Working at a fishing lodge is a great way to make a heap of cash and an even better way to make friends you’ll have for a lifetime. If you’re toying with the idea of finding a job at a Canadian or American fishing lodge this summer, there are a few things you should be aware of.
Be okay being remote
In all likelihood, you’ll be hours away from anything while you’re up at the fishing lodge. There’s no such thing as nipping into town to grab snacks, and a lot of the time you won’t even be able to have mail delivered, let alone get phone reception. So what you take with you is what you’ll have for up to 5 months, and you have to plan/pack accordingly. You’ll also have to be okay living a much more basic life because luxuries like reliable internet and access to constant hot water aren’t always available.
The money is excellent (but random)
How and when you’ll be paid varies greatly lodge to lodge, and you should ask during the hiring process how they handle this. Many will pay a monthly amount and distribute tips given by guests evenly across all staff (excluding fishing guides, who get separate tips), which I believe to be the best option. Other fishing lodges will only distribute tips to hospitality staff, meaning that docks/housekeeping/maintenance don’t see a share of them (but will generally have a higher base rate of pay than hospitality staff). When it comes to tips, it can be a bit of a gamble on what you’re actually going to make, so don’t expect to get a perfectly round figure every pay period – some months will suck, and other’s will make you feel like a baller.
Friends for life
The friends you’ll make from your time at the fishing lodge really make an impression on you, and many people leave with a solid group of new buds. If you’re lucky enough to live in a city where a lot of your lodge compadres are returning to as well, then it’s easy to stay in touch. But if you’re a little further afield, make sure you put in the effort to chat every now and then. Or even better, plan to meet up in some far-flung location between seasons. If you put in the extra effort to have an active friendship with these ratbags, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how long you could stay friends with them.
Long seasons, long days
Many lodge seasons in North America run from May – September, while others have a shorter but much more intense season. So be ready to be away from it all for around 4-5 months. Some lodges will have you living onsite for the whole season (with some even offering a week or so of paid leave/time out), while others will require you fly/boat in and out every month or so. I personally preferred living inhouse full time, working 11 hours a day/6 days a week with one week time out. But if you have accommodation close to the fly/boat in point, it may be more enjoyable for you to go home every month or so. Keep in mind that the more time you spend at the lodge, the more money you make.
You will burn out
Everyone reaches their breaking point during the season, no matter how many times you’ve done it before. Energy levels wane, emotions run high, and you feel trapped (because essentially, you are). Be prepared for this to happen, and unless it’s a severe danger to your mental health, don’t leave early! You’ll regret calling it quits too soon. Find people within the lodge who you trust to talk to about what’s going on. You’ll be surprised by how many people are feeling just as crap as you, and there is power in solidarity.
Learn everything you can
On your downtime, you’ll likely be able to borrow a tiller and go fishing for free – something that people pay thousands of dollars to do. Make the most of these opportunities, and go fishing whenever you get the chance. Learn from as many different people as you can, and before you know it, you’ll have a beautiful box o’ fish to take home with you at the end of the season, as well as some mad new fishing skills. And make sure you get your boat and fishing licences (and have hard copies with you at all times when on the water) before the season starts.
Romance gets weird
Strange things happen when you’re stuck with the same group of people in an isolated place for an extended period. What you’d consider normal behaviour (or your usual ‘standards’) in the real world go out the window, and you’ll look back on your questionable actions and thoughts during this time with an element of “what the fuck was I thinking?!”. But hopefully, you’ll be able to laugh about them after the season’s done, and then get back to real life. Sure, some people luck out and find the love of their life during their lodge season, but for most of us peasants, you just end up seeking human affection. Whether it be a platonic cuddle buddy to watch movies in bed with after work or someone to bang every now and then, these urges get really intense. I’d caution you here about making sensible decisions, but I can’t really talk.
Although a lot of your downtime will be spent sleeping or eating, it’s super important to have some hobbies to keep your mind and body active. Whether it’s yoga, playing guitar, macrame or tiddlywinks, keep it up while you’re at the lodge. It’s easy to slip into a state of slothfulness and being a lazy bum will make you feel like crap – I promise. You’ll generally follow a regular work schedule, so I’d advise you to allocate regular times during your week for your hobbies, and get in the habit of doing them frequently. Pack that yoga mat, guitar or whatever it is that gets you going, and keep your mind and soul occupied.
You won’t stay in touch
Going into the season, it’s easy to have high hopes about staying in touch with friends and family back in the real world. But in all likelihood, you won’t. It’s just how the cookie crumbles. You’ll have a whole new life up at the fishing lodge, and it’s genuinely hard to find the time to fit in lengthy or regular chats with everyone back home. Whether you clue up your contacts before or after you get to the lodge is up to you, but don’t make any promises of constant communication that you can’t keep. An idea for staying in touch with your people is to send out a monthly email or Facebook message en masse detailing what you’ve been up to. It’ll help your loved ones to stay up to date with what you’re doing, and stop you feeling too guilty about falling out of touch.