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
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
I conducted a small self audit. I am sure we all do from time to time.
Here is how it went.
- 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
- 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
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
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".
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,
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.
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.
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
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
Tweed Guide at the beginning of 2005. Tweed Guide offers a complete
fly fishing package for wild brown trout and grayling on the River
Guide, permit , access to private water, waders to rod Tweed Guide can
do it all. www.tweedguide.com
Contact Bill at