I’m not a wealthy guy. In the dozen-or-so years that I have been fly fishing, I have hired a guide on three occasions. Frank was my first, a mature guy about my age, who guided my wife and me on the Roaring river in Rocky Mountain National Park. Frank guided out of Estes Angler flyshop. Frank was exactly what I want in a guide: enthusiastic about fly fishing, an excellent but low-key teacher, committed to putting clients on fish in spite of their shortcomings. Did I mention the great sandwiches and homemade chocolate chip cookies? That day on the Roaring river was replete with beautiful greenback cutthroats, abundant mountain sun, crystalline water, and good companionship. That trip is the one, my being new to fly fishing, when I learned high-sticking, which improved my angling exponentially. Thanks Frank!
Then there was I-forget-his-name. I-forget-his-name guided me on a river in a different Western state. We fished a swift-current, difficult to wade river where nymphying was the preferred style of fly fishing. No problem; I like nymphing. I-forget-his-name, however, recently had become enamored of a technique employing a small, partially inflated balloon, a bit smaller than a golf ball, as a strike indicator. Unfortunately, with my old withered arms I soon tired to the point that I could hardly lift the rig off the water at the end of the drift and lob it back upstream. How I longed to attach a conventional strike indicator and fish my own way, but noooooo, we perservered in this charade until mercifully our time together had come to an end. I think the only fish caught were by I-forget-his-name while “demonstrating” the technique. Once while watching mayflies emerge from their shucks in a bit of slack water (almost worth the guide fee in itself), I suggested a little dry fly fishing. I-forget-his-name tried to convince me that dry fly fishing was not productive on that stream. Then, here’s the kicker, at the end of the day I-forget-his-name pulls a granola bar and bottled water from his daypack and consumes them in front of me without offering any to me, his client. Didn’t even get to lick the wrapper! Damn! (I did, however, return to the river by myself the next day and caught a couple small browns with conventional nymphing techniques before a lightning storm drove me off the water).
Before I get to Ian, our last guide, I need to digress a bit. I don’t know how many of your are familiar with Harry Middleton and his books (On the Spine of Time, The Earth is Enough, and others), but he is probably the most gifted author most people have never heard of. Fly anglers who read the fly fishing literature may have stumbled upon his works. While his books are not strictly about fly fishing, there’s a good bit of that in them. It’s hard to describe the pleasure I get from reading his works, his prose so rich and descriptive, so layered, an artful mix of realism and magic. Having re-read (or re-re-read) On the Spine of Time a few years ago, I determined to travel to the Smoky Mountains to fish the streams he describes in such rich detail: Deep Creek, the Cataloochie, the Oconaluftee.
Somehow, probably on the internet, I discovered Ian Rutter, who, with his wife Charity, operate R and R Flyfishing based in Townsend, TN. They guide in eastern Tennessee, including the Smokies, Tennessee tailwaters, and Montana and Idaho, too. They are also excellent writers, photographers, and videographers. Their great website can be viewed at http://randrflyfishing.com. Ian possesses all the qualities of an excellent guide described above. His enthusiasm for fly fishing is palpable, and even after my wife and I were pleasantly sated with our day on the Little River, Ian was willing to keep at it so long as we were. At the time I hired Ian, I was fishing my six weight and had not yet discovered tenkara. Lately while viewing their website, I have found that Ian and Charity have added tenkara guiding to their services and have written very favorably concerning tenkara on Smoky Mountains streams. I have to compliment them on their openmindedness regarding this “new” style of fly fishing when I’m sure a lot of guides are still skeptical of tenkara.
So, as far as my guiding experiences go, two out of three ain’t bad.