To Be a Fishing Guide By Mark Usyk

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. Fishing stories mainly. I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing too. Again, fishing stories. And I’ve been tying a few flies. And jigs of marabou and rabbit strips for my buddies that don’t fly fish. I’ve found myself over the past couple years really questioning what it is I want out of life, seeing as how I’m knocking on 40yrs old and don’t count on seeing 80, half way through life seems as good a time as any to wonder if you’re doing it wright. Some might call it a mid-life crisis. I don’t call it anything except reality.

A couple of the books I’ve read recently were authored by fishing guides. Great stories of leaving promising careers and familiar surroundings behind in search of fresh air, freedom, and doing what they want to do for life…Not for a living…for life. That’s not something I read word for word in any of those books. But that’s what I get from it all. These men and women that pull up stakes and head out to far off states to take people fishing, they’re going to make money, whether big or small. They’re going to pay the bills if they’re lucky. But they’re not doing it for a living. They’re doing it to live.

Yesterday I found myself going through old pictures on my phone of the past 2-3 years. Fishing pictures dominate most of the memory on my phone, followed by shots from up on the towers I used to climb for a living, which, ironically, breathed life back into something I had always taken for granted and even pushed to the side for a few years…Fishing.

Thinking about all of this, I thought for a moment. Had I really made the right decision about leaving the tower climbing job for a job at home in a giant alloy plant? A closed up, stuffy, hot, dirty factory? Maybe had I to do it all over again I would start again from when I left home and instead of going in the Air Force, I would head out west and become a guide. Or down to South America, New Zealand, Alaska, maybe north into the Adirondacks. Another moment of thoughts had me thinking I should just close my tool box at work one Friday and never open it again. Just go become a guide. Then I remembered. I’m not a good fisherman. I kind of stink at it, no matter how much I love it. Then I came across a picture on my phone that blew my mind.

It turns out, that over the past 4 or 5 years, that I have actually become a fishing guide. Rowing a canoe, pointing out the submerged logs where Large Mouths lie in wait for a frog or minnow. Directing where to cast, how to get the most action out of the marabou I tied for this outing the night before. How to cast upstream and let it drift and bounce the bottom with the current. Coaching as the fight is fought. “Keep the tip up! Keep the pressure on! Don’t let it go slack! It’s ok, you’re doing great, let it take it a little…Set the hook now!” When they are ready to try the fly rod, once again I will be ready to give the best instruction I can on the water. It doesn’t bother me at all that right now they only want their spinning rods. I picked up the fly rod late in life. The fact that they want to go fishing with me is all that matters. At some point, one of them is going to set down their Zebco or their Ugly Stick and ask me to hand over my Beaver Meadow 3wt. And I will.

Imagine that. I’m a fishing guide after all. I’m a Dad. Go out and be a guide.