Flowers on the farm in June.
Emigrant Peak is in the distance.
The Founding of a Business
Part Two of a trilogy
is My Busy Day
When I decided to become more involved, that is being more then just a
weekend warrior in the recreational fishing industry, I had a few
choices to make. Do I become a guide? Do I become an instructor? Do
I become a manufacturer or a salesperson down at Turner Sports in
Well, I guess I chose to play the part of the instructor because the
first project I created was in 1985. I produced a
series of fresh and saltwater fishing videos. Reelin’ And
Rockin’ was the program’s name. It was a cable
delivered TV program where I caught some fish and then
returned to the kitchen and prepared whatever was caught for the
This endeavor was fun for me and entertaining for the viewers. I
enjoyed every bit of the experience and the feedback from people who
had seen the programs confirmed that I was doing something which was
appreciated. The program ran it’s course or natural
life. As time went on, I was continually asked to
guide by different people in different locations.
To be honest, I’m not entirely cut out to be a guide. Sometimes I did
take friends out but not as a guide. I fished and they fished. If I
caught fish and they didn’t I rubbed it in in a jovial
manner. As time progressed and I morphed into whatever it is
that I am today I am still asked to guide. I
still do not even though I own a fly shop on a very well
river, the Yellowstone. I have a distinct aversion to most
“guides” and in my years of fishing there are but just a few
that I would recommend another angler to hire. I believe
there is a big difference between the guides which I recommend
and the other guides. In short, most guides I have found are
either young men who managed to save a few bucks, bought a boat and
presto they are taken under the wing of an “outfitter.” This
outfitter then advertises, usually by showing pictures of big
fish caught in a stocked impoundment to individuals who are
seeking whatever. These young guides learn to row
tourist fares down a river. Or, in some instances, there are a
old codgers who are out to make a few bucks doing the same thing
rowing someone down a river. Which one is better? Neither if they do
what the other guy does.
However, since connecting with several back county outfitters who
service Yellowstone National Park, I am thinking about providing
a personal guide service
with one of these National Park licensed outfitters
this upcoming season. These will not be the daily trips made down the
Yellowstone. These will be four day fishing trips to
distant locations found miles from nowhere and the horseback ride
from these locations will make a soaking bath into a very refreshing
experience. The fishing I’m glad to say cannot get any better. But, the
decision is still up in the air.
Then again I’m really bummed out, even though it does not affect
me one bit, by the “new” trip booking agents which promote
trips not just here in the US but worldwide. These web site wonders are
currently slamming the independent guides, the ones with the knowledge
in fishing, into other works of life. The web site promoters are
skimming a much greater percentage from the trips then what has
traditionally been provided for their ‘booking agent” services. I have
friends in the Florida Keys which are telling me that it is
getting harder and harder to keep a business afloat when the ‘trickle
down theory” has them accepting day trips for less then what may be
deemed fair. The reason they do take these trips at a reduced rate from
the web site wonders, is simply the need to eat. The ‘glossy” marketing
approach of these services is better then what the individual guide can
pay since the advent of pay-per- click and therefore the inexperienced
angler, who has a few bucks to catch his first bonefish or a
tarpon, is quickly swept into this slick machine.
It is my opinion that a guide should be more then a just a water taxi.
In salt water these group fishing boats are called “head boats” because
they have a bathroom onboard. Not much to fishing from a head boat.
Just throw a baited line overboard, let it sink to the bottom and
wait for a bite. I personally think that a guide should be able
to provide an experience which sets him well above the average angler.
A guide should be the sounding board for the ecosystem in which he
haunts. A guide should be able to speak with authority on numerous
subjects which are inherent to his world. These traits I find lacking
in most guides and therefore Thursdays become my busiest days in my
shop. Why Thursdays? That’s a simple question and feel free to correct
me if I‘m wrong but, you can easily substitute any easily floated
river in place of the Yellowstone.
To get to the point , most of the anglers who venture to Montana
and into the Yellowstone ecosystem arrive here on Sunday. They are full
of wonder and excited that they are about to experience a marvel of
large fish, caught and photographed so all of their friends back
home can see how macho they truly are. The advertising they read
promotes this. Hell, I did it. Why not? I just
did it without the guide. So Monday arrives and the angler
arrives at the guide’s shop or home to begin
the big day. There they are met by a ”guide.” The trip most
likely was booked sometime during the past winter from a
repetitious ad or one which they have been seeing for
years. Or, given in today’s light, an slick big fish
pictured on a Internet listing, which in some cases the
again pays for his hitsinstead of providing references. He’s
paying the ads with your money.
It’s the bucks he'll be over charging you for whatever he is
providing. Then again a friend of mine likes to use this expression by
Will Rodgers, “Thems ain’t lies- thems campaign promises.” do yourself
a favor and have someone give you a recommendation. You will be better
So by noon on Monday the excitement of the floating reality is
beginning to wane since, for the last few hours, your boat,
as well as the few other boats which have been silently gliding down
the waterway with, have had little luck. However the “guide” continues
to tell you to cast your hopper with its nymph dropper to the
bank. Maybe you will be lucky and catch a good fish (that’s just
one.) I doubt it, since the fish have been running
from first light from all the shadows thrown by all the
previous boats which have drifted over their feeding stations.
Including the common fact that they have been seeing
'hoppers and dropper" rigs since they were small fry. The
end of the trip quickly arrives and you are forced to spend the
few remaining hours wading a mile or so from the boat landing in the
same locations as every other fisherman who has floated this waterway
has done. The angler begins to realize that something is wrong.
This is not what the guide’s brochure and the photographs
“They call it fishin’ and not catchin',” spouts the “outfitter” after
the angler is brought back to his car. “Tomorrow may be a better
day. Here are some pictures of a few fish taken from the river.” he
says as he points to a collage of photos he has stashed in an album or
hanging on a wall. The angler feels a little slighted but being miles
from home he really doesn’t have much of a choice. After a little more
“used car salesmen claims” the angler sometimes books another day.
Sometimes it is with another rower and sometimes it is with the same
one. Tuesday comes and goes. Maybe the angler catches a photo and maybe
not. Now the angler’s conversation twists as he begins to
equate the float trip not as a, “poor day of fishing” but as a
“restful day away from the sound of ringing phone and other work
obligations.” Sorry, I’ve seen it too many times to remain silent
and life has better reasons to exist then to hose a visitor to the area.
Wednesday arrives and the “Thursday angler” decides that a trip
into Yellowstone Park is now in his best interest. At least he will get
a few rolls of film filled with the adventure of a western trip as well
as a few token photos of Old Faithful, a buffalo and an elk. On his
travels he may stop by another shop but again he hears , “You
should float the river. Its only a week’s pay for a schoolteacher.
Yada-yada-yada.” The angler has been there before so he feels a little
frustrated and leaves. He becomes thankful at the end of the day
for the batch of pictures he now has in his camera.
Thursday arrives and the angler strikes off after breakfast to find his
small niche in a Montana fishing experience. That’s when I
normally come into the picture. Sometime he has been directed
here by a local waitress or gift shop owner and sometimes he
stumbles upon our location.
As the angler drives the less traveled East River Road he comes to a
sign which points down a gravel road. This sign announces that a
fly shop and a hackle farm of some magnitude are down there. The angler
has seen the name of the shop before. There are several signs lining
the corridor of the main highway. The angler figures its worth a
try. He has nothing to lose. The fishing has to get better or the
information that he can now see through will roll off his deaf ears.
For the next twenty minutes or so I kind of “comfort” the angler.
Sometimes I can poke fun at their decisions (especially
after the second trip) because I’m very hip to what he has gone
through. In fact, been there done that well kind of.
the river in the summer in the past years. Anyway, Thursday
and all day Friday the angler gets his butt knee deep into fish.
He doesn’t have a guide costing him fifty bucks an hour telling him to
cast to the bank. No one who works in the shop is going to sell
you anything if you don’t ask for it. It just isn’t our style or
anybody else’s who you may meet in the shop. We’re just a bunch of
anglers who love to fish. We don’t like to play some crazy game
who’s rod we fish with or how much we paid for some piece of equipment.
We know what is good and leave it as that. Ask a question
you’ll get a straight answer. We’ll even send you out of the area if
the fishing is better “over there.” We did this when water temps rose
to high levels several years ago.
Sure, I’ll mention different programs I can help you with such as
my Fly Fishing School. But it really is only for beginners.
the school is my reciprocation for anglers who may subscribe to my way
of thinking. You see, I believe that old expression about teaching
someone to fish (teach a man to fish...) and the whole point of
the school is to make someone
non dependant on guides. Any guide, on any water with the
emphasis,seeing we are in Montana, being
trout. Our students return to their home waters with a different
attitude and perspective on fly fishing. This is something they will
never find on the river. With a guide telling you to cast to the bank
with a hopper and dropper.
Then again, if you are fairly confident about your angling
expertise you may just buy some flies and run out to were
I’ll send you. Here at the shop the angler might even find
someone who is just like yourself and perhaps may take you fishing for
the afternoon. It’s happened. Friendships have formed within the walls
of Doc’s Fly Shop.
The Thursday Angler departs for his distant hometown he has most
likely found his small niche in the Yellowstone ecosystem. He’ll be
back and when he does return he will make Knoll’s his first stop.
He’ll purchase things at a fair price and be directed to
locations on the various creeks and rivers which can satisfy his
craving for western angling.
You see I at least realize that repeat business is the best way to
promote an area. In fact when a customer starts asking about
housing and land values I know our job was done satisfactorily. I
understand that only one in countless thousands will actually dig into
the wallet and purchase land or a home but this question of land
values is a great indicator. This is a very big area we have up here
and eventually it will become well settled but that will take plenty of
time. As this time line progresses fishing techniques will
change. Like guiding and floating down the river.
Eventually this style of fishing, which was a great way to fish
the river up until a decade ago, will be replaced by wade trips.
No boats, no shadows, one fly, fished next to a guide who knows how to
cast as well as being capable of putting the angler “into the
moment” on the river. Oh I almost forgot, the guide will
have to take great pictures and possibly know a foreign
language and entomology.
Anyway, that is how my shop has run since its conception. Straight talk
regardless of the consequences. However now many of my customers now
have names added to their faces. Long lasting relationships have
emerged. However to get into the sync of things
http://www.ynp-lodging.com is a site that acts as our
valley’s business directory and is loaded with cabins, B&B’s, and
other things pertinent to the valley.