Friday, March 28, 2014

Why Guides Don't Use The G Word

Yes fish is a four letter word. So is work, wife, and boat! But it's not these or other four letter words that most fishing guides are scared of. In fact its a whopping 9 letter'er that we all shy away from, GUARANTEE. Why don't guides guarantee fish? It's a question even I've asked myself over the years. It's no secret that there are several guides on Blue Mesa Reservoir which makes competition a little fierce at times. Luckily, it's a very unique situations where we, for the most part, all get along. We frequently text back and forth, helping each other where we can, tossing each other trips when we can't accommodate them and so on. But the thought has crossed my mind that if I offered a GUARANTEE perhaps it would give me a competitive edge.

Up until the end of last season, I had only caught the five letter word (skunk) three times in my guide career and two of them where with the same client, back to back years! But still, over a hundred trips a year for almost 5 years, only three skunks. Then the end of last summer happened. It didn't just happen to me, it happened to the whole lake. Water levels remained low, oxygen content tanked, and fish got the lock jaw. All of us guides cancelled trips, moved trips to other lakes and grinded out miserable days fishing followed by a great one, then a terrible one with no rhyme or reason to it at all. It made me think harder about the G word thing.

Here's my conclusion, I know that day in and day out there are only a handful of guys on each body of water that can consistently produce fish even when they don't want to bite. These doesn't mean that the same group of fisherman could go to an body of water in the country and produce fish, but the waters they fish for a living I honestly feel they provide anyone the absolute best opportunity to catch fish. I can honestly say I put myself in that group on the reservoirs I guide. But all of us have our days. It's always interesting to come to the cleaning station and see who has done what. Some days I win, some days I don't. But the truth is, if all of us (guides that is) come to the cleaning station with a decent bag of fish and happy customers then we all win. But we have all had the day when we show up with far less than someone else. It has happened and will happen again to all of us. We can fish the exact same lure, in the exact same spot, and someone will catch more. It's just the way it is, it's fishing!

I can remember a bass competition I was watching a few years ago. It was  pro event and featured the absolute very best fisherman in the country. These guys catch 5 lb smallies out of mud puddles in my front yard. I remember very clearly in this competition two of the competitors had found a hydrilla pad.  I also remember one of the contestants was Gary Yamamoto. Yamamoto and the the other guy we're the only two fishing this pad and they where using the exact same skirted jig. To the color even. Yamamoto was killing them and built a huge lead on the field while the guy next door struggled to catch a limit of keepers. Yamamoto was culling several fish an hour and his competitor barely got enough bites to weigh. The very next day, the exact same guys on the exact same pad and the roles reversed. Yamamaoto struggled and the neighbor set the world on fire. It happens to the very best in the world too.
And so it is with guiding. If you've done your homework and you know you're with a good guide, put your faith in him or her and give them some credit. We all have our days. I would love for it to be my day with everyone of my clients, but the chips just don't fall that way. We have spent hundreds of days on the water just tinkering and though we all have a few little secrets or quirks of our own, when it comes time for you to jump in the boat with us, rest easy that we have put a ton of work into your trip. Enjoy the view, pick our brains a little, and more than likely we'll catch fish.But please don't mentino the G word, because if feels like that's the kiss of death for some trips!

Tight lines and shoot straight!
Ryan Johnson

Monday, March 24, 2014

Archery Season is Only 5 Months Away

Even though there is still snow on the ground, I find myself dreaming of bugling bulls and timberline muley's. As I get older, it seems more and more often I find myself on the eve or archery season wishing I had devoted more time to shooting my bow. Summers just aren't as long as they used to be! One of the biggest problems I face as it gets close to hunting season is when I take off my field tips and screw on some blades. It's always frustrating to spend the entire summer dialing your bow only to have to redo it all over again. After wrestling with this for several seasons, using different broad heads, different arrows, etc. it was a very simple trick a fellow archer told me that made all the difference.

Paper tune your bow with a bare shaft. It's really that easy. I've always paper tuned my bows but doing it with a an arrow without fletchings made a huge improvement in the flight of my arrows when it came time to put on blades. So here's a quick guide to tuning your bow now so you don't have the stress on the eve of hunting season:

1) make sure your bow is as close to set up as you can before you start paper tuning. Make sure your knocking point is square to your rest, make sure your sight is level and square to your riser, make sure your limbs are tightened evenly, you want your arrow to lie in the upper half of the rest mounting hole in your riser when you view it from the side. If you don't have a center shot, put an allen wrench in each limb bolt and run a string around them making a complete circle and then make sure your arrow is as close center as you can make it. If you're shooting a new bow or a new string, shoot it a few hundred times and the repeat all of these steps because your string will stretch! Then shoot a few arrows until you're sure you can hit a target at 10 yards.

2) To set up a paper tuning station of sorts, just take a big piece of paper (newspaper works great), stretch it tight and place it approximately 5 yards from the target. I have a small table that I screw two 2x4's into and then staple the paper between them. If you have access to do this indoors it will help, but if you must do it outside, it has to be DEAD CALM!

3) Stand 5 yards behind the paper (10 yards from the target), and start shooting. I try very hard to use the absolutely best posture and mechanics I can. We don't care where the arrow hits as long as its in a safe direction. If you flinch or twitch or just didn't like it, ignore that hole and shoot again. When you get a shot you like study the hole. Tears side ways means your rest needs to move left or right, tears up and down means it needs to move up or down and tears at an angle mean its a combination of the two. Repeat this step over and over again until the arrow tears an absolutely perfect circle. Be very critical, remember, time spent now will save you time later. Make sure your arrow is clearing the rest and riser cleanly because this can mess with your mind!!

4) Practice, Practice, Practice and more Practice.

It might be simple but some time spent now on your bow will save you huge headaches in 4 1/2 months and ultimately help insure that one opportunity you get next fall counts. Archery has become incredibly more popular over the last decade or so, but the fact it takes a skill set to consistently and ethically harvest animals has not
. You owe it yourself and the animal to spend the required time now!

Good Luck This Fall!
Tight Lines and Shoot Straight
Ryan Johnson

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The pre-ice-out, I can't sit still, spring fever, to do list!

This time of year has always had a sort of love - hate relationship for me! There's still fishable ice 15 minutes down the road, the lund is still tucked into her shrink wrap bed, and I'm officially on day 3 of shorts season. The weather outside is beautiful, the sun is shinning, it feels like spring, but open water is still a couple hour drive away from our high mountain abode.

This year holds a heightened sense of spring fever for me mostly because my range of motion has been limited due to the expected arrival of my first girl any day now!! Don't get me wrong, I'm am almost too excited about my first girl, but it's hard to sit here at the computer when my friends keep posting pictures of giant walleye's, smooth water, and brand clean boats! Sure there's ice just down the road that has good cell coverage and is in acceptable hospital drive time, plus, I know the laker's are biting.  But come on, I'm in shorts already!!

Each spring seems to bring this feeling of uneasyness in anticipation of monster fish making an apperacne just after the ice gives way. I think the Mr. Andy Williams missed the mark when he sang "It's the most wonderfull time of the year." Obviously he's never experienced ice out fishing.

So in leu of time on the water, I'm spending much needed time getting ready for what is promising to be my best year yet as a guide. Here's what's on my to do list and items you  might think about as well to help take the edge off your spring fever:

1) Order Some Gear: Ice out seems to happen over night and the worst thing that can happen is getting on the water and running out of jig heads, or losing the only lure that seems to be the secret that day. Remember that rod that you stepped on at the end of last year but limped through the last couple of trips with? Don't remeber it when there's a 40lb'r on the the other end!

2) Research: I cannot overstate the importance of studying new techniques, ideas, and even the old standards. Learn a new knot, study trolling speeds as they relate to water temp, fish habits, when and where do they spawn, what temperature do they like, the list goes on and on. Knowledge is power when it comes to fishing or anything else for that matter.

3) New Line Time: Anyone that has fished with me for more than 2 minutes knows that I firmly believe half the battle in fishing is in the string between you and them. Ice out often brings super clear water and shallow water which means your line has to be in tip top shape. Plus all those cold nights in your garage can make line brittle. Nothing sucks more then realizing after four break offs and lost lures that your line is bad.

4) Office Work: This applies to you too!! Fishing license's here in Colorado expire at the end of the month. Boat registrations have to be renewed before you get on the water. For Guides, license's have to be renewed, permits have to be applied for, and time spent marketing better happen now because I sure won't be messing with it in July!

5) Plan Some Trips Now: Summers always comes and goes way to fast! I know if I don't put a couple of tourney's and trips with the family on the calender, they won't happen. Pretty soon work loads up, seems like each summer is good for a wedding or two, friends have baby's, grandparents have important anniversary, graduation's, fireworks and rodeo's all chip away at summer and pretty soon it's October. Plan a weekend or two or three right now!

I know spring fever is running a muck, but a little planning right now can make this fishing season the best of your life!!

Tight Lines and Shoot Straight
Ryan Johnson

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

First things First

To be honest right out of the gate, I stole this blog title from part of a video bible study series we are doing in our small group. But the concept is interesting as it pertains to me and my life as I'm sure it does for many of you reading this blog, at least to an extent. The premise of my thought for the day is this, we are taught that our list of priorities are to be as follows:

1) God
2) Spouse
4) Work
5) Everything Else

Seems fairly straight forward and for the most part universally accepted. But then life happens. When is it okay to miss family time to stay at work a couple more hours or when do you take the opportunity to slip away by yourself for a few hours and clear your head while, just maybe, wetting a line? The line became further blurred for me when I made fishing and hunting my occupation. Now my work is my hobby. Or is my hobby now my work? It's hard to explain to those who do not guide for a living that being on a guide trip and fishing or hunting for yourself is simply not the same.

"You get to fish all of the time" is a common response I hear when I mention I haven't got to fish myself for a long stretch of time. But until you've spent 30 days in a row, on the water or in the saddle without casting a line or flinging an arrow yourself, I don't think someone can understand that you simply do not get the mind clearing, soul cleansing time that you do when it you versus nature.

Then the questions get tougher. When is it okay to slip away for a few days and chase an elk around the mountains especially if I've just got back from or am getting reading to leave for guide camp? Yes I spent all last week hunting, but I wasn't hunting, I was working. Long 18 hour days in fact with strangers that you have to cater too, and the stress of finding a non hunter an elk to harvest while keeping them safe on a horse, and at camp, and in a blizzard. Sleeping in one morning in the middle wasn't an option because even if some of the hunters where tagged out, some were not. And there were horses to feed and saddle and water and unsaddle and grain. When the hunters were napping there was elk to skin and take care of, horses to feed and water again and lunch to make etc. Even though I got to see an elk at 5 yards scream his head off, that was a 5 minute experience in a 100 hour work week.

And what about booking fishing trips on Sunday? Sunday is the sabbath, but my guide season is only 4 months long so how do you turn down trips? Even Jesus Said "Man was not created for the sabbath, the sabbath was created for man." So it's okay then, right? Or is it because God is number one the list?

These questions plague even the average weekend warrior. I worked all week I don't see the big deal in taking some time on Sunday for myself!  All of these things have to remain in balance. You have to have you time. Your spouse needs some you time as well and your kids need some living room WWF time too. The bottom line is I do not believe there is a perfect answer nor a universal one. The "list" is a great starting point and filter but because life happens, it cannot be the be all end all.

Here's what I've tried to think of when I need some me time and it seems to have helped me sort out what's first. Instead of using the "list" I would encourage you to answer these questions:

1) How's your relationship with God right now?
2) How's your relationship with your spouse right now?
3) How's your relationship with your kids right now? parents? siblings?
4) Is there anything at work that can't wait until tomorrow or Monday?

If you can give yourself a B or better on all of these, then go fish!! The bottom line is the answer to the ultimate question is in your heart. Do you feel your marriage is strong? If not maybe it's time to spend a little time doing some repair. Are you and Jesus pretty good bro's right now? You get the idea. Stop beating yourself up about taking some you time. But this only works if you're truly honest with yourself. If one of these areas needs work, maybe combine. Okay I really want to go fish, but my kids haven't seen me much this week so I'm going to drag them along. I know fishing will be tougher but at least I get to go and they get what they need. Or maybe your time in the word this week has been a little off. Okay I promise when I get to the lake I'll spend 30 minutes in it before I launch my boat.

I'm not an expert by an stretch and I still struggle with this all of the time. But, if you hold yourself accountable and you take care of the relationships in your life, I think you might find you have even more time on the water or in the woods and you won't have that nagging guilty feeling when you're out there.

Tight Lines and Shoot Straight
Ryan Johnson
Weekend Warrior Outdoors LLC