How Fish Were Ruining My Outings

How often have you come off the water completely blanked and considered it an unsuccessful day?  Over the years I have been fortunate enough to have a few days that I considered to be nothing short of incredible.  Days that you only read about in magazines, where everything just seems to go right.  When I started fly fishing, if I could somehow manage to even hook one fish on an outing I was more than pleased.  It wasn’t just about the fish, it was the experience and the satisfaction of learning more each time I went out.  I was well aware of how little knowledge I had, but just being on the water was enough for me.  Progressively I became a more effective angler and my standards went up on what “good” was the more fish I consistently caught.  Sadly, it slowly turned into a numbers game for me.  Why didn’t I get quite as many as last time?  How many more could I have gotten if I put in an extra hour?  It was no longer about the experience it was about the numbers.


Steelhead Break!

I came to realization how many things I was taking for granted while guiding one day, two nice guys from New York State were in my boat and we stopped for our usual shore lunch in a small field beside the river.  After we had finished eating & the other boats had headed off, my two clients reached into the cooler and grabbed a beer.  I was folding up the tables & chairs, making sure the boat was in order when one of them said “hey, come sit with us for a second”.  I wasn’t sure exactly why, but I sat down on my cooler anyways. “See, we’re not in a hurry to get back on the water right now.  Fishing was great this morning, we’re just enjoying being able to sit here and enjoy the scenery instead of stuck in an office back in the city.”  They gave each other a cheers and put some music on from a cell phone   Most guests are fairly eager to get on the water and guides are usually scrambling to get everything set for the afternoon session.  I felt a slight sense of guilt as I sat on the cooler.  How many days have I spent on the water with a one track mind on how many I was going to put in the net, while taking everything in my surroundings for granted?  These guys paid a pretty penny to come to Canada fishing for the week, but they explained thoroughly that fly fishing to them is not about how many they tally up in a day.  It created a stir of thoughts in my head, forcing me to wonder why my perspective on the sport seemed to have changed over the years.  I didn’t really notice how selfish I had become until then.  I never told them how much that moment meant to me, but it has permanently changed my outlook on fly fishing.  Who cares if you didn’t swing up a winter steelhead this season?  You spent every day in a beautiful surrounding, and learned something each and every outing.  If fly fishing was ONLY about the fish, you would’ve given it up a long time ago.

SIDE NOTE: The guest that spoke his unknown words of wisdom went on to land the biggest dry fly caught rainbow that I saw all season on a #6 California Blonde with 5 minutes left on his last day… good things happen to good people.


Stop & take a moment to appreciate your surroundings, chances are they aren’t too bad.

Fly fishing brings us to a vast array of places, and creates memories that will never be erased.  All the flat tires, skunked days and moments of frustration seem to fade when everything lines up for you.  Next time you’re pulling your hair out on the water reel in, sit down for a couple minutes and just take a good solid look around you.  Chances are after that you’ll realize things could be a whole hell of a lot worse.   The “numbers” mentality is a thing of the past for me, it’s still fun to clean up on them once in a while but my outlook on what makes a day on the water “successful” has changed for the better.



5 Comments on “How Fish Were Ruining My Outings

  1. Very good insights Jordan. I have never ‘guided’ so I have never had the pressure to produce that happens in that situation. But, I certainly agree with your other observations. On some trips, I will go an entire day, sitting by the lake, watching the water, sky, birds, clouds, whatever. And, only spend an hour or two actually out in the boat. I seldom worry about catching fish, it is a re-charge time for me. Catching, and releasing, is just a bonus.


    • Exactly! One of the most enjoyable days I had on the river this winter I didn’t even have a rod, I had dispatched a hatchery steelhead earlier in the day so I just walked around with my buddies while they fished. Gives you a new appreciation for how lucky we are as anglers. Thanks for reading!


  2. Love this, Jordan, and love that you learned such a valuable lesson so early on in your life! You are a wonderful writer, and the photos are beautiful. Can’t wait to read and see more.

    Liked by 1 person

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