“Hi, I’m Nick, and I will be your fishing guide today. You guys ready to get out on the water or what?!”
By now, my opening lines and go-to questions feel more like a robotic speech than conversation with human beings. I am numb from the grind of guide trips and waders that never fully dry. My boxes look like a graveyard of what were once brimming rows of Parachute Adamses and Prince Nymphs.
Over the course of a season, I find myself saying some truly remarkable things — answers I never thought possible to questions that seem more and more predictable. But the expanse between what I’m thinking and the gibberishI spew to ensure that my gratuity stays intact is wider than the Niagara. My internal dialogue suggests I am slowly going insane. In fact, there’s little doubt.
Here’s a sample:
1. Client: “I have some experience fly fishing so you will probably spend most of your time with my wife.”
Me: “I will try to split my time up as evenly as I can making sure you both get plenty of one-on-one instruction throughout the day. “
What I’m Actually Thinking: You say that now, but after your wife catches the first five fish of the day I’m going to feel your piercing looks whether I’m working with you or not!
2. Client: “I would like to use my own rod today”
Me: “Of course, we can bring it along and try it out!”
What I’m Actually Thinking: There’s something sweeter about catching a fish on your own rod vs. one of mine. I get it. The issue is that yours is a 7 weight and we are going after 10-inch brookies. I would very much prefer if your steelhead rod didn’t send these fish flying through the air and into the brush.
3. Client: “We would prefer to fish somewhere secluded with no one else around that has big fish that are pretty.”
Me: ”I have a couple spots in mind that have some nice fish and shouldn’t be too crowded.”
What I’m Actually Thinking: No problem! When does our flight to Alberta leave?
4. Client: “Maybe we should switch up the flies.”
Me: “Why don’t we stick with those flies just a little longer and see what we can come up with before we try something else?”
What I’m Actually Thinking: Believe me sir, nobody wants you to catch fish more than me! Typically my end-of-day gratuity is better the more fish you put in the net. If I thought the flies were the issue here, they would be long gone!
5. Client: “One time we used grasshoppers to catch some fish, so why aren’t we using those flies?”
Me: “Grasshoppers can absolutely be effective at certain times of the year. It just so happens that right now it’s a little too cold for them to be active and the fish are keying in on other things, like the egg imitation you have on the end of your line. “
What I’m Actually Thinking: We aren’t using grasshoppers because it’s March and all of the grasshoppers here in Pennsylvania have been dead for 6 months.
6. Client: “I think I could probably be a fly fishing guide if I wanted”
Me: ”Well, you might be able to be one!”
What I’m Actually Thinking: You know what, maybe you can. There’s nothing to it once you figure out how to offer polite retort to comments such as this one.
Smiling through gritted teeth, I answer each remark as professionally as I can, all the while wondering if maybe I should swap my waders for a GoreTex straightjacket. Comments about bigger fish, grasshoppers, and my fly selections are far from my mind in February when the first clients start to reach out and talk about what we may do this year. But a few months in, duty often demands that what the brain concocts never passes the lips.
Does it mean I have to keep a straight face when someone asks, “Hey are there hooks on these flies?”
Well yes, yes it does.