Sopris Sun

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Tailgate: A day in the life of a fishing guide

By Cameron Scott

Nearing the end of July and I haven’t had a day off since the middle of June, won’t have one until late August, and while at first I was staying socially buoyant by going to the Snowmass Concert Series, hanging out with friends and sleeping, more than a few weeks ago I hit full-tilt hustle, became a pinball wizard, and have had my eyes glued to the silver ball of my life bouncing around the bumpers and chutes of various local rivers racking up enough fish, funds and clients to keep me afloat in non-profit-teaching-writing land for another year.

Another year. A good one to be sure. While the hatches have been screwed up by low winter water flows and more hot days than I can shake a piece of fried chicken at, I’m working more and harder than I ever have. The fish are stranger than fiction. And there are more people out fishing every day and night than I can count.

Every day, sometimes multiple times a day, I meet up with one to three clients. They are from everywhere, have been everywhere, and have decided to hire a fishing guide. The craziest specifically request to fish with this poetry-spouting-non-pot-smoking-highly-liberal-family-oriented-hustling-contradiction-of-a-human-being — AKA yours truly. Almost all of the clients I fish with are highly successful and skilled individuals who carry a wide range of humor, ego, expectations, entitlement and listening skills. That’s where the similarities end. Some of them I am able to crack open in minutes, make smile, relax, give in to hanging out with me for four to eight hours. Some of them remain un-crackable and disassociated from the experience they are having. Some of them I have a beer with at the end of the day. Some of them wouldn’t even think about it.

If fly-fishing is an art, then guiding is the art of catching fish through someone else. Fly fishing is enough of a cluster of hooked branches, tangles, broken off flies, punctured waders, fishless days and swimming sessions as it is. To want to introduce someone to such a human art, you truly have to be counter-cultural. The true definition of which is to both love and hate something at the same time.

Guiding is like breaking up with and marrying someone at the same time: I know you are a CEO of a large corporation, pro-athlete, loved American Icon, incredibly intelligent doctor or lawyer, business woman, and general all around arse-kicking human being, but today you will have to be open to failing over and over while standing in an incredibly beautiful river waving a stick around, and I’ll be doing everything in my rather manipulative, persistent, irreverent and poetic nature to put you on as many fish as I possibly can while working with your particular skill set or lack of skill.

I love it. I really do.

Watching a client catch a fish, or working with them, hunting with them, goofing around with them, trying to meet impossible expectations is my kind of work.

Exciting.

Never the same.

A.D.D. Demential. Multi dimentional. High definition. Dysfunctional. Completely and utterly rooted in functioning.

In a lot of ways guiding is similar to writing and teaching creative writing. Helping someone discover their voice, like helping someone catch a fish, is just about as human, challenging and brilliant as you can get. And sometimes it even comes easy.

Friday Night with Cat

In my lap, fur damp from rainstorm,

I can feel each rib and knob of spine

the skull he pushes into my palm

and the angular chin he extends

beneath my fingers. If piano keys

had been like Ocho’s chin

I could have made music purr.

It is the skull of a cat that sits

on top of the devil’s cane.

Each knob of spine is an answer.

Each rib a reason for hunger.

Neither friend nor enemy Ocho

is the cumulative effort of years

to love something that does not.

He will sit forever in the mountain’s

sarcophagus, birds and chipmunks

strewn at his feet, each an offering.

– Cameron Scott