Some readers may know that, as well as being FlyStream’s editor and author of several books, I guide at Millbrook Lakes. After an eventful guiding season in terms of weather, water, unusually large trout, and a bout of breakoffs, I was inspired to write the following poem. It may offer a small insight into the life of a flyfishing guide… well, this one anyway.

The Guiding Life

Gather ‘round friends and I’ll tell you

About the guiding life

It’s mostly a pretty good one

Mostly free of strife.


Through wind and snow and rain and sun

We’re out in nature’s show

With our (mostly) trusting guests

Sharing what we know. 


It is our job to help you

Not the other way around

But we are only human

So if we make a mournful sound…


It’s because we know big trout moments

Are fleeting ones at best

And if an opportunity’s missed

Who knows when we’ll get the next?


At the call of ‘STRIKE!’ dear friend

Yes it’s you I’m talking to

It’s your fly that was eaten

As that brown cruised into view.


Or the fly which finds the branch behind

As the sipping ‘bow appears

It’s the thought of what could have been

That brings a guide to tears.


Yet for all these little tragedies

There’s one that has no peer

Please let me spell it out for all

So everyone is clear.


It’s the pointed rod with line held tight

So the reel cannot scream

Then the brutal crack of broken line 

That haunts the guiding dreams.


The chance was there, the fish was on

And with rod up towards the sun

In happier times the guest heeds the call,

“For god’s sake, let it run!”


With flexing tip and purring drag

The leaping trout puts on a show

But with tippet well-protected

It can’t land that fatal blow.


Ten minutes feels like hours

But at last it’s in the net

A golden trophy brownie

Never again will we forget,


A fish that’s on the line gives hope

No matter how frail it seems

But once the line is broken

So are fishy dreams.


Yes, the guiding life is mostly good

Mostly we are blessed

Until the hard-gripped horizontal rod

Puts patience to the test.


It’s the vertical rod we pray for

Because it means success will come

And I suspect you will too

As the giant rainbow runs.