Looking back upon my 32nd season as an Alaska lodge owner and fishing guide, I often wonder why this was the path of occupation I’ve chosen. Being a fishing and hunting guide has just been an excuse to be in the wilderness that I love so dearly. Making a living in the wilderness as a lodge owner offers a challenge not found in most occupations.
In the wilderness of Alaska, you cannot just pick up a phone and call a plumber. If you think plumbers are expensive in the city, think about flying one out hundreds of miles in a bush plane, then finding out he forgot the correct part, but of course he came equipped with a #6 Sage and about 100 flies. An Alaskan lodge owner must have knowledge in the following fields: lawyer, medic, diesel mechanic, boat repairmen, welder, physiologist, builder, accountant, pilot, aircraft mechanic, singer/entertainer, writer/salesmen, airport manager, and “excuse expert” when the fishing is slow. …just to name a few.
Many of my clients have asked me what I do in the off season….go fishing all winter in warmer climates? I just want to slap them on the side of the face and fill them in on how all these buildings get built and maintained, how all this equipment, foods, and fuel arrive here. But I contain my distasteful desires and patiently explain that by being a small lodge owner, we must do everything ourselves…being a large lodge owner takes a high paying job in the city so one can make a small fortune in the lodge business out of a large fortune.
After “ice out“, I’ll be working feverously at our lodge repairing the mess that deep snows and low temperatures leave behind. Arriving in town to pick up supplies, I am often asked, “ how’s the fishing”? What!!!! Apparently these questioners haven’t had the opportunity of enjoying the life of a fish guide.
Potential guides asking for employment often leave the same script on their resume, “ I love to fish, fished all my life”, etc, etc….. I’d like to reply that if you love to fish, get a job that earns lots of money and allows you to take much time off to fish. Being a fishing guide is just what it sounds like….you guide. We watch people fish, attempt to make expert anglers out of novice fly casters, and share our loved life in the wilderness with each and every client.
Let’s say I stumble upon a small stream that is teaming with fish. A few casts into its secrets and I discover that this water offers great angling for trout and char the length of a short man’s leg. Wow!!!! What would a normal angler in Alaska do….keep the secret waters to himself. We guides would think of the times we could introduce these waters to clients worldwide. (Ok, we’d keep these waters secret from other guides).
In the fall as the trees turn golden, the temps plummet, and the days darken, marking the end of another season at our lodge. I give thanks that another summer has gone by without injuries. I get a chance to read the letters and emails from clients explaining their trip to Talaheim that was beyond expectations. Sharing our love of sport fishing and the Alaskan wilderness is what this life is all about. Now for a short period of time we can go fishing!