wish to fish it?? I understand when water levels are low there are a couple of rocks to look out for, but you have to be aware of those no matter what water craft you float.
There will be separation…
Many guides on the Au Sable learned the trade from Rusty, and he from his mentors. Famous guides whose names will long be in the sands of this Holy Water. Names like Regan, Madsen, Roberts, Smock, Lively and Borcher all had set a precedent that drift boats have no place on the Holy Waters. Even though this was passed down from Rusty, all respect and admiration aside, he did not own the river either. It belongs to all of us. My boat, specifically, did not exist in Michigan 15 years ago when such ideals were being instilled. Partly the reason why I chose the Adipose. The Skiff design is not high profile with banging metal FishRite raucous. Besides the fact that I regularly float the Jordan, at least a third the size of any stretch of the Holy Waters or South Branch, none of my clients ever have felt that I was not in complete control or that their safety was in jeopardy on those waters. Exclusion of drift boats, except during streamer season, (when exactly is that?) only further makes the prestigious sport of Fly Fishing the Au Sable more exclusive. Only if you have a long boat or guide for Gates Lodge/OAFS/Fullers can you float the Holy Waters/South/North Branch. Wait, you can access these waters with an inflatable craft such as a river tech Confluence/Smithfly inflatable boat. Apparently those boats don’t spook fish or disrupt habitat- especially if you are lodging at one of the resorts. Basically, the water is reserved solely for the guides of the lodge, thereby pushing all the rest of the hex hungry drift anglers below Wakely and into Connors Flats.
Let’s look at the difference in the boat. Adipose measures 15’4″ with a gunnel height of 17″ and beam is 74″. My Grumman canoe measures 17′ with a 40″ beam and 15″ height. Long boats average 22′ with a 36-40″ beam and less than a foot gunnel height. They are much more slender, sleek and attractive. I totally get it, but any of these floating over a trout will spook the fish, not to mention the 100’s of canoes that float the river just prior to any guides launch. I have floated the North Branch in my canoe, it is certainly a shallow water trout fishery. Long boats often use a pole or beaver tail paddle to silently glide into position on a fish, and a quality guide can put you on a feeding fish without their knowledge, but others drag chains and rip habitat while they slowly float down stream. I have fished out of a few classic river boats, my cousins have them, and I appreciate the craftsmanship and design. They were originally made to transport gear and food to logger camps along the river. They were easily poled upstream because of the slender design and shallow draft. Perhaps there were a few anglers and locals who scoffed at the fact some people were actually using these ‘work’ boats for pleasure in the late 1890-1900’s. I was not around, but could only guess they were not readily accepted as fishing crafts.
Even if I owned a fleet of Au Sable Long boats, it is a matter of being told that I can’t float a certain section of water when by every right, I have the privilege to guide others on such waters. If I have a client who is from Ohio and he wishes to float past the Famous Barbless Hook so he can see the stone where TU got its start (along with the recent remodel), I should be able to fulfill that request. The romance of the long boat is not lost on me, I vividly recall organizing the TU 50th anniversary meeting in Traverse City. I was to pair up anglers with guides for their ‘Day on the Water’~ the majority requested a long boat float down the Holy Waters, on a hot late summer day, I chose to float my guest down the Upper Manistee, and we enjoyed a boat free river all afternoon. It is something else as a guide to consider, you are on one of the Best Trout Streams not only in Michigan, but the Midwest. Trying to figure out a float any day of the week can be a matter of figuring where the least amount of traffic is to improve your client’s chances of hooking a fantastic fish.
Lessons I have learned from my three decades of working the service industry, because really, that is what you are doing, have helped me in many professional situations. Rule #1- You are ALWAYS on stage. Be aware of what you say and how you carry yourself. This is a direct reflection of how well you will treat your guests. Last summer- hopper hungry and meeting clients at local fly shop to pick up a few Charlie Boys and Chubby Chernobyl Ants, I see a fellow guide on the back deck looking over his scheduling book.
“Hey, (insert guide name), How is the fishing?”
“You tell me, you’re the flippin’ Guide.”
Wow- why the hostility? Do you have to be such a Richard Cranium? Sorry, I said I would not mention names. My clients were right behind me. After we were in the truck, they asked who was that? I would not tell them, perhaps he was having a bad day, nonetheless, you leave that at home.
Rule #2 Always Be professional- this carries on from the first rule, being aware of what you say and within earshot of the relatively small tight knit fly guide world. My clients were enjoying lunch at the other fly shop prior to meeting for a day on the river. The table next to them was not saying nice things about me and my guiding skill set. No offense, I have a good base of first timers that actually like to hear about river history and macro invertebrates, not every client is out to catch the biggest fish of their life on their first trip. I am not on the inside of the “Au Sable Guides Association” nor will I ever be. I have had to work very hard every season to make a success of True North Trout, and to support my family. Some shop guides take for granted all the little things I have to put together for every trip. Lunch, car spot, gas, insurance, flies, rods, boat we all have the basics covered. The independent versus a shop guide is huge- I do all my own river intel, weather watching, make my lunch, keeping it fresh and unique, tie and order flies, line, tippet, etc. It would be nice when I broke a rod if I could get one on loan from the shop or call ahead to have a couple dozen Missing Link Caddis set aside, or lunch pre-made with a bag of ice and sodas. Many of these luxuries are taken for granted until you do all your own PR, printing business cards, website/domain maintenance, donating trips to TU chapters and other non-profits, writing a blog, social media updates, T-shirts, booking trips, answering half a dozen messages after a full day on the river and feeling out what clients are actually looking for besides a ‘Fun day on the River’, then to go home and try to maintain a sense of family.
I understand if I play by the rules, then I could get the respect and maybe even a referral from guides at these shops, but I am not holding my breath. I have been doing it on my own from day one. Nobody has shown me any secret honey holes or the best two fly rig, I have had to earn it. Maybe I will get a cameo in the next River Movie, doubt it, I am on the outside and always will be, no matter what the secret Guide code is. When exactly is ‘Dry Fly season’? Seems very arbitrary, from Hennies in late April to October caddis? Guess I am only allowed in my drift boat in the Winter…
Perhaps the answer is as obvious as the Pere Marquette. When the popularity of the river users exceeds the best potential natural & serene experience, you may need to regulate how many boats are permitted to float per day. Maybe there needs to be a regulated number of guides who pay a premium for a Holy Waters/South Branch access, much like the PM. Then you can legally form a “Au Sable Guides Association” and continue to make or follow rules that were formed in the century prior to your birth. Maybe there could be a Fraternity we could all pledge and there could be hazing and late night campfire bonding rituals involving keg stands, consuming raw meats and waddling around a gymnasium wearing only a jock strap and pinching a marshmallow between your cheeks, forcing pledge to eat said marshmallow when it falls and begin over again. Good thing I am far too old and would never pass any such ridiculous tests of my river knowledge and guiding ability, but it is good fodder.
Maybe, hear me out, what we really need is less exclusivity and more unity. Not division among guides, there are many more pressing issues at hand, like New Zealand Mud snails, large boats with motors powering up from Connors and eroding shoreline, Fish Farm/Hatchery, and a host of invasive species knocking on the door of the best trout river in the Midwest.
**Footnote from my wife, who only reads and hears the stories: Seriously? Aren’t you all adults? First, you’re fishing with clients and a boat pulls up alongside you and PISSES in the water. The very river they claim to love and are willing to fight you for. Are you kidding me? Then, out of nowhere, when you are home with your family, the barrage of annoying and seriously immature text messages start from a ‘guide’ at Gates who has personally taken it upon himself to start a manhunt for you and your ‘rig.’ He has discouraged all car spots from working with you, and he is talking smack about you at the shop to your CLIENTS. Grow up already. You’re worse than hairdressers and old ladies. Koz has worked his whole life toward this passion and he deserves every client that calls. He treats them like royalty, he loves the sport, and he takes care of the waters every chance he gets. Last time I checked, no one owned the river. So, redirect your angst and jealousy and try to put some of that energy toward something positive.