Wednesday, January 23, 2013
It’s 7:10 in the morning not so long ago and I am headed into work. A year ago that would have meant getting out of bed, maybe taking a shower, putting on my guide shirt, grabbing my vest and rods, load up the truck and be at the fly shop with a total of an 8 minute commute. I would meet my clients for the day and go fishing wherever I felt it would be great on the Gold Medal waters of the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers. That was my “work” for 18 years.
Today, I get out of bed, definitely take a shower, get dressed in my monkey suit, grab a coffee, get stuck in traffic, get aggravated and then try be the best employee I can be in the new city job I have recently taken on. I like the first paragraph of this story much better.
The changes I have made to move to the big city are all for good reason, I was fishing for love and I landed her in Denver. So I made this commitment and moved from the Roaring Fork Valley to the “Big D” to begin my life with my bride to be. All of that is good. Here’s the catch though. This change of lifestyle does make guiding and my love of the river a bit, if not a lot, more difficult. So, it begs to be asked, how does a mountain guy, fly fishing guide adjust to his new surroundings?
He doesn’t. What he does do, is try to view the world through trout colored glasses.
This summer, I was pining to go on the Fryingpan River, remembering the how the water rushed around my waders with the occasional caddis fly going up my nose. I had to get a fix. So I went down to South Platte River right here in downtown Denver and found an eddy behind a trashed grocery cart freshly thrown into the river. I took a number of big inhales through my nose to get a whiff of the fresh smog from a nearby factory to help transport me back to the place that I love. To my surprise it didn’t work. But I was still optimistic.
Just the other day on my way into work, I stopped in the coffee shop directly across the street from my house called Stella’s. I go there every day to get a medium cup of danger monkey dark and chat with whoever is behind the counter. This place is just like any other coffee shop in any other small town. The other morning I noticed a pick-up truck with the license plate ‘6X20RS2’ (referencing the fly pattern, an RS2, and the size of the fly and tippet). Now that is a very specific vanity plate. A big smile came across my face and I just had to go and find out who this person was. I strolled around and found the only guy (this is not sexist statement, there was only dudes in the coffee shop) that fit the “I like getting a line wet” look.
Let me stop here for a moment. There are always two perspectives when you live in a destination resort area; the locals and the tourists. I have always been a local, very rarely a tourist. So, it is not uncommon for us locals to strike up a conversation with someone that you might not know and talk about anything - fishing, skiing, biking, whatever. They are often just excited to be there and to get an inside scoop on what’s going on out there and what bug is hot.
I say to this guy, “Dude, is that your truck? You must fly-fish. That’s pretty light tippet.” This is when I realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. A curt “Ya-and…?” is all I got. Nothing, zilch, nada. I found myself standing there awkwardly, not as a knowledgeable local guide with an information starved tourist or as tourist with tourist getting ready to swap fish stories, but instead as the guy interrupting said dude with newspaper. Awkward. So I mentioned that I was a guide - still nothing. I got my coffee, did the customary guy head nod and went on my way somewhat jaded.
But I am not discouraged; there is hope.
The great part of moving here is that I live by Wash Park. An incredibly beautiful open space in the center of Denver, filled with volleyball players, freshly parented 30 somethings with BMW baby joggers, yoga pants and iPhones. Off in the distance I see two people, both with fly rods, casting on the grass, horribly. “A-ha” my inner guide senses whispered to me. I walk up and ask, “How’s it going?” sheepishly, doing my best not to look like weird random park conversation guy. “Where are you going fishing?” I ask. They look at me and mutter, “Nowhere yet, just practicing.” the worst caster say’s. “That’s cool. Can I show you a couple tricks that might help? I do a lot of this......I’m a guide out of Basalt.” I say. “Ya, so you fish in the pan? Come on over.” they reply. The guide in me is satisfied.
I wouldn’t be telling you the truth if I said it has been easy to be so far away from the activity that I love so much, but I will say that it will always be a part of me. Guiding is so much more that just taking somebody fishing. It’s about relationships and sharing common interest. I may not be near gold medal waters anymore but I can still share and teach the art of fly fishing. That is, if fly-fishing in a random patch of grass, doing my best to be a city guide counts.
18 year Taylor Creek guide, 1st year city guide, life time teacher
Top and bottom photo's courtesy of Glenn Smith, others AP