Wednesday, March 3, 2010


(Brandon with his first!)

( Ryan with his first!)

( Andy with his first!)

( Andy with his second!....and on and on!)

Winter steelhead guiding(it ain't spring till March 22) can be uncertain.Every day, just as professional athletes focus from game-to-game, you test your abilities to think like a fish,focus on water, pools, lies you select to work, given the conditions you are dealt with and work with the abilities of your clients. Just as a Major League Baseball slugger, a striker in soccer, a forward in hockey, or a high percentage field goal scorer in the NBA, you have 'hitting and scoring slumps' or droughts-OR- you are hot!- for whatever reason.Like Will Ferrill put it as Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights,"I'm on fire!"- lately my days on the river have been more like that!- minus me running around my boat almost naked with adult diapers on and a racing helmut! river in winter could be very tough and unforgiving on a guide and clients, dishing -up goose eggs
So...........with that being said, I greeted my clients on Tuesday with the usual optimistic, positive outlook ready to approach the water. Brandon, Ryan and Andy were Dental School Students at the University Of Detroit- real nice bunch of guys and I could tell we were going to have a fun day , regardless of the outcome."SO, you guys ever catch a steelhead?", I asked. "Nope, we never caught one. We've seen pictures in books and magazines of them!", said Brandon. Brandon was from New Mexico and he fished the San Juan for trout. Ryan and Andy had little fishing experience fishing only for the past year.

So.........with that being said, a guide's mind starts to work- sometimes positively-sometimes not so positively!

First.........we are going to have to learn the technique of deep water Great Lakes nymphing- the cast the drift- the whole shabang!! Since I teach a more advanced style-similar to Polish/Czech nymphing along with a down-and-across swing at the end, that will be our first chore.

Second..........we'll have to learn how to detect a strike from a snag on the bottom.

Then ............we will have to learn how to hook and battle a fish on light 4-6 lb tippets, using the rod butt and tip to protect the light tippets and not brake off fish on hard runs. Plus learn how to rotate three rods in a boat. to put a fish in the net, that is if you are lucky enough to hook one!!!!!!!

Sounds like quite the chore for three newbies in a 9-10 hour day. That is a lot to cram into a single session, but I looked at it as a challenge!

First the negatives. Water hit a all time winter low so far this year, 1460 cfs. Water clarity was ridiculously clear- you could see 12 feet down into pools. It was a sunny , bluebird day without a cloud in the sky.Water temp 35 F

The positives? We would be fishing at the warmest part of the day-10 till 7 pm. Sun will warm the water up for the 'big bite" better in low clear conditions. ALSO, WE HAD A FULL MOON FOR THE PAST THREE NIGHTS-ALL GOOD STUFF! In addition I had raw talent willing to learn........that is important. Sometimes skilled anglers are impossible to guide because they've seen and done it all!


Brandon, Ryan an Andy picked up the technique in a half hour almost flawlessly! Perfect drifts, casts, concentration! This can come from only graduate school students that function day-to-day by listening and comprehend knowledge- this is an art form and skill most of us loose once we leave school or turn 30!

The hook-ups came and came- so did the landings! We were 100% in hook and land percentages.How many- dang/ a smart guide never"kisses and tells"- you never know what tomorrow will bring- often big GOOSE EGGES....OOOOO!

Congrats and Cheers Brandon, Ryan and Andy- YOU AIN'T STEELHEAD VIRGINS NO MORE!!!-in 17 years of guiding , I 've never seen this amount of raw talent, coordination and skill manifested in such a little time on the water!