When you live in a small-town resort area, your perspective over time can become a bit skewed.
I made a living for nearly twenty years doing what most people dream about; spending my days on a beautiful river casting feathers, threads and hook to a waiting trout. But alas, no longer. As with all things, life changes can be good or bad.
My path and life changes (always when a girl becomes involved) have recently led me to the beautiful city of San Francisco, far, far away from the hustle-bustle of Basalt, Colorado and the magnificent Roaring Fork Valley: The same Valley where a roundabout caused a wild uproar with the long time residents, many of whom are still upset that Highway 82 is four lane highway with God forbid, stop lights. Coincidently, these are same residents that welcomed Whole Foods like a favorite aunt coming home from a five year stint in a hippy commune. I love that. That is the charm of living in a small town.
As a local, you just come to understand and accept, -almost expect- a somewhat closed mindedness of our type. Of course I mean that in the most complimentary of ways. We forget what the pressures of city living is like: the traffic, all the in-our-opinion, the speed of life, and the idea or belief of how work is supposed to work.
First, let’s define work. In a city, work is a way to provide for your family. You keep your head down and grind it out to save for that two week vacation that will include your obligatory 1-3 days of fly fishing, all the while making sure that there is something else for the family to do. The difference in a valley like ours, is that you do the work that you want to do, avoid the work that you don’t want to do and fish before dinner, or more accurately, fish through dinner. That is really the way it is.
Now, my tables have turned. I am now a city dweller, thinking and longing for the river. My perspective has now changed drastically. As a professional fly-fishing guide, your biggest concerns are as follows; is the water clear, what is the flow, what is the weather going to do today, is my client a gun or a squid? It’s true. Just like you would prejudge your guide, “he looks nothing like Brad Pitt” or “this is nothing like the the movie“. One of my personal favorites that was said to me from a client the moment we shook hands was, “I’ve read about a 24″ brown trout that John Gierach caught behind Two Rocks on the Fryingpan. I want to catch it”. We as guides sometimes make judgments too, but they are soft judgments that we never stick firmly to, as I have been surprised more often than not.
I have now become a pedestrian, living miles, not yards, away from the river, mentally planning my next trip to get out and wet a line. This is a new perspective for me. It has given me a much needed, new point of view of what an out-of-town client really comes to expect and what to leave with; serenity. I now get it. I am willing to pay, willing to travel, willing to spend my day with someone that is living a life that people dream of. I absolutely loved being a guide. I looked forward to hearing the stories about lifestyles that I never wanted to live; the grind, the tow, the stress, all things that make an urbanite tick. I am now one of them.
As of today, I have a couple hundred bucks saved up to make a trip back to the Valley and actually do what I used to get paid handsomely to do for years. What I have learned since leaving my amazing home in the mountains is to simply appreciate every day, and to be light handed on the judgment thing and to remember that everyone has their own story.
When I tell people what I have done in my life, as I’m sitting at a craft beer bar in the Bay Area, they are captivated and awestruck by how I have lived my life up to this point. When I ask about their path, I often find that they are a major player in a well known social media company that I can only describe in 140 characters or less, that they are just 24 years old and have more money and toys than God. Somewhat amazingly, I never have envy. I have lived a life that they could only dream of living.
The river is part of me. I miss the sound and feeling of the current pushing against my legs in waders. I miss the rain at 4 o’clock everyday and the “pop” of a caddis busting through the surface. I now know what it’s like to be in the hype of a big city and looking for a fly shop just to check out what’s going on; it’s woven into me. I will always make trips back to the waters that I love, now fully understanding just how special they really are. And I will never take it for granted and realize that I too, will be “lightly judged” by the new guides, not know my history, my story, until we are out on the water and quietly proving that I’m a gun and not calamari.