The day of a fishing guide begins early. By the time the client is met, several hours of unseen preparation have taken place in order to make the day a smooth and successful one.
Every day on the river is different and local knowledge acquired over many years helps me prepare. The client is not just getting a fishing partner or a warm body to just row the boat, but a guide that understands how temperature, weather, and river flows affect the fish bite, coupled with an attitude to help them enjoy the day and feel the tug of the fly rod.
New flies have been tied and put in their respective boxes. In the drift boat, there is a place for everything, and through the years repetition has made it easy to locate whatever is needed blindly, and in the heat of a fish fight! The equipment, quantity of leaders, indicators, tippet, floatant, and nippers are gone over, and everything is where it needs to be. Are the net, anchor, and rope in good shape? Nothing needs replacing. Are the fly rods all rigged correctly for both nymphs and dries?
Lunches, snacks, and drinks are all good to go. And stored in the cooler. The boat has been hosed out, I’m ready. I arrive at the dock to pick up my clients an hour before they’re due to arrive. This time is sacred and it gives me a chance to go over things one last time before they show. Once this is completed, I feel a sense of calm; we’re ready to go. This quiet time helps me review my float plan, techniques, and to mentally prepare for the day.
The clients arrive like they always do, excited and ready to do some fishing. I’m ready for them, and I’m ready to catch some fish. Catching fish never gets old and brings me back to the river each day. They hop in the truck and we head up to the boat launch. We chat some on the way, crack some jokes, and talk about what the plan is for the day. We also review their expectations and quickly give them an overview of yesterday’s successes which puts them at ease. That’s how I want my clients to feel. We arrive at the put-in, I get the boat ready and the clients get their gear. After loading the clients on board and launching the boat, a quick pre-trip and safety instructions are communicated. Now everyone can relax because it’s time to fish.
As I pull the boat off the bank I review with the clients where and how to fish, which side of the boat to cast, and how to stand and lock their thighs in the holders for stability. The first thing I need to understand is their casting ability. We take a few minutes and review boat casting techniques. This helps me to position the boat so that their fly is where it needs to be. If they need a quick casting lesson, now is the time.
We start floating down the river and the clients make their casts. Sometimes it takes a bit for the bite to get going, sometimes we nail them right off the bat. Either way, the conversation is usually good. As we approach a new section I like to point out the differences in how we will fish this next piece of water. I know the river, where the fish are, and share this with them. And so goes the day. Fish are caught, some are lost, stories are told, laughs are had, pictures are taken, and at the end of the day, it’s always just a little bit sad. We just had a great day, and now it’s over.
We say our goodbyes, and I trailer the boat and head home. I clean out the boat, store it, and make sure its ready for the next trip, I know I can’t wait. There’s a quote out there and I’ll be damned if I can find who the author is but it goes, “I don’t fish to escape life’s problems, I fish to remind myself how little life’s problems are.” We all have crazy lives and those of us who are fortunate enough to love fly fishing get it.
Bill Nolan is the owner of PA Troutfitters and is the head fly fishing guide in the Lehigh Valley near Allentown, Pennsylvania. He guides float trips on the Lehigh River, walk and wade trips on local streams and conducts fly fishing 101 classes.