Preparation builds Confidence

While most of us would prefer to be on the water as opposed to be sitting inside, sometimes conditions don’t allow you to do so. Now that can mean many different things of course, it can be commitments to work or family, poor weather, broken gear or boats, and even god forbid…injury. How you make use of your downtime can be key to making sure that when opportunities are presented, you can be ready to hit the water with everything you need to have a great time on the water.

I’m a fairly organized person so some of the things I take for granted in my world may not be true in yours. For example, when I come back from a day on the river and have wet boots and waders, my first stop is the drying rack for the boots, and to make sure that I hang my waders up inside out to dry, and then turning them back right side out later to complete the process. Nothing ruins a trip faster than rank, stinky waders that have taken on the wonderful smell of mildew, or have wet feet from the last trip out.

Another thing to consider are your reels. For reels, especially fly reels or the higher end saltwater ones with disc drag systems, make sure that you loosen the drag completely before putting them away. Failure to do this on some manufacturer’s reels can result in poor performance of the drag system over time, eventually leading to an “all or nothing” scenario. It’s a simple thing to do and will save you money and potentially lost fish in the future. If you have invested considerable money into high end reels, it’s a small investment of your time to protect them.

And then there is your tackle. For saltwater gear the best practice is always to rinse with fresh water after use and hang to dry but at the very least a rinse is critical. This will ensure that those critical lures, spoons, flashers and hooks will be in prime shape when you need them the next time out. And don’t be fooled, it can only take a day or two before the rust and surface corrosion can occur! Even a small amount of corrosion can affect the performance of your gear and even the sharpness of your hooks. And while you’re at it, give your fishing rods a quick rinse too.

Fly lines used in salt water should be rinsed as well, and a good cleaning several few times a year or more even after fresh water use with a cleaning agent will do wonders for the lifespan and casting smoothness of your line. You would be amazed at how much dirt and grease accumulates on fly lines even in fresh water just from regular use, and this affects how it floats, sinks, and moves through the guides. Trust me, a clean line will cast much further and perform better if it is well maintained. And with some fly line costing $100+, it’s worth doing. One additional benefit of stripping off and cleaning the lines is that it can also help reduce line memory, resulting in smooth presentations.

If you have an inflatable raft, make sure that you take time now and then to cast your eyes over the entire kit. Make sure that there are no weak spots, frayed stitching, leaking valves, or cracks in the rowing seat frame. Check that any frame attachment points are still solid and not at the point where failure could happen. Take a look at your on river repair kit – does it actually have anything of use? Could it be improved or are items missing? A good tip that I can pass on is don’t store your inflatable in the sunlight! Not only will the materials be subject to UV damage and fading, but you run the risk of the pontoon or bladders actually over pressurizing and bursting in the hot sun. Trust me on this one….it happened to me. My laziness cost me a day on the river.

Tying flies can be a good way to spend downtime

Finally whether you fish flys, terminal tackle, or any sort of jigs, take time to go over your assortment of pre-tied rigs and fly boxes to see what your inventory looks like. Check for frayed leaders, old hooks, worn out tackle, and missing gear. If you spend some downtime preparing your equipment it gives you time to set things up properly in the comfort of your nice dry warm house rather than in the dark and the rain on the river or ocean. Being able to fish with confidence means knowing you have what you need when you need it, and that you know it’s not going to be an exercise in frustration during valuable fishing time.

So those are just a few quick tips, for anyone reading who has more to add, please feel free to post your ideas in the comments section.

It’s a Guides Life – Part 3

It’s been a few weeks since my last post so I figure that there are at least some of you waiting earnestly for the final chapter in my three part series about my first summer as a professional fishing guide in the wild west pacific ocean off Port Renfrew, BC. It’s been fun sitting here recalling the events of the season and even more enjoyable receiving emails and notifications from quite a number of readers who truly enjoyed my candid observations of major life changes, and what this particular experience meant for me.

In my last article I covered just a small sampling of what was fun, invigorating and extremely satisfying about guiding, so as promised this post will focus on the not so glamorous side that also comes with the job. When I first set out on this adventure in June of 2019, I had a preconceived idea of some of the ups and downs I would face. But in reality there were a few things that I just couldn’t have anticipated. Even now with only 1 season under my belt I am sure that I have only experienced a small spectrum of things that can swing either to the very good, or the very bad. So if you are reading this through the critical lens of a very experienced guide with many seasons behind you, be gentle on me.

So without further delay and in no particular order, here are some of the harsh realities of being a guide, a list I am sure can be added to by those with more years in the seat.

There are no such things as sick days!

Now this one might seem self evident, but there are some companies that have relief skippers for those days when you’ve possibly…em…partaken in too many beers with your fellow guides or been out with your guests celebrating an amazing charter. Or god only knows you may actually be sick – guides are not immortals!

The reality is that when operating a fleet of three boats, each with only one skipper, and you’ve got guests booked for all three….well…you gotta suck it up buttercup. Believe it or not, being out all day in the ocean be it sunny, foggy, rainy, windy or whatever, can be exhausting. You are exposed to the elements for a good 8-9 hours and that in and of itself can wear you down. But here’s the catch; not matter how crappy you may feel or how many hammers are relentlessly pounding your skull into powder, you still have to show up on time and give your guests the exact same positive experience you would if you had slept well and felt like a million bucks.

Are we having fun yet?

Oh yes and also add in getting up at 4:30 AM every day without fail is something that you have to be OK with.

You’re going to take a beating. Literally.

Everyone who has spent time on a boat knows about the teeth jarring, spine compressing, smartie bashing action that happens when you’ve got to head out in nasty seas. Even with suspension seating there are some days that you hit that one wave that has no backside to it and you are launched unexpectedly into the ceiling and find yourself apologizing to your guests (who aren’t on suspension seats) as they pick themselves up off the floor. It’s not only embarrassing as a skipper but has the potential to cause injury so we are always on the alert.

Charging off into rough seas aside and taking green water over the bow is not the only cause of injury from the waves. Once out on the fishing grounds and working the gear for the guests, you are often dodging objects in motion that are sliding across the deck, just trying to pin you to the gunnels. Take for example those enormous fish coolers that sometimes come onboard, often filled to capacity with ice, food and beverages. These coolers can be as heavy as 100-150 pounds when loaded, so imagine how it feels when suddenly one slams into the back of your legs as you are tending to the gear in the back quarter of the deck?

One of many bruises from objects moving about the deck in rough weather

Speaking of things moving around the deck, one also has to consider the guests themselves who have not developed sea legs and who’s exuberance for the days events can sometimes mean that you are dodging them as well! I learned to be self aware very quickly as to everyones movements but there were a few times I was body checked as I went racing for a rod to set the hook after I saw a strike.

Bruised and swollen elbow from slipping and whacking it on the boat.

The examples above are just my own experience, and as the season went on I learned how to quickly deal with the giant coolers, misplaced guests, and other moving objects. But I wore a few large bruises early in the season as I learnt the lessons of how to make sure to eliminate as many sources of risk that I could reasonably manage.

Better give up your career as a hand model!

When a person transitions from working in a white collar office environment to a more blue collar “hands on” office, certain parts of your body are not conditioned to receive a whole new level of punishment. Add to this salt water, monofilament fishing line, sharp hooks, harsh sun, and bait brine and you have created the recipe for what I like to call “cheese hands”. Why cheese hands you ask? Well that’s easy – because you feel like taking a cheese grater to them at the end of the day to get rid of all the damage you’ve created and get back to having hands that don’t look like you’ve dipped them into acid.

Sexy Cheese Hands!
Not to be “left” out…the other hand faired as badly.

Having fished lots for myself over the years I had experienced what happens when you handle brined bait for a few days. Your hands, especially your pointy finger and your thumbs, get very dried out and start to take on the colour of a white walker from Game of Thrones. After a month of working as a guide my hands had taken a beating including not only being dried out, but also receiving numerous line cuts in the joint creases from hand lining fish into the boat. Each new line cut would then dry out as well and thus delay the healing process. As the weeks went on it just became the norm. Some guides use Krazy Glue or Gorilla Glue to seal the cuts (after soaking your hands in warm water to soften them up) and I gave it a whirl with some success. It took about a month for my hands to return to normal after I finished the season, and now I look back at them as badges of honour!

The weather is what it is.

Ok on this topic I believe I actually got off pretty easy this season, at least that is what I’ve been told by the other guides. We really didn’t get that much rain until the end of the season which is pretty normal for the west coast. And I came to expect fog every single day and for the most part I wasn’t disappointed. But much like the “no sick days”, there are not too many days (perhaps none) when you don’t go out due to weather and as a guide you are expected to go no matter what. The exception of course might be hurricane force winds or a tsunami warning, but other than that you go and make the best of it. As I was told by a few of the other guides, “you just gotta put on your big boy pants and get out there”. Fair weather fishermen need not apply to be a guide!

Some days the heavens open up and it’s cold and wet.

Believe it or not the sun is also not necessarily your friend. Personally I have always found that fishing is less productive on a sunny and calm day. Overcast days are “fishy” for me and maybe that’s just my groove. But the sun and the glare on the open ocean is also extremely hard on your skin and your eyes, making forgetting your sunglasses on a sunny day not cool. Neither is getting skin cancer on thin skinned parts of your face such as the tops of your ears and the bridge of your nose. So you have to be careful with the sun and although having a great tan after the season wraps up is awesome, having skin cancer is not. Some guides use “buffs”, almost all wear hats, and those who are smart use some serious sunscreen. I did a little bit of everything but a hat was essential and after seeing first hand some bad sun damage on guides who have been at it a long time I could see it was no joke.

You’re soaking in it…

As everyone knows, the end of your charter means laying out the catch and cleaning it for your guests. That means on good days an hour of cutting off heads, gutting, rinsing, filleting, processing, and wearing as little of the blood and guts on your own clothes are you can manage. Being around fish all day means that your clothes begin to take on a life of their own and pretty soon you are blissfully unaware that you smell just about as bad as the fish cooler. Just imagine the horror when you forget your fishing bib pants inside your truck in the hot sun for a few hours after work while you eat and socialize, and then open the door and receive a bath of hot stinky fish breath! It’s not pleasant!

Breathe in….

Some guides seem to wear the same outfit every day. Perhaps these are sacrificial garments or maybe they bring them good luck. For me I tried to wash my “wet gear” once a week but found that even a trip through the washing machine left them with a unique lingering odour of their own. It really didn’t bother me of course but I was hoping to avoid too many comments from guests about how bad their guide stunk!

Those with weak stomachs need not apply

I’ve lost count of how many of my guests got seasick. It seemed like almost every trip had at least one, if not two guests that couldn’t hold onto to their breakfast or lunch. Lucky for me I have never been seasick in my life and it appears from my observations that it kinda sucks! Once it starts it rarely stops despite calmer seas and I felt bad for all of my guests who were sick from the ocean swells. Even those who I knew had likely contributed to the issue due to overindulging the night before. Oh and for those who are wondering the male/female ratio of hurlers…seasickness doesn’t see gender.

On the plus side it never bothered my stomach when someone got sick. Perhaps it was my years of “training” watching my friends and roommates get sick during University (and being the root cause of it) but it’s one of those things that certain people just can’t deal with. It’s like the domino effect for some..once they see/hear one person getting sick….it’s a chain reaction. So if you are that person who immediately starts dry heaving when someone else is barfing, you better stay at home.

Rolling around on the ocean.

Being away from loved ones

If you are single with no significant other, close family, or kids in your life then you can skip over this one. But for anyone else who has loved ones that you are not able to be with because you our away guiding trust me it’s tougher than you think. Being gone all summer meant I missed out on my step kids and their baseball games, tournaments, barbecues at home, swimming in the lake, and hanging out in the backyard. I missed my wife and our quiet time, and being able to share the events of the day with each other. As much as we tried to keep connected each day over FaceTime it wasn’t easy to feel as connected as we had liked. With each weekend this past summer consumed with my other half travelling with her boys for their baseball season it wasn’t possible for them to come see me even though I was only an hour and a half’s drive away. And on the odd single day off my trips home were rushed and not relaxed.

With a good supporting family it can work, but you have to be prepared on both sides to sacrifice some things. That being said it is a short season for most guides and you’ve got the remaining nine months or so of the year to enjoy that family time and build up the memory bank to tide you over. For some it works, for others it’s tough.

8 hours a day is a luxury

I’ve touched on this in my previous two posts from “It’s a Guides Life” Parts 1 and 2. The length of your day as a guide is at a minimum 9 hours, and some days it can extend to 12 hours or more. Many variables can factor into this such as the guests themselves, how good or bad the fishing is, bad weather, time needed to repair gear or the boat, fish processing time, cleaning the boat, prepping for the next days charter…and so on. This is not a clock in at 6 and out at 2 work environment folks. The reality is that your days are long, and sometimes they are not enjoyable.

For me it was less like work and more like fun and the long days didn’t get me down. As the season went on I became more efficient in my work thanks to the help and guidance of the other guides and within no time I felt that my routine was working well enough that the very long days dwindled down to more manageable ones. Since most guides are paid per day and not per hour you are in complete control of how long you want to be working after the guests go home. All the guides I worked closely with were all proud of their businesses and their boats and took good care of both. If that meant a little extra time either on the water or at the dock, they did it without complaint because it is their passion and their livelihood.

So there you have it, my brief and for certain not all inclusive list of things that aren’t glamorous about being a guide. I should point out that even though I’ve listed quite a few there are a few more that are related to the type of guests you get. But that is not industry or guiding specific as let’s face it those type of guests, customers or clients exist everywhere in life no matter where you work and so I have opted to leave that out.

And that’s a wrap.

I hope that over the past three posts that I’ve been able to give you a look behind the curtain into the life of a fishing guide. It’s not a job for everyone that’s for sure but I have few to no regrets about my first season guiding and I am hoping to expand on it by dipping my oars into fresh water guiding this winter.

Part 3 of “It’s a Guides Life” marks the conclusion of the series, but stay tuned for more adventures as the winter steelhead season will soon be on us here on Vancouver Island. Please subscribe to my blog for future posts, as you will be notified via email each time a new one is up. Thanks for stopping by and reading!

Until next season, time to fade into the sunset.

It’s a Guides Life – Part 2

For those of you who’ve read Part 1 of this series, thank you! Over 1,000 of you have now read it, making it one of the most popular posts I’ve written on the site so far. I wasn’t expecting such interest to be fair, but perhaps it was because I exposed my honest struggles with depression and anxiety and how my work life balance had become unhinged. Or maybe it was just because I said things out loud that many of you have felt yourself, but weren’t sure how to express. I’m not braver than anyone else, just old and wise enough now to know when enough is enough. But never mind that, let’s get on with the next chapter!

When the season finally got underway in June, our industry was already reeling from new salmon retention restrictions imposed on Southern Vancouver Island by the Department of Fisheries in Ottawa. I won’t get into the politics and whether it was wrong or right as that could consume many pages and it’s a subject that’s been debated to death already. But the actual impact on local business was real and for some operators, it was crushing. For myself, I questioned whether I had made a huge mistake choosing to be a guide in what was being touted as the “worst time ever” by others. But the decision was made and I was determined not to get mired down in the negative talk and instead take hold of the opportunity I had and go for it regardless.

As the charter bookings began to increase, I was keen to get my first paid trip under my belt and start the season off. I had hoped to be busy right out of the gate, but the uncertainty of the new fishing regulations had put some customers on edge and cancellations/re-bookings were affecting our team in Port Renfrew. As it happened, my first official trip was booked for the weekend of June 15 (the day after my 50th birthday) and smack dab in the middle of the first salmon competition of the season, the Fathers Day Derby.

Go time. Just a small part of the Port Renfrew charter fleet.

Just like any other “firsts” in life, I was nervous as hell. Nervous about the weather, the swell, the fog, the guests, and would I be able to deliver fish. Silly really, as I have lots of experience with boating in horrible weather and fishing on the west coast, but having the designation of “Professional Guide and Charter Boat Captain” I felt a tremendous weight on my shoulders. What if I couldn’t get them into fish? What if I was the ONLY BOAT that didn’t? So many what if’s that I slept very little the night before due to my excitement and my own induced pressure to perform.

When morning arrived the weather was predictably lousy. Foggy, overcast, and lumpy. I got the boat motors fired up and warm, loaded the ice into the fish box, programmed in the destination in the GPS and made sure that the gear was rigged and ready. My guests arrived and by a twist of fate, one of them was an employee I knew from the company I had just left. Instantly I felt at ease and it was if someone had given me a gift. I went from feeling like the dorky new kid in a strange unfamiliar school on his first day, to that same kid but with a buddy in tow.

Candy store for fish

The day went off without a hitch other than a few of the guests suffering from seasickness due to the swell offshore. Fish were caught, many laughs were had, and I arrived back to the dock with happy guests and a relieved skipper. Thanks to Randy Turner and his buddies out on a bachelor party for allowing me to get past that first trip, and helping to build my confidence as a guide.

As June turned to July, bookings ramped up and over the course of the summer I became busier and busier, and subsequently the odd day off became more and more scarce. Many guides work the entire summer with no breaks, so as to maximize the short season we have for salmon. It’s not uncommon to hear of stretches of 80-100 days with no time off. As I was boat number two in our three boat fleet pecking order, I was lucky enough to be snag about 60 trips, and only had one long stretch of about 20 days with no break.

This fish sure made his day!
Just a portion of the fleet drift fishing for Pacific Halibut
Chinook Salmon, caught and released off Swiftsure Bank
I think he was happy!
Not a bad day for myself and Head Guide Dan.

I cannot say enough about how thankful and grateful I am to all of the guides who helped me out as the newbie at the dock. Coming into the start of the summer I thought I knew enough about salmon fishing to be a decent guide having been actively fishing the west coast for the past 15 years or more. But as I soon came to discover, sport fishing and guided fishing are two different animals. I was humbled by the other guides around me who would consistently bring in larger and more bountiful catches than I was. They were fishing the same areas as me but had a toolbox full of knowledge and experience that I simply didn’t have and those things can only be gathered by practice and time on the water.

At the end of each day, most of the guides sat at the dock and discussed their trips over a beer or three. For me those relaxed and informal sessions with the other guides formed my daily classroom. And like all classrooms, sometimes (ok most times really, who am I kidding) I was the dummy in the corner. Take for example the term “Stupid Tickets”, imaginary violation tickets issued by the more senior guides to rookies each time they did something dumb. I think I earned at least one or two each day for months, even issuing some to myself when I knew I had really tripped over the obvious. For example, here are some common violations worthy of a stupid ticket:

  • Not following in a direct line behind another boat on the long trip to the fishing grounds, thus causing barf inducing wakes to hit the other boat(s)
  • Pulling up too close to another boat when drifting for halibut or when trolling for salmon
  • Failing to pay attention to your direction of travel when trolling in a crowded or foggy area, and causing others to wonder if you are going to ram them
  • Losing big halibut due to tying the wrong knot on your leader to the hook, or not using the harpoon but thinking you could just land it with a gaff
  • Incorrect use of the VHF radio
  • Running your boat too fast past cut plug fishermen
  • Calling “bites on” over the radio too close to the end of the day when fishing has been tough for everyone
  • Losing a fish when netting it due to poor technique, or breaking the net on larger fish
  • Forgetting to pull in your downrigger balls before heading off under power
  • Losing a cannonball, for any reason
  • Failure to dock on the first attempt
  • Not slowing down enough when a big fish is being played and losing it due to guest inexperience and too much tension
  • Asking how someones fishing went when they have a guest within earshot
  • And many…many more!

All of these stupid tickets were issued in jest, and I didn’t take them personally but took them for what they were – opportunities to learn. I knew that I had a lot to absorb over the summer, and I guess if they really hated me they would have just ignored me completely.

As part of my first post, I promised to highlight the highs and the lows of my first season so to wrap this post up, here are some of the highlights of my summer, in no particular order.

Wildlife Galore

Port Renfrew and the waters off its amazing rugged coastline holds some pretty outstanding wildlife. I spent my summer in the company of thousands of seabirds, huge pods of humpback whales, killer whales, grey whales, sea lions, eagles, and of course some of the prettiest coastline you’ll see north of Maui. All of this while breathing fresh clean salty air, being bathed in both sunshine and fog, and watching mountains of ocean wash by me.

Caves along the shoreline, home to Ruby Footed Guilimots and Cormorants
Secret grottos to explore
Bald Eagle snatching up an offered Black Rockfish
Humpback Whale feeding on Pacific Herring
Big sea lion, looking for an easy meal

Boating

I loved running the Terminator. Sure she’s not the worlds fishiest boat or the most luxurious vessel, but I simply loved it. I loved hopping on board every dark morning and getting her ready for the day. I loved being her captain and taking my guests out in her. I felt safe driving Terminator, and as the summer went on and my experience as her captain grew I had more and more confidence in all weather conditions. Running a larger boat, that handled more like a transport truck than a sports car, was a great education for me and I hope to build on it. Using and relying on radar was a skill I honed after countless mornings motoring miles and miles though fog that at times gave you no more than 20 foot visibility. And since I am a boat person, I loved the cleaning, prepping, and taking care of the boat in my down time. While not a mechanic I did learn some new things when it came to maintenance and I will take those with me.

The office, board room, and liars club.

Fishing Skill

10,000 hours. That’s what they say it takes to become an expert at something. No matter what your skill level, there is always someone better, smarter, and more successful than you. Fishing is no exception to this rule and I have always maintained that I am foremost a student and only sometimes a teacher. Seasoned Port Renfrew guides like Steve French (seawindfishing.com), John “Welsie” Wells (hindsight fishing.com), Bruce Miller, and Dan Findlow were treasure troves of knowledge that they shared with me and provided a big chunk of my education. Just as helpful were guides like Matt Wiley (wileyssportfishing.com), Nelson Karger (ofishalcharters.com), Nick Hui (springrollsportfishing.com) John Rogers (vancouverislandfishing.ca), Blair Legalais (swelltime.ca) Markus Kennett (fish-vancouver-island), Bill Cooper (kingcoopsfishingcharters.com), Dan Harvey (pacificsportsfishing.ca), Des Hatchard (viciousfishcharters), and Brent Story/Chris Plunet (pacficprocharters.com) as well. What I learned from this cast of professionals will serve me well for years to come yet I feel that I have only touched the tip of the iceberg.

Sense of Accomplishment

As I have eluded to being a fishing guide is tough work, and that will be my main focus for the next post. For the past 15 years I’ve held on to the dream of what it would be like doing something that I am passionate about, and I can finally say that I have tried it and its left me wanting more. Guiding is something that you sort of love and hate. You love the adventure, the challenge and the sense of the unknown each time you hook something on the line or head out into the impenetrable fog banks. You love being your own boss, yet you yearn for that day of sleeping in and relaxing. If fishing by yourself is the gateway drug then guiding is the next step into hard core addiction.

A Common Bond

One final highlight for me was being able to share my enthusiasm for fishing and the wildlife around us with my guests. The degrees of fishing experience for my clients ranged from none at all to well seasoned and it was a pleasure to converse with them all during their time aboard Terminator. Like any job in tourism you never know what you are going to get when the guests arrive, and while there may have been some long days aboard the majority were great. When on board a small boat miles from shore, you really get to know your guests! I met people from the USA, the Grand Caymans, Ireland, England, and of course guests from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and even Newfoundland. They came in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life including surgeons and lawyers to trades people and retirees. Each one had stories to tell and what united them all was a love of fishing, a common thread which opened up many interesting conversations.

I also really enjoyed the community of fishing guides I was fortunate enough to be part of. As the rookie I did feel like the odd man out at first, and these guys are a tight group for sure. I still don’t know if I was really ever accepted into their inner circle, but I will say that I trusted them all to be there if I needed them, especially when far out at sea. Port Renfrew does not have a Coast Guard station, so help is not close by. But I felt reassured that no matter what personal relationships existed, nobody would would leave you hanging if you needed help. That extended not only to assistance on the water, but helping to fix problems on your boat at the dock, or giving you a particular piece of gear you needed urgently.

So that that’s a wrap for this post, next time up I will share some of the not so fun parts of the job! I’ve probably missed some of the highlights but I hope that I’ve been able to share enough with readers to give you a glimpse behind the curtain. Until next time!

None of this summer would have been possible without the support of my team at home. My amazing wife DeAndra, and my two step sons Matty and Russell.

It’s a Guides Life – Part 1

Do you ever wonder how many people going to their daily jobs each morning are happy? Have you seen them walking, robot like, cups full of hot beverages in their hands as they trudge off to some boring, demoralizing job that’s killing their soul each day? Have you ever seen yourself in a passing window front on your way to work and didn’t like what you saw? Feel like life has passed you by and that this simply CAN’T be all there is to it? Well I have. For too many years. That’s been my work commute for as long as I care to remember, all the time thinking that someone would save me from my own destiny of being one of the monkeys typing away on computers all day, making someone else rich.

As it turns out, by staying in jobs I was unhappy in (a succession of them I suppose), I was able to build up a higher and higher salary with bigger and more stressful obligations. But it didn’t make me happy. Instead it did the complete opposite, making me angry, resentful, short with my wife and kids, depressed, stressed, and just downright miserable as a person. I wasn’t the leader I used to be and it was showing. Of course it wasn’t all fire and brimstone and I had good times amongst it all, small blips of sunshine in a cloudy world, but in the end my career path felt less like success and more like punishment.

Eventually, in February 2019 my unhappiness led to the inevitable end at my most recent place of work. I went from hero to zero in a span of about two weeks, leaving me with nothing but a dwindling bank account, severe depression, and anxiety for weeks on end. The feelings it left me with were right up there with the death of my mother, and my failed marriage years ago. Even with the support of my wife, friends and family, I felt lost. But ultimately I was happy to be out of the job I had held and able to breathe again (in time) and re-evaluate my choices.

When the dust settled I started looking for new work in earnest. Applying for postings for the same line of work I had been successful in, believing that was what I should be doing. After all, I am University educated with an impressive resume yet it seemed like I was applying for the sake of applying, but not understanding why I was really doing it. By definition, the word “insanity” means doing the same thing over and over and believing that the outcome would be different. Yep. I was nuts alright.

So after chatting with my wife, my friends, and lamenting over what to do, the common suggestion I received was the same. I love fishing. I love being on the water, and I have the gift of the gab. I’m a half decent photographer, and writer. So why not do something that I am clearly passionate about instead of something I am not? Why not immerse myself into a life I have only dreamed of trying but was too afraid to try or locked into a higher salary? Why not….be a GUIDE. I made the decision to get the Transport Canada training I needed right away, and soon had the required certifications in hand.

In April, the timing was good to apply for guiding work, as most lodges were ramping up and hiring guides for the summer salt water season. I whipped up a “fishing resume”, drafted introductory letters and sent them out to about a dozen different lodges and outfitting companies and much to my surprise, almost all of them responded back positively.

Interviews happened fast, from remote lodges on Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii, Rivers Inlet, and my local waters off Sooke and Port Renfrew. For the first time in my life I was excited about a job, like…actually excited! After meeting with a few different companies I got a good vibe from owners Ward Bond and Darren Wright of Island Outfitters (www.fishingvictoriacom) a local hunting/fishing store here in Victoria, and was hired as their new Port Renfrew charter boat captain. Along with their returning head guide Dan Findlow, and first time Port Renfrew local captain and young gun Colby Benty, the three of us would be running three boats all summer. I was super pumped.

The Terminator being prepped for the summer

As April turned to May, we worked on getting the boats ready for the season, and I spent time being shown the local waters off Port Renfrew by both Ward and Dan. I’ve got my own boat at home, but my boat for the summer was a 25 foot aluminum boat called Terminator, which required some time to get familiar with, especially as it handled very differently from my 21 foot fibreglass boat. I’ve fished in “Renny” lots before, but had limited experience fishing 12 miles offshore on Swiftsure Bank, not to mention being a rookie when it came to the techniques that Dan and the other guides use after seasons of honing their craft in the local waters. I had a lot to learn, and I was keen to start showing my worth. I knew that equally important was earning my credibility with the other guides, being the only true newbie at the dock.

The Terminator rigged, and ready for the season!

In June the season started, and in the next few posts I am going to give you a peek into that life, the highs and lows, and what it all meant to me as a person looking for a new direction in life. I don’t want to give anything away yet, but what I will say is that anyone who thinks the life of a fishing guide is easy, and just a party every day….think again. It’s hard work, long hours, and it demands a lot from you and your family. Was it worth it? Well, you’ll just have to read the next few posts to find out!

%d bloggers like this: