I had a situation that I found both amusing and disappointing. A few weeks ago I spoke to a potential client. This particular person was getting off another charter as I was coming in from a day of fishing alone. The guy saw me and came over for a report. First, allow me to say that I try not to get involved when someone is getting off another captain's boat; I just find it bad taste. In addition, I know that no matter how good a guide is, we all have those days where nothing goes right. There have been plenty of times where I caught fish and others didn't and just the opposite. So, on this day, I just told the guy that I'd had a good day, without any details.
The guy said he recognized the boat, from photos that he had seen on the internet and asked my name. I told him. This is when I got a little amused and disappointed. The guy told me that he followed me on social media and almost booked the day's trip with me. I asked him why he didn't call me. His answer, "Well, I see who you fish with and I didn't think I was good enough yet." I asked him what he was talking about. He advised that he saw the photos of me fishing with Flip Pallot, Chico Fernandez, shooting films with C.A. and other similar stuff. He advised that he was just a beginning fly fisher and thought he needed to improve his skills before fishing with someone like me. He said that he had heard horror stories of guides screaming at clients that couldn't cast well and he thought it could make for a bad day if I was used to perfect anglers.
I had to laugh and quickly apologize, as he looked a little disappointed that I laughed. I asked him to hang around while I finished loading the boat, so i could speak with him. I got my boat loaded and pulled into a parking space,
so we could talk. First and foremost I explained that I was not laughing at him, but his comment about "perfect anglers". I know that I have been blessed to spend time with a lot of great people in the fly fishing world. My favorite times were spent teaching and learning how to teach from Lefty, Flip and Chico. I've also been very lucky to spend a lot of time on the boat with Flip. So, please understand that I know better than anyone: there is no such thing as a perfect angler! I explained this to the guy I speaking with. I have witnessed every angler in the world make great casts and I have witnessed every angler out there make bad casts. I have watched some amazing catches and have watched them all blow some of the easiest catches there are; from missed hook-sets, to missed presentations, to just things that make you go hmm.
I then went on to explain my style of guiding: I have a teaching and coaching based method of guiding. I have never yelled at angler. In fact, except for a life or death scenario, I could never fathom why a guide would yell at their client. Do I know it happens? Absolutely. I have plenty of anglers tell me horror stories about guides yelling at them, belittling them, and even some stories about guides cussing them out. I have always been appalled at these types of stories. Maybe some people react in a positive way to this type of criticism, but I am not one of those people. As I've relayed to every client that told be a story like this, "I'm not saying who would get thrown in the water, but one of us isn't staying on the boat if someone speaks that way to me." I'm not sure what a guide thinks it is accomplishing by acting this way toward a client, other than to assure that the client will never come back; maybe that's what they want. As for me, I want repeat clients as much as possible. I consider my long time clients like family and I want all of my clients to feel that way. I love watching them grow from novice anglers to being the best they can be and I love that I can usually consider myself as being partially responsible for that growth.
As we talked, the guy admitted that he made a huge mistake by not calling me. Unfortunately for him, the person he hired wasn't a fly fishing enthusiast, and preferred clients that liked live bait and spinning rods. He promised to call the next time he was in town and I am hoping that he holds to the promise. There is nothing I like better than getting a chance to bring a smile to a client's face with a nice fish, or helping them to improve their overall fishing ability. He is also the one that told me I should write this post.
So, if I can help one person make the call, the post will be a success. I never want any client to feel that they are not as good as some of the people I am blessed to fish with. In fact, those very people (Flip, Chico, Lefty (God rest his soul)) would be sorely disappointed if they knew an angler felt that way. Every single one of these guys has spent their entire life teaching and helping people; they would never want anyone to feel intimidated by them. I love new fly anglers, as long as they are realistic and willing to listen and learn. I feel that I am at my best when I get to coach an angler and help them elevate their game. For me, there is nothing better than getting an angler a "first" fish and crossing off a wish on their bucket list.