I appreciate excellence in all forms; watching anything performed by someone who has risen to the top in their chosen field or endeavor is appealing to most people. Its why we watch sports, admire great public speakers, and rock stars.
Once in a while I get the opportunity to witness a master at work up close and personal. Last week I was afforded the luxury of taking a fly fishing trip with a client, which would have been an amazing experience in and of itself. But we chose to go to the Dream Stream in Colorado, and to catch fish here, you are gonna need some help. It is considered to be some of the most technical water to fly fish in all of the U.S. For you non-fisherman, that basically means the fish here are pickier and harder to catch than most places.
We recruited the help of well-known local guide Phil Tereyla, and booked a two day guided fly fishing trip. Phil works with Landon Mayer, the famed fishing guide from these parts, and Landon recommended Phil for the Dream Stream trip. We arrived on Sunday, and fished Monday and Tuesday in the famous waters between Spinney Mountain Reservoir and Eleven Mile Canyon Reservoir in the vicinity of Colorado Springs. We stayed in Woodland Park, and made the 45 minute drive out to the Dream Stream both days to fish. The weather was great and the water conditions were good for us to catch fish. Although I am someone who considers themselves a good fly fisherman, I know this stream would have kicked my butt without some assistance. This is where Phil came in.
As he joked early on in the trip, “The difference between a good guide and a great one is one split shot” (weight on your line). The statement could not have been more true. Watching Phil constantly adjust the weight on our lines and the flies we were using based on conditions, insect hatches, time of day, and other factors was impressive to say the least. He was there to help us catch fish, that is his job. But the way he goes about it shows his level of mastery at this craft, and in retrospect that might be what I appreciated most about those two days on the river with him. Having achieved a similar level as a Pro Racquetball player, I used to laugh when people would seemed to be impressed with what I could do that maybe they could not within the confines of the same sport. I tried not to let it go to my head, but I know it did at times. And by “times” I mean roughly from 18 to 32 years of age. So any time I get to be on the other side of that equation, I appreciate it. I try to make sure I convey my respect, as I am well aware of the level of work it takes to achieve that level of proficiency. Having someone display this level of excellence in a far more humble manner than I ever did is always cool as well.
Phil was a contradiction to my own thought process of not making your passion a job. I asked him directly about this, and he is a rare person who is still as excited about his chosen profession as he always has been. And it was obvious, as he yelled louder than I did when one of the big fish I caught took a grasshopper off the surface. Phil saw the fish, came back to me and changed my rig, told me where to cast my line, and sure enough, that big boy grabbed it as it floated by. It was an amazing experience, and one I would not likely have been able to create on my own without his guidance. It was the equivalent of a coach catching the defense completely off guard by calling a trick play in the red zone to score a touchdown. Masterful understanding of the game…
I encourage you to look for the “Phil” in your life that you cross paths with. It could be a person at work, the barista you get your coffee from every day, or any one of a myriad of others that have something to teach you. Be open and humble. They will show you what excellence in action looks like, and sometimes just by observing what they do and how they do it, you learn. All of the work and practice done behind the scenes is what really leads to this level of proficiency, it takes years to reach this level. But there are commonalities in all forms of excellence, and maybe you’ll cross paths with someone who is a true master at what they do. If so, be quiet, observe, and then ask questions. The affects can be far reaching if you allow them to be.
I wish you luck in your endeavors.