The great philosopher Al McGuire once observed: "If the waitress has dirty ankles the chili should be good." As someone who dined at the same chili haunts favored by the most colorful coach college basketball will ever see, I think I know what Al was talking about.
Making chili -- or more accurately working at a chili diner -- is a tough job and you don't want anyone too fancy behind the counter because more than likely they won't be able to hack it. The same can be said for being a fly fishing guide. Something like: If the guide's fingers are cracked and dirty then the fishing should be good.
Zeke Hersh of Blue River Anglers reminded me the pounding taken by a real guide's hands. I'm not talking about the hands of a "weekend guide" like the golf caddy who once guided me on mountain stream. I'm talking about the folks who guide for a living. The ones who spend more time at the vise than in front of a TV. The type of full-time guide Eric Stroup writes so passionately about in River Pimp. The hands of these guides tell the tale. If I fish three days in a row, my fingers get a little raw from all the knot tying. A real guide's fingers are just one giant callous. The cracks are filled with dirt that apparently won't come out no matter what they do. Their fingernails feature deep grooves caused, I guess, from testing the sharpness of hooks. The pads of their fingers look like pin cushions after having been pricked by thousands of chemically sharpened hooks.
I type for a living. My hands aren't tough. So I'm always a little embarrassed when I take a look at guide's hands. His hands show how much he truly loves fly fishing and what he's given to the sport. So next time you meet your guide for the first time, check out his hands. If they're as rough and raw as sandpaper, get ready for a good time on the water. If they look like mine, find a new guide.