I am sitting at the camper table cooking a pot of beans and drinking box wine from a red tin mug. It is 15 degrees outside and this little metal camper holds heat about as well as the tin mug I hold in my hand. There is a gap between the small fridge and the floor and another gap at the corner of the camper door so a constant stream of chilly air blows across the woven rugs covering the linoleum, sometimes coming in from the fridge and out by the door, sometimes reversing direction when a storm is blowing in.
It is November and life on the work front has finally slowed. While this is not good fortune for the retail side of the business it is a welcome relief for the guides who, after beating the riverbanks back to back for months, look forward to when the calendar turns toward winter. I have now completed my second season as a guide. I went into this season with the goal to double the number of trips that I took last year. I did not meet this goal, I exceeded it, five times over. At the start of the season a fellow guide explained breaking into the business this way: "Year one you survive, year two you learn and year three you become a guide." Looking back over my client list I can see the lessons as clearly as I can see their names. I remember back to a trip up to a high meadow stream where I learned to stand quietly and listen for the hoppers, when you hear them start to sing the fish begin to feed. I lost count of how many people mentioned that they want to learn to shadow cast like Brad Pitt. I learned again and again and again that I am a nervous wreck before EVERY guide trip no matter the clients or conditions and inevitably I care more about the clients catching fish than they do. I learned that these two factors make me a good guide. I learned that confidence and humility are two major tools in a guide's arsenal. I learned that it's just fishin'. Finally, the greatest lesson that I learned this season is that I have so much more to learn.