Selecting the Right Guide
I am blessed that I now get to spend my life doing what I love; being on the water is all I have always wanted. Like a lot of other people, it is where I find comfort, relaxation, and have time to think about all of those things that clutter our minds. Fortunately, I have found a way to make a living at it. Most people look at fishing guides and believe we have the best life there is. Well, I'm not going to lie and say we don't; but, I will add that it is extremely taxing and physically exhausting. When people ask about becoming a fishing guide, there are a few questions I ask them:
- Do you enjoy people
- Do you enjoy being outside no matter what the weather conditions
- Have you caught all of the fish you need to in order to make you happy
- Do you have a desire to make someone else's dream come true
- Are you patient
- Can you physically take it
These are questions each and every person should ask themselves before becoming a fishing guide. Why? Well, some of the answers are fairly obvious. Yes, you must enjoy people: you must enjoy being around them (from all walks of life), you must enjoy talking with them, and you must enjoy trying to make them happy. The outdoors seems like an obvious answer, but many people only like being out in perfect conditions. They don't like it too hot, too cold, too windy, or anything else. Unfortunately we can't always fish in perfect conditions. I usually get a puzzled look over the catching enough fish question. Most think: I'm fishing every day, why would I worry if I've caught enough. Answer: You're not fishing, your client is. You're job is to place them in the position to catch fish, not to catch them yourself. The last question is also one that gets puzzled looks. I can usually read their minds: we are fishing, it isn't a contact sport. Well, if you are guiding like I do, you will spend 6-8 hours a day poling a skiff across the water. See, unless the customer wants a boat ride, I get paid to find fish. I find fish by poling the boat. Yes, sometimes we use a trolling motor, but the majority of the time is spent on the push pole, easing along and hunting fish. It is far more physically demanding than many think. This is especially true on those too windy days.
Another thing I am blessed to do is teach fishing. Specifically, I teach fly fishing. I get to teach with true legends like Lefty Kreh, Flip Pallot, and Chico Fernandez. These gentlemen have forgotten as much as I know. Through them, I have learned to become a better instructor, a better caster, and a better guide. One section I teach is how to select the right guide. It is far too often over looked by anglers going to an area. Most simply click on the internet, find a list, and start calling to see who is open. If it's a last minute trip, I might understand this. However, if you are planning the trip, you should take great care in selecting your guide. Well how do I do that you ask? Here are some simple steps:
- Look at the website of the person you are thinking of selecting; pay attention not only to the pictures, but to the words (make sure they match)
- Contact the person you are interested in and interview them. Yes, I said interview them! Let them know you want a few moments to speak with them and ask questions. Sometimes they may have to call you back, when they have enough time, but they should never balk at the fact you want to ask questions.
- During your interview, make sure they have the experience you need. You need to be honest with your guide about your experience. Personally, I love first time fly fishers. But, I have the knowledge to teach and coach on the boat, along with the patience. Some others don't (either because they don't want to or they don't know how to).
- Make sure the guide knows how to fish like you want to fish. Honestly, I don't fish live bait (with some exceptions). Nothing personal, it's just not what I enjoy or what I have concentrated on. I work with some great guides who are fantastic with live bait and have no problem referring people to them. For me, it's about giving my customer the best shot at making that memory.
- Bring up any concerns before you plan the trip. I have clients who need special gear when they come: no problem ,as long as I know ahead of time, I can prepare for it. This includes physical limitations, special needs for equipment (extra dry storage for video or camera equipment), and even simple things like being left handed.
Your interview should relieve you of any and all questions. Your guide should be happy to answer any of the questions. If not, I would suggest finding another guide! This is your trip and you have a right to make sure that you will enjoy it! You are spending hard earned money and paying for a service; just like any service, it should match you expectations.
I do caution every angler about one thing: please remember that nature doesn't always cooperate! Yes, I have been skunked on the boat before, with clients! If a guide tells you otherwise, they are either lying or fishing in heaven! Sometimes it is the angler's fault and sometimes there is just nothing that can be done about it; nature isn't on our schedule. But, if you hire the right guide, I will guarantee you that no one will be more upset that him/her if the day is not successful! If you hire the wrong guide, they'll drop you at the dock and leave, not caring.
My final blessing: I've never had a client leave mad or disappointed. By the end of the day, they know I have given all I can to make their dreams come true. Sometimes we have great photos to go along with it, sometimes it is just the memories of our conversations and visions. Either way, we all know we will be together again and there are more memories to be made!
Fly fishing school with Lefty Kreh and Flip Pallot!