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I'm still around but...........

Rating: 2 votes, 4.00 average.
I must admit that the fish guide business is demanding to say the least. I have spent every day this past week trying hard to get salmon onto the flies of people fishing with me. The days are starting with an alarm going off at 2:30 AM and I am returning home at 8 or 9 in the evenings. This is as close as I have came to having a time clock to answer to since 1988 and it is proving to be demanding work.

I was thinking back on all the posts I've seen from people who are determined to get into the guide business and wondered how many ever did. If they are doing even half the days I am right now they have discovered it isn't just going fishing and getting paid for it. I don't fish, I help others to try to catch the fish that I might if I were fishing. While that may sound easy it is extremely challenging because most don't cast like I do. Just getting the fly to the right place is a huge part of catching a king salmon and I fear that most of the time the people fishing aren't reaching the strike zone.

There is, it seems, a fine line between advising and browbeating a fisherman and I am finding that happy medium I think. The very most disappointing part of this is when we fish a run where I am about 100% positive I could take 5 or more fish in an hour or twos fishing time and with 2 fellows working the run we come up with zero.

During the king salmon season it is not legal for a guide to actually fish here in Alaska when you are with clients. This makes the job even harder, I can try to demonstrate technique but must at the same time avoid catching a salmon . If you ponder that for a moment you'll see what I see and that is that it's not as easy as it sounds. I was simply showing a man How to shoot line on Wednesday and had tossed the fly into the water while I stripped line from the reel. When I went to lift and then sweep the line to make a cast a very large king grabbed the fly before I got it from the water. I was trying to hurry in order to avoid that exact thing but it happened. I instantly handed the rod to the angler who was quite shocked by what had just happened but he failed to drive the hook in because he had never fished for salmon before. Within 10 seconds the fish cartwheeled and the hook came loose. That man lost another nice fish that day and finished without landing one. I was more crushed than had all of that happened to me instead of someone else.

It's going to be a long summer and I'll begin posting about all these trips both here on the forum and on the Life On The Line website. And for all those young fellows who want to be Alaskan fish guides, you may feel free to get in touch for some first hand reporting of what a day can be like.



  1. jaybo41's Avatar
    Hey Ard,

    It sure sounds like your business is falling into place, that's great to hear. I know you've been logging long hours and watching people fail attempting to catch and land salmon has got to be frustrating and somewhat upsetting, but know this. Those memories you are creating for your clients will last a lifetime!

    Be delighted every day your office is such a beautiful place. Many of us, mine included have a workspace at a desk in front of a computer!

    Last but not least, your post here is very enlightening for those interested in the possibilities of guiding. There are going to be good days and rough days, it can't be as glamorous as the stereotype calls it to be. Hang in there buddy, good days are ahead I'm certain of that! Here's to continued success!

  2. Ard's Avatar
    Thanks Jason for the encouraging words,

    One of the hardest things is that even the experienced fly fishers are mostly trout fishers. They see a salmon roll or porpoise on the surface and they want to cast to is as if it were a rising trout. I explain as best I can what they are seeing and that we must move about 20 yards upstream of where the fish displayed and get the sink & swing down and correct and then work down to where the fish actually is but they have a hard time digesting the principle of that approach. Even from upstream they want to immediately reach down to where the fish showed............

    Catching these fish on the fly is a cross between wet fly fishing & mathematics. It's a radius velocity problem with several unknowns you must solve for. Current speed - depth and unless you can actually see the target you must guess where the fish could be. There are accidental hookups in the most obvious of spots but on a whole it is a game of deep thought and most importantly casting & line control.

    The river we're fishing is low and warming due to lack of rain and the fish are like a light switch turning on and off. There may be a 30 minute period of great activity and then an hour or more of absolute quite. During the lull you would swear there are no fish in the river. When they turn on the surface is a boil with displaying salmon. Those short spans of activity are when all the fish sense that I have tried to share must be applied.......

    I have a trip on Tuesday so we give it another go. Tomorrow I'm changing out the wear ring & intake on the motor and making flies tonight and tomorrow night. These guys lose more flies in a day than I do in a season.

    Don't worry, those tubes you sent are mine buddy
  3. milt spawn's Avatar
    My good friend always hooks his biggest browns when demonstrating nymphing techniques to his mother, not even trying to catch 'em. milt
  4. Ard's Avatar
    Hi Milt,

    Yes that was unfortunate timing for sure. Sometimes when I am alone I start to believe I couldn't catch a fish if you threw it to me and when other anglers fate just puts my fly directly in the face of the fish. Conditions where I'm fishing are tough, the water is stained with tannin and after about 3' of depth you have no chance to sight a fish. Conversely the fly must get close enough to the fish in order to be seen.........

    I'm out again Tuesday and another angler will have his chance at them then.

  5. Ard's Avatar
    I just received an e-mail from some fellows who were with me 2 days last week. Here's a quote pulled from the text; "We will be back again to bag a big king for sure. Thanks for all your hard work. You are the hardest working guide we've ever gone fishing with by far and we really enjoyed it" The fellow who wrote that caught 7 salmon but the largest one was only about 10 pounds........

    That's just what I wanted to hear
  6. jaybo41's Avatar
    I'd can't say that I'm surprised Ard. That's great to hear those kinds of things and I'm sure very rewarding when you do hear them. Especially given your concern about those two clients. Keep up the great work and your head up even when you have those not so good days. Remember, you're making memories that will last a lifetime!
  7. milt spawn's Avatar
    I hope those clients put up those comments on your site and reviews on the web, high praise for sure! milt
  8. jslo's Avatar
    Super interesting to read! Good on ya.
  9. mcnerney's Avatar
    Ard: Over the past 30 years of fly fishing I have hired a lot of guides, but have never seen anyone work as hard as you do. Normally, a day with a guide down here starts with meeting at the fly shop at 8 am and then we hit the river and return to the fly shop somewhere around 5 pm. Those guys have it easy compared to what you are doing!
    Note to self: Next winter, remind Ard to tie four times the number of flies that he thinks he will need the following summer.