Outdoor Life - - HOW TO BE A FISH BUM -


Be­ing in one place for too long drives David Burgher crazy. He’s the kind of guy who’s cool with liv­ing in a tent along­side a river for a month if the fish­ing’s good. At 30, he is the epit­ome of the dude who goes where op­por­tu­nity and fish­ing take him, and his lack of roots has al­lowed him to im­merse him­self in trout scenes most peo­ple would kill to fish for a sin­gle day. Be­ing a pro­fes­sional guide and full-time wan­derer, how­ever, is not ex­actly what Burgher’s con­ser­va­tive Texas fam­ily had in mind for him.

“I was study­ing ar­chi­tec­ture at the Uni­ver­sity of Arkansas in 2007. It was su­per stress­ful,” he says. “One day I had a flash­back to fly­fish­ing as a kid with a fam­ily friend and de­cided to pick it back up as a way to de-stress. That’s when every­thing changed.”

Burgher switched to a less taxing ma­jor and be­come flu­ent in the Arkansas streamer game, thanks to a men­tor on the Lit­tle Red River. By his se­nior year, he was run­ning guide trips all over the state. The day af­ter grad­u­a­tion, he shocked his fam­ily by telling them he was leav­ing for the Catskill Moun­tains in New York.

“There weren’t great hatches in Arkansas, and I needed to learn about bugs,” Burgher says. “I had a buddy who was man­ag­ing a lodge on the Delaware, and he asked me if I wanted to in­tern. He had me run­ning around the river with a but­ter­fly net catch­ing bugs. I looked like a mo­ron, but I learned en­to­mol­ogy.”

Thanks to his con­nec­tions, Burgher’s next move took him to Alaska. The only prob­lem was that he felt the fish­ing was es­sen­tially too easy there. He was spend­ing too much time stand­ing on the bank with a net while the salmon often seemed to “hook them­selves.” Want­ing to get more pro­fi­cient at nymph­ing and to be more en­gaged with guide clients, Burgher’s next jump took him to Colorado, where he worked on the Roar­ing Fork and Gun­ni­son, among many other rivers. But it was dur­ing this time that his Alaska stint paid off.

“The days are so long in Alaska that to make it there, you can’t be al­ler­gic to work,” Burgher says. “I al­ways wanted to guide in Chile, and the out­fit­ters down there re­ally like see­ing Alaska on a ré­sumé.”

In the win­ter of 2014, Burgher scored his dream gig. A friend that had been work­ing in Chile couldn’t sign on for that sea­son but rec­om­mended Burgher to the boss. It was his ticket to what he calls Dis­ney­land for trout freaks.

He still guides in Chile ev­ery win­ter, spend­ing the rest of his sea­son in Colorado. If the mood strikes him, he may drift off with a tent for a while to an­other un­ex­plored river. He says he’s not op­posed to set­tling down for good but won’t con­sider it un­til he’s checked more places off his to-fish list. As­pir­ing guides hound Burgher for ad­vice, and his best piece is sim­ple.

“Fish your ass off and don’t ever stop learn­ing,” he says. “If you’re catch­ing fish on a fly, you know it works. Cut if off and try a dif­fer­ent fly.”

Burgher mugs it up with a mas­sive Ar­gen­tine brown.

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