Lighter Side

What is life if there is not laughter? Welcome to the lighter side of flyfishing! We welcome your stories here!
May 13th, 2002

A Cranky Client

By Dennis Dickson

It seems that from time to time, an angler out on a trip will ask me, "So, do you ever get a really cranky client?" I always think of George. Now fortunately for me most people I guide are polite, courteous, and kind. They are after the same thing I am. To have a good time. Once in great while, I will bump into someone that is having a bad day.

George was special, he was having a bad life.

The day started out harmless enough, he had heard through a friend, I could teach him and his wife how to flyfish for steelhead. I said sure. I remember I had only been guiding for a year or so, I really wanted to show them a good time.

I should have known this was going to be a bad one. When he pulled up at our meeting I was already out of my truck to meet him. As I came up to introduce myself, George walked up looking like Marlin Brando in the Godfather. As he began to speak he started laughing and spewed crackers all down my front. George of course, thought this was hilarious. His wife, Shirley was just embarrassed. I brushed the crackers off and tried to pretend it was no big deal. I will not offend you or I, by describing what I would probably do now. George proceeds to tell me what a wonderful athlete he is, but how poor Shirley is a real klutz. Shirley was even more embarrassed, and I was getting a little irritated. I had already decided she was definitely getting all the good water to fish. I would have this jerk fishing in a mud puddle if I could.

So we hopped in our rigs and were off to the river. We were floating from Fortson down to Sea Post Bridge. George watched the raft and gear as Shirley and I shuttled my truck and trailer to the bottom of our float.

This couple was brand new to fly fishing so after demonstrating the equipment et al., we started casting. Shirley, as it turned out was a natural, and it wasn't long before she was throwing a nice loop. I complemented her. George looked perturbed. In our first pool to fish, I decided I better at least try to get back on George's good side (Does he have one?) by putting him at a favorite slot at the head of the run. This water is almost a gimme. Shirley and I were a little farther down. As I was directing her casts towards a set of rocks near a over hanging tree, a fish took. Shirley lets out a squeal, she was beaming from ear to ear.

"What is it?" George yells as he comes running down the beach. "Is it a steelhead?"

"No," I say. "It's a Dolly."

"Oh good, for a minute there...." He didn't finish. As we released the fish, he demanded to see her fly. It was the same as his. He thinks about it for second and says, "You go up where I was, I'm fishing here with Dennis."

I'm thinking "Lucky me."

So George is fishing, and I am pretending I care, when we hear, "I GOT A FISH!"

Here comes Shirley running down the shoreline in hot pursuit of a runaway steelhead. The cobbley beach catches her footing and she stumbles and falls. As I run towards her she does the most amazing thing. Like an A1 fighter jet doing touch and go. She was down and then up and running without hardly breaking stride. My football coach would have been proud! Shirley ended up landing that fish. She beached it and released it all on her own. I was really happy for her.

On the other hand, George wasn't mad. He was furious. What made it all the better, Shirley got where she didn't even care. She landed another steelhead down near Hazel and two more Dollys. A big day. And George? He was into a fish he ended up breaking off when he grabbed the reel handle as the fish was taking line. This was a "Guide error" of course. His whining became more profuse as the day went on. The two of us just ignored him.

I am not sure why, maybe because I had just had enough, but as the Sea Post Bridge and its high riprap bank came into view, I said, "Fun's over now George."

"What do ya mean!" He demanded. (He had had a bad trip and made no bones about telling me how it was all my fault.)

"You have to help me drag this raft and gear up that riprap bank," I said totally deadpan.

"WHAT!" "I'm not going to do it, and you can't make me!" He pouted.

"Yes you are," I said quietly but firmly.

"No I'm not!" He whined.

"Yes you are". I answered. (I hadn't had this much fun all day.)

About this time, we floated down far enough around the bend, you could see my pickup out on the gravel bar.

Shirley tugs on George's shirt sleeve. She says quietly, "The truck is right there."

George whips around in the raft and glares at me. Shirley and I break out laughing.

"There goes your tip for the day!" He sputters.

The two of us are laughing so hard already, we just laughed the more. George crawls out of the raft as we beach.

"You guys are both idiots." He mumbled. ~ Dennis Dickson

About Dennis

Dennis is a native of the Pacific Northwest, has lived in Arlington, WA, his entire life, except for two year while attending the University of Washington and another two years in Hawaii. Growing up near the North Fork of the Stilly, he has fly fished his entire life.

He graduated with a BS in the college of Fisheries and worked for the next eight years as a fisheries biologist, on the Stillaguamish system. Dennis left this field and began guiding fly fishers full time in the early 80's. After six years of guiding up to 200 days a year, Dennis hit burn out and went back to Fisheries working as a consultant. After two years Dennis realized he missed fishing too much and decided to branch out. He now spends half his time guiding in places like the Sauk, Stilly, Grande Ronde, south east Alaska for steelhead, and Bluewater flyfishing in Mexico. His other half of the year is interspersed with fisheries work, saving spawning streams, and building private lakes throughout the state.

He is married with three kids (two in college) and enjoys working in his community and church, (when he is in town). He likes people and loves fish. Watching anglers catch their first steelhead on a fly is a thrill that never goes away. You can reach Dennis by email at: or on his website:

Lighter Side Archive

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ] © Notice