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  • rsmilor

My Side Hustle

I have discovered an incredibly lucrative side hustle. Every summer my wife, Judy, and I spend July and August in Colorado where I fly fish for trout and catch rainbows, browns and cut throats. In the course of my fly fishing experience, I have taken friends and family fishing, and, amazingly, they always catch trout!

As a result, I have decided to become a fly fishing guide in Colorado. There is a fortune to be made taking people fly fishing. I know. I have paid a lot of money to a lot of guides over the years. I used to take my sons fly fishing in Colorado back in the 1990's and willingly paid guides to put us on the trout. Sometimes they did. Sometimes they didn't. But I paid just the same. Today, a guide costs anywhere from $300 to $500 an outing depending on how long one is with the guide and how many are in the fishing party. Talk about easy money!

To avoid paying those fees myself (and especially since the guides did not always deliver the fish), I learned how to fly fish on my own. So I now have all the equipment, have three fly rods, know about line, leader and tippet, can identify the right flies and know good spots to go.

But for my side hustle to work, I need a really unique differentiator. So I have decided to become the first and only fly fishing guide in all of Colorado who guarantees (yes, you heard that right) guarantees that anyone he takes fishing will catch trout. My motto is, "Let's go catching, not fishing!"

I have discovered over the past few years that there is a huge opportunity to become wealthy by taking people fly fishing, especially those fishing for the first time in their lives. This past summer, I took five friends fishing, and each one caught trout. Amazing but true. Two of them had fished with me once before, caught trout and came back for more. Three fly fished for the first time.

For first-timers the initial conversation about going fishing is always the same. When I ask if they would like to go fly fishing, they say, "But I don't know how to fly fish." I tell them, "You will catch trout." Then, they add, "But I don't have any equipment." I reply, "I have everything you need (boots. waders, rods), and you will catch trout." They worry, "But I have never touched a fly rod." I reassure them, "You will catch trout." They point out, "I don't know how to cast." I say again, "You will catch trout."

Maybe this is how we all respond to something that is new and for which we have no experience. Our initial reactions are to consider all the ways that we might fail, to identify all the things that won't work.

Once they finish pointing out all the obstacles ahead, I ask, "Are you willing to try?" "Yes," they say. I inquire, "Are you open to learning?" "Yes," they claim. I prompt, "Would you like to stand in pristine, cold, clear water surrounded by snow-capped mountains and feel a fish on your line?" "Yes, that would be great," they tell me. Then I pose the big question, "Are you willing to pay my exorbitant fees?" "Yes," they say again, sometimes with some hesitancy. So I tell them, "Let's go catching, not fishing."

For me, it is a joy to take others out on the water and help them experience the thrill of landing a rainbow, a brown or a cut throat trout. What better way to get rich than to do something that you love and that others come to love as well!

Evidence shows that I am incredibly successful. This past summer, I took a father-son duo out on the water, and the father caught five while the son caught four. I bumped into a friend while riding the Breckenridge bus one day. He was with his wife and two small children. He had fished for bass but never trout. He caught four. I took a friend who had fished once before with me, and he landed six, a new personal best.

My favorite guided fishing trip this past summer was with a woman from Denver who had never fished but wanted to try. I took her to a favorite lake of mine where we bumped into my son, who is a fine fly fisherman and who was fishing with another experienced fisherman. As the two of us were arriving, the two of them were leaving to go elsewhere to fish. My son pointed out that they had had no luck at all, while the person with him wondered if there were any fish in the lake. The first-time fly fisherwoman wondered if we should stay. I told her, "You will catch fish." That day, she caught three on dry flies (which float on top of the water and allow the fisher-person to actually see the trout hit and take the fly), and one on a wet fly (which is under the water below a strike indicator which is pulled under the water when the trout hits the fly).

I do have some secrets to my dazzling record of success, which I share with my "clients" to convince them to pay my unreasonable fees. Over the years, I have learned that different locations have different times of the day when the fish are active. I know that some streams and lakes have more fish in them than others. And I find the right fly for the right conditions (sometimes through constant experimentation). Then, I cross my fingers behind my back and hope like heck that we get lucky! (But I don't share that bit of information with them.) Best to keep up an unflappable sense of invincibility.

In fact, (and this is actually true), I have only come up dry once. I took two dear friends fly fishing a couple of years ago. We got nothing. Zero. Zilch. But I was ready with the fisherman's litany of excuses: the wind must have shifted; the barometric pressure must have dropped; the fish must have just fed on a new hatch of mayflies; the moon must have shifted the tides somewhere on the globe. I told them that they could come back again, but they would still have to pay my demanding fees. They said they would.

I have such a stellar record of success because I apply a very different philosophy to the catching of trout. Other guides take time and effort to have their clients practice casting, which is difficult to learn and takes a good deal of time to master. But casting seems to capture the image of Brad Pitt throwing increasingly long and beautiful fly lines over rushing water in the film, A River Runs Through It. And new fly fisher men and women seem to want to be able to duplicate that.

Instead of focusing on casting, I focus on catching. I follow Stephen Covey's advice from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and start with the end in mind, which is to catch a fish! So for new fisher persons, I do the casting until they actually land a trout or two. I'll put the fly in the stream or set the strike indicator on the water, and then let the person whom I am guiding react when the fish hits the line. Then, I provide the needed directions to keep their arms high, to maintain tension on the line, to slowly strip in the line. Once someone actually catches a fish, they are hooked themselves (pun intended) on the joy of fly fishing.

Then I provide a bonus in the form of an unexpected experience. I have the fly fisherman or fisherwoman let the fish go. I only do catch-and-release I tell them. And the release is sometimes the most memorable and even emotional aspect of fly fishing. The fish is often exhausted from fighting the line. Consequently, the fly fisher person must handle it with care and even compassion. If one were to just toss it back in the water, the fish could die from lack of oxygen. Instead, the person whom I guide learns another lesson--that kindness has an immediate benefit. The one who catches the trout holds the fish gently in their hands while the fish slowly moves its gills in and out while it resuscitates. Then, when it is ready, the trout will flick its tail and move off to return to the stream or the lake.

As soon as someone lands a trout, I demand my compensation.

I am paid with numerous and loud whoops and hollers proclaiming success. My bill includes a lot of joyous high-fives and pats on the back that reinforce comments like, "Wow, that was amazing!" and "What fun!" and "Let's catch another one!" I add surcharges that arise from enjoying several photographs that preserve bragging rights and that lead to priceless stories to tell. Then there are the add-on charges that they pay after the experience: emails, texts, and hand-written letters telling me what a great time it was, sometimes followed up with phone calls recounting the experience. And I also include under "special charges" the memories that we share when we get together in the future.

I know all this is expensive. But I figure if I keep doing this, I could become a rich man. Oh wait! I already am.

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1 Comment

Aug 03, 2022

Love the side hustle blog Ray! I hadn’t read that one. I need to come to Colorado next summer for that experience. David Minor

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