Hey blog, it has been a while since I wrote so here it goes.

I don’t think you can look at the new year without looking at the past year or years.  In this case I’m looking at the past 13 years rowing down these rivers in Montana. I’ve been extremely fortunate and it has been a blessing being able to make a living while being on the Bitterroot, Clark Fork, Blackfoot, Rock Creek, and Missouri rivers in my raft or drift boat with you guys.    Thank all of you, you  are awesome people,  I’m lucky to have the privilege to spend time with you.  This year I’m taking a break and I’m not starting the new year preparing gear, boats, flies, leader, fly lines, commercial insurance, first aid- blah -blah- blah I could go on.    I’m taking a sabbatical from guiding.

I think that the last few years I’ve overworked myself.  I feel like I haven’t offered you the level of service that I once did a few years ago.  Previously starting in late February through November  I would sometimes row a drift boat 20- 30 days in a row,  and spend 170-200 days a year in the field with clients, counting hunting. A lot of people probably might not comprehend how the daily grind of taking care of clients needs can wear a fishing/ hunting guide down after time.  Fishing guides are constantly navigating potential deadly rapids, and sweepers of our rivers.  Portaging boats and guests,  meeting our guests fishing and vacation expectations, and constantly having to always be at your best and be  on point, cooking lunches, and dozens of other duties are just the tip of the iceberg if you want to succeed as a guide.    

When I first started guiding, I was a good guide who didn’t know much about how to get fly fishing clients trout.  I was pretty green. You laugh and say to your self, how could you be a good guide but not know how to produce fish?  My answer is this.  I was a mediocre at best fly fisherman who could always catch fish myself, but I was an angler since the time I was 5 years old, I consistently had stringers of fish growing up in MT and ND and making fishing my favorite pastime until I was 15 or so.  My dad and I fished 5 or 6 days a week, 5 months a year,  for 10 years.  Those days looking back were non replaceable and wonderful.  So I was fishy, just not yet fly fishy.  And I always worked hard.  With fly fishing clients we’d catch 10- 15 trout on a given day and I was stoked!  I extremely enjoyed being on a river with my guests, and I didn’t take the natural beauty of my surroundings for granted.  Eagles, elk, bear, osprey, these wondrous canyons and timber filled valleys of rivers.   My first few years it was, and pardon the expression,  “a dream job”.   I also had other employment thankfully.

 Later on one outfitter, who became a good friend, helped me become immensely better at producing trout on  fly rods.  He helped me with all aspects of guiding from bug selection and casting, to boat rowing and boat presentation.  He also helped instill my competitive nature (I was always competitive, racing dirt bikes, playing sports) to be a more productive, harder working guide than the next guide-dude in a boat. If my clients had a sub par day, I would do everything in my power to kill it the next day.  I think mostly my work ethic made me a more requested fishing guide.  When people are paying to go on a fly fishing trip, most of them like to catch more trout than less!

Guide burnout is a real issue. I’ve experienced it personally the last couple of years.   I’ve heard countless stories of guests who were previously stuck with a grumpy old troll of a guide that would yell, rant, scare, and swear at them all day constantly, and at the end of a crappy day expect a nice tip.  I don’t want to be that guy.  The last couple of seasons I found myself being cranky and not having the same focus.  My mind would wonder.  I’d still  bite my tongue, instead of yelling  “What the f@#k are you doing” after saying ” set, set, set, set” after my client didn’t set the hook on the 5th trout in a row.  I also thought about sticking a streamer in my neck  when another guest complained that the fishing was kinda slow today, after he missed countless trout that been exploding on his hopper the last four hours.

Sometimes when I’d have a day off, I’d try to take my kids fishing.   They would say   “Dad you’re kind of mean when you take us fishing lately”.   I found that I’d be venting at my kids expense, yelling at them for not setting the hook, or casting improperly.   I felt like I didn’t enjoy fishing like I used to, and that wasn’t fair to them.   My kids just wanted to hang out with their dad, enjoy they river, and have a fun day fishing.  I was angry inside and really wanted to take a day to rest, but I hadn’t seen my kids in 22 days, and they also wanted to see what the rivers have to offer.

For the first time in 13 years I am going to spend the first six months of 2014 not in a drift boat but  with my wife, kids, and dogs.  I’m going to reconnect with the mountains, the rivers, the outdoors, go mushroom picking, maybe go bear hunting  and enjoy my family while camping, fishing, riding dirt bikes, shooting gophers, watching movies, playing baseball you name it.

Thanks again to all my friends and guests.  Once again I am taking a  sabbatical from guiding this year.  I’ve been lucky to get you guys in my drift boat. I’ve  become immense friends with so many of you.   I’ll miss you guys but hopefully I’ll see you again.

A special Thanks to Joe and Tammi Cummings for taking a chance on me.  I worked for other outfitters, but Joe was the first and only outfitter to offer me enough work to pay my annual bills 100% on guide wages.  He also taught me a lot about fishing and life.  I really love guiding but I feel like a break will be good for me and my family.

CYA!  Brooks Jessen