Amateurs

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One of my early fishing guide mentors had a favorite saying, usually issued while witnessing the belabored acts of an obvious nitwit. "Amateurs teaching amateurs to be amateurs", Johnny would say, with a slight head shake. It was always good for a laugh and made of distinct point of whatever knuckleheaded thing they happened to be doing; jack-knifing trailers down the boat ramp, high centering a loaded raft on the only exposed rock in the river, flailing away with a bird's nest tangle in their flyline. It was always amateurs teaching amateurs to be amateurs.

When I was a rookie guide I was in many ways an amateur myself. Nothing exposes a person quite like being paid for your expertise in any given arena while not quite being an expert yet, but this is how the professional fishing guide system often works. School of hard knocks, learn on the fly, fake it 'til you make it. Work real hard and hopefully folks won't notice you don't quite know what you're doing yet. 

I remember distinctly the moment I perceived that I had gotten off amateur status in Johnny's eyes. I was working on his Smith River crew for a half dozen consecutive, five day trips where we broke down and set up camp daily. It was laborious grunt work hauling huge amounts of gear from the boats to camp and back, setting up and breaking down tents, cots, the kitchen, the food, everything. As I rolled up a camp table, the same Roll-A-Table every damn fishing guide in the west has owned at one time or another, Johnny said "That's wrong, we roll our tables blue side out."

"But if we roll them blackside out, we'll wear the underside of the table more and they'll last longer", I said. Johnny was never one to miss out on chance to be thrifty.

There was a long silence as he considered this out of the box logic and then bellowed across camp, "Hey everybody, from now on we roll tables black side out."

That was it, amateur status lifted. Now I was just a rookie.   

We're all fishing greenhorns at some point in our lineage as an angler, and having a mentor coach you through the process toward proficiency is a savvy short cut on the road to personal trout nirvana. As a mentor to many anglers now myself, I can say without hesitation that you can learn in many different ways, even from the actions of amateurs.