How to gain the maximum benefit from
using a trout fishing guide
Fishing A New Area? - Get A Guide
See if this story is familiar.
You save up the time and the money to make the trip to the fishing area you have dreamed about fishing for a long time. You arrive, and spend the first night tossing and turning. Your head is full of the fish of tomorrow.
Out you go the next day, and try and catch a fish. Maybe you sneak one, but nothing like the bonanza you expected from reading the magazines and watching the videos. That night in a bar you listen in envy to the stories of catches by the locals.
Next day it is much the same, and the next. Towards the end of the week you are starting to get the place wired, but too late, you have to return home tomorrow.
What a waste.
Considering all the money you spent travelling to the area, your accommodation costs, fuel and tackle costs, wouldn’t it have been cheaper to hire a local guide for at least the first day to see how and where the locals fish?
Fish to Your Objectives, Not the Guide’s
One of the fastest ways of finding out how to fish a new area, or to learn how to fish, is to go out with a guide. A successful guide by definition must know the most productive lies to fish. But to have successful guided trips there are a number of guidelines that should be followed, because ‘there is no such thing as a bad guide, there are only bad customers.’
Before the wrath of all those who have experienced a bad guide descends on my head, let’s clarify a few things. I have experienced some badly-guided trips, but with the crystal clarity of hindsight, I know that I contributed to the lack of success. Most of these bad trips were some years ago, and were as a result of my inexperience in dealing with guides, and my lack of pre-planning.
This example should illustrate what I mean:
Many years ago I had raked in enough money to buy myself a backcountry fly-fishing trip with a guide. The water we were fishing required very good casting technique. I was at that stage just back into fly-fishing after a couple of years away in a country with no fly-fishing, and my technique was very rusty. This rustiness was translated into the fly-line. It would not go where I wanted it to go.
The guide was doing his job well, in the fish-spotting department at least. What I needed was some casting tuition. Because I had not briefed the guide about this, far too much time was spent with the guide and me, getting more and more frustrated.
Finally, near the end of day one of a two-day trip, I walked up the bank, sat down, and quietly ran through the problems that I was having, with the guide. He then took me back to a pool we had covered, and gave me a dry-fly positioning and line-control re-cap. The next day we caught some fish.
The silliness of this episode was the fact that I had not made my requirements clear enough before heading out onto the river. The guide assumed I was there to catch fish and his job was to find them for me. Getting the fly in front of the fish was my job.
I think we both learned a lot that day.
Like all fishing, preparation is the key to a successful guided trip.
The first thing is to be very clear on your objectives for the trip. Be very clear on the sort of fishing you want to do and the equipment you want to use. If your objective is to get help on identifying fish-holding areas, and lies, make this clear.
Check on who is to provide the food and drink. Check whether you are to provide food and drink for the guide, or if it is part of his package. (These days it should be part of the package.) If you have special dietary needs make these known in advance.
You should also make known any physical restrictions you may have - i.e. my days of clambering up and down large boulder stuffed rivers are gone.
Now a big one - make sure you provide the Guide in advance with an honest and accurate assessment of your casting ability and experience level.
Some of the worst guiding days I experienced were getting to the water only to find the client's casting ability was rudimentary at best and experience based on a couple of vacation trips a year on stocked waters, despite that clients glowing self-testimonial.
Good guides can 'manufacture' good days on water that matches a clients abilities, but they must know before they reach waters where big, wild fish require high skill levels to catch those fish.
(Article continues below advertisement)
Find out what equipment is needed, and what can be provided. Clarify who will provide the flies or lures, and clarify if you are required to pay for lost flies and lures. (Again, these days you should not have to pay for lost flies or lures.)
Double check on fishing times. If it is a day trip get a clear written confirmation of fishing times. This means the time spent on the water, in likely productive water.
Leaving aside travelling time you should know that you could expect your lines to be in the water from one time to another. Too many guides, when they say for instance, the fishing time is 8am to 4pm, somehow find ways to take this to mean being back at the motel by 4pm. If the fishing time is agreed to be say, 8 to 4, you should expect to be on the fishing spot at 8am and not pull in your lines until 4pm.
(I once, and certainly only once, had a guide, who I had arranged to fish with from 6am to 2pm. He picked me up at 5.50am, we drove for just on three hours, fished for two hours and were back at the motel by 2pm. I would have had more fun on a tourist bus!)
Next, contact people who know the area, and guides. Do some digging to get a good idea of the relative merits and skills of each guide. It is a little like doing a job interview. After all, you are hiring the guide to do a job – your job.
Narrow down the list of guides to two or three and write to them outlining what you want to do on the trip. From their responses make your decision.
Decision made, write back, with a clear outline of what you want to do, enclose your deposit, and request written confirmation of the trip in every detail. Good guides do this in any case.
When you meet the guide, and before you go out on the water, make sure again, that what is planned for the trip will meet your objectives. Be prepared to accept some deviations because of weather and water conditions, but overall the trip must meet your objectives.
He Who Pays the Piper Calls the Tune
The guide’s job is to assist you to meet your objectives, not his or hers.
If you want to spend your time chasing big fish on a three-weight rod and one-kilo leader and keep getting busted off, that is your prerogative. Having no fish to boast about in the bar that night is the guide’s ego problem, not yours.
The Fishing Is For You
No guide should fish unless specifically invited to do so.
On many occasions I learned a great deal by asking a guide to demonstrate how to use a piece of gear, or fish in a specific way. On other occasions I have been only too happy to have someone fishing alongside me. But the objective of this is for me to learn, not for the guide to show how clever he or she is, or fill their freezer.
But there is an occasion when the fishing, more particularly the fish, are not for you. If the Guide advises you before the trip that he his taking you to ‘catch and release only’ water, deal with it. If you manage to land that 18lb. Brown in the headwaters of a pristine stream, take only photos and memories, and don't hassle the guide.
A Guide Is Not A Slave, Or Magician
Fishing is fishing. There are good days and bad days. Sometimes the best efforts of a guide will come to naught. As long as you are happy that the guide is doing their best to try and put you on some fish, you have little room for complaint.
If you do have a problem, make your feelings known immediately the problem arises. Be specific about your complaint(s), don’t generalise. Don’t leave it till the end of the day. If the problem is not corrected, terminate the trip immediately.
Treat guides with the respect their skills should deserve. Fishing is fishing, with all its variables. Sometimes the fish will just not play ball. As long as you are happy the skipper or guide is doing all that he can to put you on some fish, you should be content.
Ask and Ye Shall Learn
Good guides are very willing to share their knowledge and skills. That is what the word ‘guide’ means. Using the opportunity to ask questions, and keenly observe, will usually add a great deal to your fishing knowledge.
Actually I have learned more from guides on days when the fishing was hard. In these circumstances a good guide will be working very hard to get you some fish. This is a prime time to ask questions and be keenly observant.
On the face of it, splitting the cost of a guide up amongst several anglers, seems a good idea. But it is invariably bad in practice. Any more than two anglers per guide is pretty much a waste of everybody's time. There is just not enough time for a guide to share their time productively amongst 3 or more people, and usually there is not enough 'river room' to have all three fishing at once.
So, stick to yourself and maybe one other, for a much better and productive time.