In 2020 I had been involved in rowing for close to half my life. I had rowed as an athlete for ten years and transitioned into coaching after a spinal injury in the lead up to the Rio Olympic Games ended my career. I spent 2015 to 2020 as the head coach and then general manager of the rowing centre where I first learned to row, on the gorge in the heart of Victoria. I loved my role working with people and had no plans to change my chosen career.
When COVID closed the club I had worked so hard to build I went back to my first passion in life, fishing! I grew up in Jasper, Alberta. I learned to love fishing in the family canoe with my father, fishing for pike on Talbot lake with the goofiest spinning frog lure you’ve ever seen. I still have one. As I got older I got into fly fishing and spent most days that the water wasn’t frozen chasing trout on the fly.
When I got into rowing at age fifteen, fishing largely fell out of my life with the exception of a few days swinging for salmon and steelhead in the rivers of Vancouver Island. With Covid opening the horizon, as it did for so many, I dove head first back into the sport. I’m still fairly young in my guiding career but it feels very familiar to me because to be a guiding is to be a coach. You are enabling success, achieving goals and teaching guests to the skills to take their QCL experience in their own hands and make the most of it.
Just like coaching you need both “soft skills” and “hard skills” guiding salmon fishing. The hard skills are the tangible things like knowing where the fish will be, what they’ll be feeding on and when they’ll be feeding. The soft skills are more subtle such as a hand on the back when a good one pops off. Soft skills are needed to build relationships to enable your guests to learn and land the fish of their dreams. I love both sides of the job but strongly believe that the softs skills are where the guides at QCL set themselves apart.
We see all kinds of guests and each have their own expectations and goals. Just like coaching, our job is to learn those goals and impart the knowledge and skill for the guests to achieve them. I grew up in a team environment and I have enjoyed being a part of this guide team immensely. Knowledge is power on the water and I’ve been humbled to learn from some of the best rods on the west coast while I’ve been here and what I continually find amazing is their willingness to teach and enable newer guides like myself.
If you asked me in March 2020 where I would be in two year years, I never would have thought I’d be tough tacking Cape Naden in ten foot seas and scraping kelp beds for a clip popping hog but after the first time I came around the dolphin I’ve never looked back. Every time I see the joy in my guests eyes when “that fish” hits the bag I fall in love with fishing all over again because just like coaching shared success is always sweeter than individual success.
Tight lines and I hope I see you out there this season! Alex W