A Good Life Wasted: Or Twenty Years as a Fishing Guide


Told through the eyes of a longtime Montana fishing guide and itinerant fishing bum, A Good Life Wasted offers a unique perspective on an implausible period in the recent history of human civilization. When Dave Ames started guiding, Rocky Mountain locals rode horses and dug camas roots; now they're trading stock options on cell phones. The collision of stone and computer ages was short-lived, but the deep-rooted themes of this book remain.

A Good Life Wasted—a chronicle and ...

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Told through the eyes of a longtime Montana fishing guide and itinerant fishing bum, A Good Life Wasted offers a unique perspective on an implausible period in the recent history of human civilization. When Dave Ames started guiding, Rocky Mountain locals rode horses and dug camas roots; now they're trading stock options on cell phones. The collision of stone and computer ages was short-lived, but the deep-rooted themes of this book remain.

A Good Life Wasted—a chronicle and celebration of the fishing-guide life—is poignant and spiritual; it's Blackfoot Indians and copper miners' daughters; it's fiddles and guitars and the fabric of space; it's about what happens to wild people when the wilderness is gone.

From the first chapter—in which Dave Ames recalls bluffing his way into a job as a fishing guide to the rich and famous (after barely managing to suppress the overwhelming urge to go postal at the federal agency where he suffered his first, and only, "real" job in a cubicle farm)—we're hooked. We gladly follow Ames as he describes the rite of tasting clouds of mating midges to better match the hatch, tells the story of a fabled Blackfoot fishing guide, and shares his further adventures as a guy with no job, no office, and no stress. A Good Life Wasted spins a fascinating, compelling web—a web that entices the deskbound salary slave to make a break for it, and head west to big sky and fast, cold water, ASAP.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A Good Life Wasted is a vicarious pleasure for anyone who has ever wondered, even once, what it would be like not to have a 'real job'."—Missoulian

"Although Ames calls himself a fishing guide, it is his capacity as a guru that keeps his lines taut, his stories untangled. It is his ability to see the humor as well as the intent of nature that charms and beguiles. ... Because if we can't spend 20 years as a fishing guide, we can at least spend a few days in [his] competent hands, like a trout he's handled and let slip back into current."—Big Sky Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592286317
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/1/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 673,022
  • Product dimensions: 6.02 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Meet the Author

Dave Ames, over the past fifteen years, has averaged perhaps 150 days of fly fishing each year as an outfitter and guide. He lives in Montana, spending much of his time in pursuit of trout and grayling. He has written for the Chicago Tribune, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Sports Afield, Fin and Feather, and Montana magazine. He has also authored the fly-fishing cult classic, True Love and the Woolly Bugger. He lives in Helena, Montana.

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Read an Excerpt

The blue Ford pulled out onto the frontage road, the woman biting her lip and staring straight ahead, so oblivious she nearly rammed a rusty red pick-up truck with green fenders and a yellow tailgate. The Blackfoot maiden hunched behind the wheel of the pickup truck gave Lester's Mom the finger then accelerated directly toward the potbellied Indian without the shirt who had all this time been slouching against a wheel well on the shady side of the hearse. The man's eyes darted left then right before settling on the woman behind the wheel as the truck fish-tailed to a stop directly in front of him.

"Easy there Katy," the man said, edging along sideways with his back to the hearse and both hands up, "Whatever you heard, it ain't true."

Katy opened the door and climbed down. She had twenty-inch biceps, a sixty-inch waist, almond eyes, and a cast-iron frying pan in her right hand.

"You lying sack of shit," she said. "Maybe you forgot you got three kids."

Lying-Sack-of-Shit faked left and went right, for such a big woman Katy was surprisingly light on her feet. The sickening thunk of metal on skull told the story, Katy nudged the unconscious man with her toe just to make sure.

"That'll teach you not to come home nights," she said, then looked over at the Kingfish who had been watching the drama unfold from behind the safety of the drift boat. "And you," she said, "You can get your ass over here and help me load him up."

"Sure I will," the Kingfish called over, "As soon as you throw down that skillet."

Together they lifted Lying-Sack-of-Shit into the back of the pickup truck; a yellow dog with ribs showing through licked the unconscious man's face as the truck disappeared down the road. The Kingfish looked straight up at the sky, his long, shiny black braids hanging down his back nearly to his waist.

"Tell Katy," he said, "That she forgot her skillet."

He flipped the frying pan into the hearse then headed for the bar, I followed him in. The Mountain Palace was cool and dark, I stopped at the back to let my eyes adjust after the bright sun. Across the room the Kingfish was on a stool, a shot and a beer on the mahogany bar in front of him, talking with a spindly bartender in a white shirt and black vest.

"So Kingfish," said the bartender, "How did it go last night?"

The Kingfish lit one cigarette with another and grinned.

The bartender threw down his towel and slicked back his thin brown hair.

"You and that damned sweat lodge," he said.

The Kingfish blew a smoke ring then drank off half his beer in two thirsty gulps.

"Did you see what happened out in the parking lot?" he asked.

The bartender fingered the pearl buttons in his vest as he nodded. "The showdown was coming," he said, "You could see that."

"Yeah," said the Kingfish, "But it would have been nice if it came next week. I have more clients coming in tonight and now I'm a guide short."

It was a unique opportunity to expand my investment portfolio. Stocks, bonds, and real estate were out of the question. They were all reliable long-term speculations but I needed to make money fast. A quick killing based on insider trading in the volatile commodities market was my only hope so I immediately invested everything I had in beer.

"A pitcher," I said, sitting down at the stool next to the Kingfish.

He stared impassively down his long, brown tomahawk of a nose, I looked right back.

"I heard you say you needed a fishing guy—-" was as far as I got.

The Kingfish leaped to his feet. "You're a fishing guide?" he said.

I wasn't, but to prove I had what it takes to become one I lied. "Sure," I said, "I'm a fishing guide. And I'm looking for work."

The Kingfish raised his muscled arms like somebody had scored a field goal. "I pay a hundred a day," he said, "And you can start tonight."

We shook on the deal, Indian style, his vast hand limp as wilted lettuce.

"Dinner's at seven," he continued, "You eat with the clients. And you gotta be polite, real polite. Tell them how many fish they're going to catch. If you need a place to stay, pitch a tent down by the creek. There's a shower in the garage. Tomorrow morning, you load the rafts and make the lunches. Then we'll go."

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Table of Contents

Harry Morgan's Bridge; Destiny; Heidi; Whoever Dies with the Most Stories Wins; The Kingfish; The Hanging Judge and the Christian Biker; Bernie the Billionaire; Dear Old Dad; The Stupid Tax; Entropy's Amusement Park; The Testicle Festival

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