River Guides: Fishing’s “Ultra-Runner” Equivalent

The Urban Dictionary’s definition of an ultrarunner:

A runner who runs ultramarathons – distances greater than a marathon (26.2 miles). Ultramarathon distances are most commonly 50k, 50 mile, 100k, and 100 mile. Runs can be both road and trail, but usually trail. Ultrarunners are extremely dedicated to their sport and have been found to be some of the most laid-back folks around. They tend to eat like horses, too. Most find them a wee bit eccentric.

This week, I was invited to drift the Androscoggin River by one of my dear friends.  This individual is unique in his combination of inherent technical aptitude and an equally robust capacity for emotional intelligence. That being so, he is the kind of person that has amassed an large inventory of interesting and loyal associates.  You are a fool to turn down an opportunity to be introduced to someone by Art.

This spring Art informed me that he had booked a trip with his friend (and veteran fishing guide), Rick Estes owner of Owl’s Roost Outfitters, LLC, an experience that he had been touting for almost 2 years as a “must do”.  Last year, Art was able to demonstrate briefly from shore the incredible potential for fly fishing elation represented by the Alder Fly.  While scouting spots along the thirteen mile stretch, Art found Alder flies working in the current right off shore.  He pulled out his box of recently tied Alder Flies (in all stages) and immediately fish rose to his floating fly, over and over again.  It was magical.  Needless to say, I have been interested in fishing the Alder Fly hatch on the Andro ever since.


Art’s Alder Flies in all stages…

Rick and Art attempted to forecast the Alder hatch based on whatever semi-scientfic and gut projections they could muster.  Rick has been fishing the Androscoggin Alders since 1998, so he’s an authority when it comes to best guesses on these matters.  And, boy, they nailed it.  What an amazing combo of top water and sub surface trout fishing.  When I fish, I am usually relegated to getting bites from above or below the water resulting in a sort of spoiler effect…you know what the bite will feel like and where it will come from.  The opportunity to see and feel both kinds of takes intermittently throughout the trip was uniquely absorbing and engaging, comparable to a well executed psychological thriller.  This is the kind of fishing you could do all day and never feel finished. It’s the movie you could watch over and over again and find subtle morsels previously passed over.


Lunch prep on the Andro

Of course, as is the case with pristine cinematography, a portion of your attention is captured and held by the environment that the fish have summoned you into.  The Androscoggin is dark.  When I think of wading it, I feel a haunting twinge which keeps me from entering it unaccompanied.  It feels like walking blindfolded in a room full of obstacles that represent the potential for bone cracking.  But unfettered by the risk of being swallowed by it, the blackness of the Androscoggin against a thunderstorm threatening sky is all-consuming of your senses.  The drift for willing fish has the ultimate effect of total sensory immersion by day’s end.  I could have been 1000 miles away…could have been gone for days.
So, what does ultra running have to do with this little hobby of fly fishing?  Well, see, it seems amazing to me that in less than 12 hours my experience of the world could be totally transformed.  It feels sort of unbelievable, even suspect.  I have come to realize that when I have these kind of experiences, it is usually being facilitated by one or more outside forces.  And when it is almost impossible to perceive the planning, intervention, and instruction of those forces enabling the experience, you know that you are in the presence of a professional.  So, I started to think about what behind the scenes effort goes into creating an experience like the one Art and I had on the river last Tuesday.  It was about 15 minutes into this thought process that I realized I would NOT like to be a river guide.  I realized this with clarity at the brain busting moment in which I could not trouble shoot when Rick would logistically be able to find time to feed and bath himself before heading out to meet his next clients the following morning.  Keep in mind, it isn’t just the mental capacity involved for staying organized enough to obtain the paperwork, arrange for supplies, move and clean boats and tackle…no.  He rowed continuously for 10 hours.  Additionally, he has the very same routine responsibilities (maintain relationships with family and friends, attend doctors appointment, mow…) as us non river guides have.


I have signed up to complete my first marathon in September, the weekend of my 43 rd birthday.  My goal is to complete it.  It won’t be simple and anyone along for the ride will be fully aware my pain, my stress, and my potential frustration.  It will NOT be pretty.  I can only arrive at one conclusion.  If Rick was so inclined to join the running community, he would be an ULTRARUNNER, achieving amazing things with almost no noticeable effort.  And most importantly, he would have that wonderful attitude that this group of folk is known and revered for; 1)a willingness to help others learn how to participate in their sport at whatever level they are comfortable with and 2) an uncanny ability to make people around them feel at ease.
Luckily the fishing world has these people too. It’s a great convenience to be able to have a wonderful memory with friends on the river without putting in 8 months of prerequisite training.  Thank you, gentlemen, for a gem of a fishing outing!


Art and  me after lunch…

To Book a trip with Rick Estes at Owls Roost Outfitters, L.L.C. go to
Or call 603-539-7354

2 replies to “River Guides: Fishing’s “Ultra-Runner” Equivalent

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