Ten Years Down the River

It’s late November, the end of our guide season here in East Tennessee and the Smoky Mountains. As we always do at this time of year, we savor every nice day, trying to fit in some good fishing before the cold weather sets in to only leave us with a few decent hours a day to spend outside.

You can’t help but be reflective when you know you just did one of the last guided trips of the year. Reflexively I try to remember the best day of the year, biggest fish, worst weather, and every other superlative. That got me thinking and I immediately looked down at my fingers and did some counting as I ticked off the years. We just finished our tenth season as an independent guide service! Charity and I both guided for others before we started R&R Fly Fishing, but late in 2002 decided to go out on our own.

Living The Dream

That sums it up nicely

By the spring of 2003 we had acquired all the legal necessities and I think our first trip as R&R Fly Fishing hit the river in late February or early March that year. Since that first trip we’ve logged innumerable days on the water with more anglers than we can remember. It’s probably not the best way to distill the past ten years, but I’ve tried to reduce it to some numbers and figures so casual observers of what we do can grasp what we do.

R&R Fly Fishing’s total guide days on the water: Over 3000

Flies tied on: In excess of 50,000

Tippet: Probably between 3 -5 miles based on typical annual use

Books written: 4 since the inception of R&R Fly Fishing, 1 previous to that

Pairs of worn out wading boots: A little more than 30 just between Ian & Charity. Add in rental/loaner pairs and it gets scary!

Pairs of leaky waders: At least 25 between us. It’s a real testament to a pair of waders if they last 12 months. And that’s counting patches and about 5 months of wet wading without them.

Our favorite quicky wader patch: Duct tape

Repair most people don’t think of: 1 set of replaced worn out wheel bearings on a drift boat trailer

Fishing reports/blog posts: 605 in WordPress plus an undetermined number on our previous website format

Time spent on Hazel Creek: Approximately 6 weeks doing our Hazel Creek camps. We’ve had several groups over the years who engaged us for trips other than our usual camps.

Drift boats: We’re on our 3rd Hyde

Strokes of the oars: A few million…

Weight of the anchor: 35 pounds

Number of times during a typical float the anchor goes down, then gets pulled back up: 30 – 50 times

Kids born: 2, one girl and one boy

Truest sign of dedication to the job: Charity kept a breast pump in her fishing bag after the birth of each of the kids.

Cars gone through: 3 Jeep Cherokees and 2 Nissan X-Terras

New gray hairs: About 10 a month and accelerating quickly

Ian’s least favorite question: “What’s your real job?”

Charity’s least favorite question: “You know what you’re doing?” (Always asked by older men in felt hats and flannel shirts first thing in the morning.)

Number of times a customer has seen backing on a trout: 3, Once on a streamer, once on a nymph, and once on a dry fly (Hell yes!!)

Hosted trips outside of the Smokies: 2 to Belize and 8 to Yellowstone Country

Absolute coolest take by a fish: A carp was nibbling on a popper’s rubber legs when a smallmouth bass came up from under its chin and took it away

Number of times vehicle stuck on a steep ass river bank “boat ramp”: Twice. Once on the Holston River in Tennessee and once on the South Fork of the Snake in Idaho

Noteworthy injuries to Ian in the course of guiding: Cracked ribs, dislocated thumb,  and a brutally bruised knee cap from a swinging anchor.

Noteworthy injuries to Charity in the course of guiding: Goose egg bruise on the shin from a slick boulder on the West Prong of the Little Pigeon and numerous lacerations from falling off a stone retaining wall on Little River when she jumped away from a striking water snake.

Anglers who fell out of the boat: None, although a few have tried.

Number of close lightning strikes while huddled up on a river bank waiting out thunderstorms: In excess of 50

Primary reason for owning a smart phone: Real time weather radar

Days on the water with suicidal fish: Not enough

Days when the fish were tough: Too many (A guide is almost never satisfied. There’s always at least one fish who’s just “unreasonable” on even good days.)

Number of times someone in the drift boat has asked “So does the river flow back around to where we put in?”: 6, and no, I’m not shitting you.

Total sum paid for shuttles to move the car and boat trailer: Far more than the kids’ college fund

Untangled wads of monofilament, flies, strike indicator, and split shot: Let me top off my drink….

mega tangle


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  1. well from what i’ve seen from you 2 over the last 15?yrs or so…….marriage,successful business,two beutiful children,love and passion for each other and for what you do ,well………………….. i’ll say it again.THE RUTTERS HAVE ARRIVED!!! congrats .never head to the stream without checking the report from you first,and look forward every mon to see whats new .i’ll see you guys soon .spending alot of time lately in the park .by the way, love my tenkara.thats right back to a stick and some”strang”for me you know the old saying……….”you can take aboy out of the country ……..but you cant make him drink!………?????

  2. LMAO,thanks guys ….i needed that . ten yrs …wow.aint love grand.

    • Donnie,

      We always laugh remembering our first date which was happened to be at Tastebuds. We came in, Ian gave you the name for our reservation, and you yelled at the top of your lungs that the Rutters had arrived. You made the prediction on our first date!

      Great to hear from you!
      Ian & Charity

  3. Without question, being a guide is no walk in the park (no pun intended) but for myself and countless others who you have helped demonstrate what it takes to be a successful angler in the Smokies, Thank You! It is always wise to spend time in reflection, and while guiding has its challenges I am sure the imagery and memories will stay with you throughout all your life. Tight lines….

  4. Some of these stats are priceless… hardest I’ve laughed today! Seriously though, cool stats. You guys are some hard working guides!