Why I Left My Career as a White River Fly Fishing Guide by Gabe Cross


Is there more to life than trout fishing in the Ozarks?

It came as a quick decision that took very little real thought; the Ozarks had become unbearable, and it was time that my wife and I left the comforts of Arkansas in search of a different life. Boise popped up as an option because I had family in the area, so when the few other unappealing choices we had disappeared, we packed up the SUV with our most cherished possessions and headed 1800 miles towards the Pacific Northwest. Boise certainly is a long way from Cotter, Arkansas with respect to both distance and culture. This separation has proved quite comforting.

Many guide services have fallen under hard times around the country, and most will rightfully lay the majority of the blame on the poor economy. In my situation, the falling off of my business was quite complex. Yes, at the very end, the economy was effecting my bottom-line, but I should have been more prepared. 2008 was just a brutal year; two record floods less than a month apart, destructive tornados and high water cycles that seemed to never end. White River Basin dams are designed to capture destructive forces and minimize their long term effects. Unfortunately, the deluge of early April, 2008 was too much for Norfork Lake to handle, and subsequent spillway releases in the 80,000 cubic feet per second range have forever changed the landscape of that river. In my opinion, these changes have had more negative than positive impacts. The perception of the Norfork as a “damaged waterway” is hard to shake, and many anglers have just grown tired of the unpredictable ways of these rivers. Fisherman numbers may not be way down as a whole, but the number of fly anglers fishing on their own or hiring a guide has dropped drastically over the last three to five years.

I think most of the confident and experienced Ozark fly fishing guides can deal with widespread economic hard times because of the accompanying increased demand for vacation “experiences” that provide lasting memories. When people want to get the most out of their limited leisure dollars, they often seek out new adventures, and the Ozarks has the image as a prolific trout fishing destination. Unfortunately, Arkansas guides have had to contend with so much more than just shrinking national bank accounts over the last three years. The popularity of the White River and Norfork Tailwater wanes significantly during long stints of high water, and now the area is mired in its third successive year of near-constant power generation. Honestly, I’m glad I left when I did at the beginning of 2009, as the excessive high water caused me to quickly burn out and lose my passion for the sport. As a good friend told me, “When you can’t get excited about trout fishing on the White River every day, it is time to take a break”.
Moving to Boise was a breath of fresh air, and I have a deep love for this city from an outdoor recreation perspective.

Unfortunately, I struggled to find meaningful employment after much effort, and this (amongst other things) taxed my marriage to the point of no return. We split around Labor Day of 2009, and I’ve had to work very hard at moving forward. I decided to stay in Boise for no other reasons than I love the fishing in Idaho and I want to see more of this beautiful place – returning to Arkansas to guide is not a viable option. By the end of this summer, the blog will be filled with my Rocky Mountain experiences, and I hope that everyone enjoys these stories of discovery.

In an effort to keep my first ‘real’ blog post from being too boring, I think it is time that I cut it off and end right here. The bottom line is that most of the hard stuff in life happens for a reason, and there is often a substantial silver-lining waiting to be discovered after the dust of uncertainty settles. I truly love Boise and the people here, even though it has taken some effort to find my place in Idaho society. It is time to be patient and observe, and then the answers will come.

I really am looking forward to sharing through this blog, and please feel free to communicate directly with me at: gcflyfish@yahoo.com . Fly fishing is now a major part of my life – whether I like it or not, and it is darn well time that I make sense of this strange path I have chosen. This blog process will provide a personal therapy of sorts, and I can think of no better remedy for a beleaguered soul than some quality time spent on a secluded Idaho trout stream followed by sharing the sights and sounds with my new, online fly fishing friends.

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~ by troutdoctor101 on March 26, 2010.

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