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Tailgate: A day in the life of a fishing guide

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By Cameron Scott

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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