The annual One Fly competition is guaranteed to provide anglers and guides with excitement, elation, humility, and humiliation. After 26 years as a guide, I've experienced it all during this event that often depends on a combination of skills and luck.
A quarter century ago, when I paid $300/month in rent for a condemnable cabin on the Village Road that my then-girlfriend-now-wife would not enter, the 590-inch winter of "ninety sick ninety heaven '' washed out the Snake River until July. I was eagerly awaiting the opportunity to tackle my last proving ground before being allowed to guide: the "check off" trip with Reynolds Pomeroy, the then-owner of Westbank Anglers. Our short local float near Nunya Creek was uneventful except for the opportunity to witness Reynolds expertly fishing with streamers like the JJ Special and Kiwi Muddler. He gave me the go ahead and my first season as a guide was spent doing half-days on the Snake. That first season motivated me to set two goals: to improve enough as a guide to take clients on the South Fork, and to guide the One Fly. Pretty lofty for a newbie guide from Texas.
It was just a few years later that I became a licensed Idaho guide, taking any South Fork spot I could get through Lon Brown's Drifters, guiding eager fishermen through some of the best and worst PMD hatches I'd ever seen. The goal of guiding the One Fly felt less certain until my new guide buddies Carter Andrews and Gary "The Wedge" Willmott offered some words of encouragement. As winners in the professional angling division, and recipients of the "Top Guide" award, I figured they were qualified to give me some advice.
So I went for it.
My first years guiding the One Fly were spent on the Wilson to South Park stretch and my goal setting continued. I wanted to win the points for that stretch. I also wanted to guide a park stretch and was secretly waiting for The Wedge to retire from Pacific to Deadmans, as he had won it for several years, typically by a sizable gap. Whatever guilt I felt about wishing my mentor an early retirement abated when I was awarded that stretch and won it in my first year. A fitting legacy for the support that Gary offered when I was just starting out.
Often, the uncontrollable elements of the One Fly conspire to create a little chaos. And sometimes you just have a bad day as a guide. These two things converged for my angler Eric Macy during an unfortunate series of events during the One Fly. Driving up to Pacific Creek we saw that the Buffalo Fork had blown out, and as I was hustling to get the boat in the water, I broke Eric's rod into several pieces. I soon added insult to injury when we discovered that I had mistakenly grabbed non-alcoholic beer for the boat. My luck and spirits improved greatly when I was able to trade beer with another guide before the start time. A little more luck combined with skill when Eric caught a 19-inch cutthroat, and I ended up winning the points for stretch that day.
As a guide with WorldCast Anglers for the past 15 years, I've guided the One Fly for most of them and won Top Idaho Guide a few years ago. Receiving the Carmichael-Cohen Memorial Guide Award last year added me to a list of guides that I call friends and have long admired, it was an amazing honor. Even my teenage daughter Cadence was impressed!
But winning isn't really what the One Fly is about for me, and I say that knowing that I have worked hard to win, and I'll still shoot for Top Guide each year. Just as fun is the surprise of learning who I'll get to fish with, and the opportunity to fish a spectacular section of the river that is often taken for granted. I'm grateful that our rivers are healthy with good numbers of native and non-native trout. I'm grateful for the One Fly and other organizations tackling the impacts of drought and water quality on our local streams. I've recently joined Friends of the Teton River in Teton Valley, Idaho as an ambassador to make sure I am sharing more about their work to protect my favorite fishery. My favorite section of the Teton is the canyon stretch- the technical water that doesn't get a lot of pressure because of the 400-foot cliff drop access point. Because I get to visit fisheries around the world, I've seen how advocacy makes a difference between fisheries that have prospered and those that are no longer viable. Advocacy often just starts with being aware and curious - so when you are out on the river during this year's One Fly, be sure to ask your guide about the challenges our renowned waters are facing. They know what is needed, and they know how you can help. And if we all get involved, we all win.