Written by: Kip Vieth, Wildwood Float Trips
“It’s the journey, not the destination.”
Most of us have heard this saying more than a few times in our lives. Being the cynic that I am, it used to sound to me like something in one of those Successories posters you’d find in a conference room. You know the one. There’s a guy climbing the mountain and the saying is underneath it. I have always looked at those posters as something a human resource manager puts up to somehow motivate the workforce to bigger and better things. The only one that has really stayed with me over the years is “Hard work will beat talent if talent doesn’t work hard.” I’m not the most talented fisherman or guide out there, but I have always prided myself on working hard.
So, now you find yourself asking, “What the heck does all this have to do with fishing or catching fish”? Well, I had the great pleasure of being the head guide and outfitter for the Orvis Muskie School this past fall. It was a pure joy working Peter Kutzer and the whole Orvis staff. When all was said and done, it was a great school and all the clients had shots at a muskie in the two days of fishing. We did boat a couple, with the biggest coming in at 45 inches. It wasn’t until a month or so after the school—as my guiding season was winding down—when it really hit me: It is the journey and not the destination that makes it all worth it.
I was at the tying bench trying to whip up a few flies for the next day’s trip. I was thinking about the school and all the great students that we had. They came from all over the country, and one student was from Mexico City. They were also from all walks of life. I started to think about each one’s journey and how they ended up in northern Minnesota trying to catch a muskie on the fly. They all had the same goal of learning how to pursue muskie on the fly and hopefully catching one. Every one of them however, got there via a totally different path.
One student was a conventional-gear muskie angler, who wanted to learn how to try and get one with the fly. Another was there with a friend for a weekend. He had never picked up a fly rod in his life. We all were rooting for him in the worst way, and of course, he got a fish on the last day. All of the guides just had a feeling that he would get it done. It’s kind of like when your kids out-fish you. You know that most of the time they will, and if they do you couldn’t be happier.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that you know it’s a special school when the teacher learns as much as the students do. As a guide, the goals are pretty much always the same: Make sure that your clients have the best day they possibly can on the water. That is the destination. How you get there is what the clients will remember, and what I’ll remember too.
When I’m guiding, I tell clients that it’s all about seeing the eat. It can be a muskie following the fly for what seems like an hour and then decides to eat it, or a big smallmouth sliding under your popper and subtly sucking it in. The destination is the picture of a client, holding the fish. But I bet if you asked the client a year removed from catching that particular fish, they would describe how the fish ate it. That’s the magic. If you lose that, I think it’s game over.
I was sitting in the shop yesterday, and I was thinking about this article. Last spring, I was blessed to take my son and I to Montana for the Orvis Guide Rendezvous. The destination was Missoula, and the goal was to connect with people in the industry and learn how to be a better guide and grow my business. I do remember a lot of that stuff (this article is proof), but it isn’t what I’ll remember when I’m sitting on my deck thirty years from now. What I’ll think of then is how I got to show my son this great country we are so blessed to live in: driving across North Dakota in a raging blizzard, sitting in the boiling river in Yellowstone in 30-degree weather. It will be showing him how big bison really are. The mountains of Montana, the beautiful rivers that trout call home. How ,even if you don’t catch a fish, you can still enjoy it. (He really learned how to mend his line.) And last but not least, my son is one hell of a kid. He’s a joy to spend time with, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.
We all want the destination, but if we forget all about the wonderful things along the way. . .what’s the point? Sometimes I think we get so busy looking for the destination that we forget to enjoy the ride. Enjoy a new year and try and enjoy the ride a bit more this year.
Kip Vieth owns Wildwood Float Trips, in Monticello, Minnesota. Check out his excellent “10 Tips for Catching a Musky on a Fly.”