For the ones who don’t know, my name is Brandon Esposito, 27 years of age from Airdrie, AB - the summer of 2019 was my official first year guiding.
Before this, my passion for fly fishing was growing rapidly, to the point, where I wanted to take my love for sport to the next level - possibly making a career out of it. As I started doing my research, I quickly found Guiding to be my path. Although Guide School was only noticed in the states, a group of men locally here in Calgary took the plunge and decided to set up shop here in Calgary. This quickly grabbed my attention, considering travel and accommodations down to Montana (where the bulk of Guide Schools are) was noticeably more expensive than the one here in Calgary. With the itinerary looking quite similar, it was a no brainer that this is what I wanted and taking this class will get me one step closer to my dream.
My initial feeling of intimidation when enrolling with Western Canada Fly Fishing Guide School was holy moly, these guides know there stuff and all though I was very familiar with the methodology of fly fishing the Bow River, adding a drift boat into the equation, with ZERO experience, also added the feeling of confusion. I didn’t know what to expect, taking a complete leap of faith into a path I was very unaware of. Adding on thousands of dollars in hopes I was making the right move. It didn’t matter. I knew in my heart this was the right move. Commit Now, Plan Later.
It’s here, finally. Booked months ago, eagerly waiting to start this next chapter in my life. A series of guides - Quinn Styles, Dana Lattery, Timothy Hepworth, and Troy Langelaar with Fly Fishing Bow River Outfitters. People I’m very familiar with in the Instagram world. As the Itinerary was released, I became quickly aware that the most important factor I need to focus on was “time on the water.” Along side, a series of 6 days in two split weekends. Both weekends consisting of morning classroom work followed by time on the water. I promised myself to leave my ego at the door, become completely transparent and to open my mind up to the possibility of failure. Being completely overwhelmed with the amount of material and knowledge these guides were throwing at us, I had no choice but to remain silent and take in as much as possible.
As I took my first seat in a Hyde Drift Boat, my hands grabbing the oars, I instantly fell in love. Problem is, the boat was still on the trailer. Being completely different then what I was use to, I was very eager to get on the water and test my capability. Push, off the trailer into the water. With a brief explanation of what we’re doing, it was my turn to row. Dana standing in the front seat giving the order, I had to row from river left to river right. After doing multiple donuts and having both Dana and another student laughing hysterically, I realized two things: the stern is my steering wheel and I might be in over my head.
As the days went on, I studied the guides sitting in the driver seat. I watched every single movement and told myself to remain patient. Hour after
hour, I became significantly more comfortable behind the sticks. Confidence was getting bigger and bigger and I started to believe that this was by far the best decision I’ve ever made.
Guide School changed me. It opened me up to more knowledge and “golden nuggets” then I ever would have been able to find on my own. The guides took the time to highlight what’s important over decades of guiding. The information was extremely valuable, if you pay attention to the fine details and execute, guide school WILL take you to the next level. Whether you want to be a guide, outfitter, or simply the best angler you can be - Western Canada Fly Fishing Guide School is for you.
Where I was once lost and confused prior to guide School, graduating gave me the confidence to purchase my own drift boat. Solidifying a job with Fly Fishing Bow River Outfitters and finishing the 2019 season with 28 trips under my belt. I still look back with shock in my heart. But I will never forget the opportunity Western Canada Guide School presented me. If you’re on the fence about moving forward just remember, fear isn’t real. Put the emotions aside and invest in yourself. It just might be the best decision you’ve ever made.
⁃ Brandon Esposito
Many parents choose to spend the early years of their children’s lives stuck at home thinking there is no way they can keep up the outdoor pursuits that they love until their children are older. I can tell you this is simply not true. My name is Tim Hepworth; I am a husband, father, medic, and fly-fishing guide in Southern Alberta.
I was born and raised in central Alberta. My parents started taking me on hunting and fishing trips at a very young age. However, when my wife and I first started talking about having children I was very resistant to the idea. I feared that if we had a child, all the things I loved doing would no longer be possible. I could not have been more wrong.
My daughter Wren and I took our first fly fishing trip when she was 6 months old. I carried her on my chest and to my surprise she did amazing. Eventually she graduated to a backpack carrier which made things even easier. That first Spring and Summer I got her out multiple times a week. Wren is now almost three and we have had an amazing few seasons together. I will admit that not every trip goes smoothly. There were many times when we would arrive at the river and be packing up to go home shortly after. Adaptability is the name of the game. You need to ask yourself what is the goal? Do you want to catch a ton of big fish every time out? Or do you want to show your child the beauty of the outdoors?
In today’s world it is so easy to set your kid in front of a screen and let it do all the teaching. However,I believe most people want something different. We want our children to appreciate the outdoors the way we do, and to be the stewards of taking care of it for the generations to come. I have chosen this path for my daughter, and it excites me to see so many others doing the same. I have fielded countless questions about fishing with Wren, so I figured it was time to put some words together and try to pass along some of what I have learned. I have come up with 5 tips I feel are essential to a positive day with your child on the water.
1. Don’t Have A Timeline
Fishing with an infant is actually quite easy. More than likely they will fall asleep in a pack and sleep for hours, giving you all the time in the world to fish. However, with toddlers and small children they decide when your day starts and ends. You have to manage your own expectations for the day and be realistic with yourself. You may get to the water, make two casts when your child has a meltdown or diaper blowout. This may end your day and you need to be ok with that. The worst thing you can do is force your child, who is obviously restless and no longer engaged, to stay out fishing. If you do then they will start to hate it and that completely defeats the purpose of encouraging your kids to be in the outdoors with you. Listen to your kid. When they’re done, be done.
2. Buy the right outdoor gear
One of my biggest frustrations is trying to find good quality gear for Wren. It took me months to find her a pair of toddler waders. These have kept Wren warm and safe and helped her be comfortable on our adventures. However it is still difficult to find warm gear at an affordable price. But don’t give up. Be prepared to put the money out for your kids. It’s an investment in the experience you are hoping they will love as much as you. If anyone actually needs the best warm, and durable gear it’s actually our kids. So don’t give up the search for good gear, it can be found if you're willing to look for it.
3. Snacks, Snacks, Snacks!
It’s such a simple thing, but having adequate amounts of food for your day on the water will save your butt a thousand times. You can lengthen your day by having just that one more granola bar or bottle of milk. Overpack what you think you will need for them and you won’t be disappointed. Always bring lots of water. My daughters “comfort food” has always been her milk. If I have forgotten it at the truck I may as well turn around immediately and go back and get it. Find what that comfort food item is for your child and don’t forget to stick it in your pack!
4. It’s a bug’s life
Once your child is big enough to be spending some time out of the pack. Get them on the shoreline digging in the rocks. Yes it may mean a lot of ruined holes as inevitably those rocks get thrown into them, but what it will do is get them looking at some bugs. Kids are fascinated by the creepy crawling things, which just so happens to be a perfect opportunity to teach them about the flies we are using. For every hour you are on the water go spend 20 min helping them find some bugs. Trust me they will appreciate it and it will probably spruce up your knowledge too!
5.Let them practice!
More than likely your child has spent hours watching you whip your rod around and will want to try it too. Now I’m not saying you hand them your $1000 T&T rod but have a rod there they can try to cast with. I started by buying my daughter a couch rod for inside. She spent weeks playing with it. I then started bringing along a rod I had bought for her (it’s the Echo Gecko kids rod), to practice with. Yes you will untie a thousand knots and tangles, but just be patient and let them “play” because for them that is what it is, and playing is supposed to be fun. I haven’t actually taught my daughter that much when it comes to casting, but I tell you what, it is uncanny how much they learn from watching you! At two and half years old my daughter casted, hooked, and landed her first solo fish. I wish I could say I had more to do with it than I did! But she learned by watching and practicing, give your kids that chance to learn. In the end they just want to be like you, so give them the chance to do so.
To conclude, remember what all of this is for. Yes you want to share your love of fly fishing with your kids, but furthermore this is about spending quality time with your kids in the outdoors. Cherish it and don’t take it for granted. One thing hours of time together can give you, is the chance to create a forever lasting bond with your child that cannot be replaced. Talk your kids, be their first teacher and guide them down the path you want for them. I can’t tell you how many hours I practiced the “abc song”, or sang the “itsy bitsy spider”. Much of the time you are just a walking day care centre, but it’s these moments that I know will be some of my best memories for the rest of my life. Don’t fear the difficulty or inconvenience of taking your kids fishing, I promise it will never be something you regret.
My name is Dana Lattery and I am the head guide/outfitter with Fly Fishing Bow River. We are a guide service based out of Calgary, Alberta and we guide the rivers in all of central/southern Alberta. Having spent the last ten years in the guide/outfitter industry, I have seen a lot of things take place on a guided day of fly fishing, some good, some bad. Some outfitters better prepare their clients for a day on the water, and some completely miss the boat on this. Throughout the 10 years, I have come to a conclusion that most errors come from lacking of being informed. So, I have compiled a list of things to try and merge the expectations of guides and the expectations of clients so that there is a better day had by all on the water. Remember this list is just a starting point, and nothing can take place of great communication. So whether you’re a guide, or a guest looking to go on an amazing guided fly fishing trip, take into consideration these points as you prepare for your next awesome day on the water.
5 TIPS FOR A GUIDE