Swedish version


Paid to fish - A True Story
By Bill Drew

  Have you ever wondered what life would be like if instead of working to pay for your fishing, you were paid to fish?

  Of course you have. Addled by the demon drink or worn down by the rat race we have all pondered if such a dream could be possible. Sadly small matters such as finding the folding stuff for food, children and a mortgage soon shatter the idyll. You grit your teeth and its back to the daily grind.

  For another group of people, the fishing professionals, of course angling is their life and paymaster. They have frequently sacrificed wealth, and usually security, in order to live as they do. Never underestimate them or the issues that their career brings for family and life style.

  For me it was different. A born again fisher 15 years ago, fly fishing had become a consuming passion.
I conducted a small self audit. I am sure we all do from time to time. Here is how it went.

  Self Audit

  • I wanted fishing to be part of my life and not just an hobby.
  • I knew that endless miles as a commuter had been destroying my health and family life
  • I knew that I could live entirely supported by my wife for 6 months but that if I did not have a minimum annual wage of £15k by the end of that time we would have to sell the family home
  • Acting as a part time fishing guide for wild brown trout and grayling since 1999 had been fulfilling
  • I knew that if I did not act now I probably never would

  The end result was that one year ago today I decided to stop dreaming and to change my life. 3 months later I had chucked a secure and well-paid job and at the age of 50
I was "out there" reinventing myself and taking charge of my own future.

Exciting… yes; terrifying…certainly; a success…pretty much so; secure….no way; possible without the support of my wife and family…never.

  La La Land

  To begin with it was a roller coaster of constant highs and occasional lows. I started work p/t in a call centre. Being paid £5.11 an hour for weekend working certainly concentrates the mind. I know that millions do the same but for a smug middle classer like myself I began to really appreciate how many great people are paid pennies, but that is another story.

  In the mean time I picked up web skills, increased IT ability and attended fishing courses. I continued speaking to any one and everyone and received immense kindness and total indifference in equal measures. Thankfully my son was finishing a course and threw his efforts into the business. With my daughter completing University my wife said philosophically one day, "That's myself, 3 adults and a cat that I am funding on a teacher's wage. I feel just a little pressured".

  Feeling increasingly guilty I applied for a short term contract job knowing that I was the best candidate. I did not get it. Panic was now a daily companion but I kept on fishing and working on the product, marketing, contacts etc.

  Thankfully I started to pick up additional contract work as a project manger using some of my skills from the "old life". This has continued and is enjoyable in an entirely new way. It also funds my fishing guide business. Without it, delays in print, getting decisions, struggling to get to grips with technology and the gap between bookings and payment would have killed the dream.

  Fishing Guide - The reality

  First I must say that I love the work but let's wait until I can number my customers in hundreds rather than tens. Remember that these are the confessions of a partial escapee from the salmon farm of life, not someone who has always lived life outside the cage.

  It is great that you are as good as your next customer. In the course of your work, when did someone last shake your hand and thank you for a great day? How often does someone want you to be in the photo as they record their first grayling, their first river caught wild brown trout or to picture the beginning of a new hobby. Most days for me as a river guide are like that.
The first time an 11 year old on a trip with his Dad with me grinned as he released a 3/4lb brownie and said, "I want to fish forever", I smiled for a week.

  Naturally there is a down side. I choose to earn less money than I could. I could not support myself on fishing guiding alone. I probably make not far off £6 an hour once you count the hours of preparation, the negotiations for reduced rates for B&B for anglers fishing on there own, equipment costs, chasing permits, insurance and the aborted trips because the damned river has burst into spate or email chains that simply fade into nothing.

  Then there are the customers. Normally they are great company and interesting people. Some become friends. Nevertheless for every ten superb guests who delight in discovering the River Tweed there is sadly one who expects a guarantee that they will catch a 1-2 lbs brown trout or grayling in 1 hour.
Explanations that results cannot be guaranteed in real river fishing with barely a stockie in sight mean nothing in these circumstances.

  When you guide you do not fish. Your rod is there as a back up, your cast is to point out the lie, and the last thing you want to do is catch a fish until all you guests have connected. That is why I need to fish when I am not working in fishing. My ever supportive wife finds that a little hard to swallow but I am sure that you understand.

  When I toasted the New Year as we do here in Scotland I raised a slightly shaky glass to my new life. It was meant to be fun and in balance it has been.
For me being paid to fish is not just a true story it is the one that did not get away.

You will find me at www.tweedguide.com or on the river.


Bill Drew lives near Edinburgh and fishes on the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders. He works as a Project Manager and has acted as a guide since 1999 before establishing
Tweed Guide at the beginning of 2005. Tweed Guide offers a complete fly fishing package for wild brown trout and grayling on the River Tweed.
Guide, permit , access to private water, waders to rod Tweed Guide can do it all.
www.tweedguide.com Contact Bill at


To get the best experience of the Magazine it is important that you have the right settings
Here are my recommended settings

Please respect the copyright regulations and do not copy any materials from this or any other of the pages in the Rackelhanen Flyfishing Magazine.

© Mats Sjöstrand 2006

If you have any comments or questions about the Magazine, feel free to contact me.

Mats Sjöstrand, Sweden

Please excuse me if you find misspelled words or any other grammatical errors.
I will be grateful if you contact
me about the errors you find.