So, you’re thinking of hiring a guide…

So, you’re thinking of hiring a guide…
Howard Watson was the first client I ever took fishing many years ago and we still enjoy sharing a boat together.

I’m not sure exactly where or how the idea takes root; perhaps a magazine article, TV show, or possibly something you noticed on a social media site. It seems we all develop a fishing itch that needs scratching from time to time and sometimes you need help to reach it. The itch I’m referring to is the desire to fish a new locale or to really learn a particular body of water for future trips. There are all sorts of ways to go about this task and each of them will potentially yield a different set of results.

On the DIY side, you can scour articles on the internet and read every how-to piece to become more familiar with the area. You can ask friends who may have been to that particular area and gain advice from their experiences. Both of these methods will work but they pale in comparison to spending a day on that body of water with a local professional fishing guide.

Hands down, the best way to get a jump on the learning curve and improve your success is to enlist the help of someone like a guide, who has intimate knowledge of an area. Many times, just learning what not to do and where not to go can be the biggest help of all and a guide can certainly provide you with such information.

Well, now you have decided to go ahead and make the investment in hiring a guide, what’s next?

There are a handful of things that are paramount to your success that you must know and abide by to put as many odds in your favor as possible. Realizing there are no guarantees in the world of fishing is perhaps rule number one. Any guide who guarantees you success, limits, or anything of the sort more than likely has some sort of gimmick or loophole to fall back on to save face when things go bad. Do not, I repeat, do not get caught up in a hype train. More times than not, you will likely get burned and have a bad experience. Do your homework, ask the right questions, be honest with your guide and yourself, and enjoy the opportunity.

The first step toward an enjoyable adventure begins with the initial contact to the guide of your choice. There are a ton of ways to get in touch with a guide nowadays; all the different forms of social media, along with email and text make just about everyone accessible.

A good old-fashioned telephone conversation, albeit a thing of the past in some circles, is probably the best way to avoid any type of misunderstanding or confusion – in my opinion. Of course, nothing beats speaking face to face, but a phone call is the next best thing. Text messages, emails, and such have a way of getting scrambled and misunderstood, not mention the digital speak and abbreviations of common terms that can lead to misconceptions.

As a guide, I pride myself on being as open and honest as possible with the people who take the time to contact me. I want them to know if I have been catching fish or if things have been slow. I put all my cards on the table to eliminate gray areas, and no chance that anything can be misconstrued. This has been my standard operating procedure for the past twenty-five years and it sure seems to work, for me anyway.

Speaking again as a guide, I greatly appreciate the client being honest with me as well. Tell me exactly what you are looking for and how you would like to go about achieving your goal. If you are looking to catch a particular species of fish using a certain method, let that be known up front so that type of trip can be arranged.

If the client says, “I’d like to catch a redfish on fly tackle,” then that is what the guide needs to strive to provide. In the past I have had customers come all the way from Colorado or New Mexico to specifically chase redfish on fly, and that is exactly what we did.

During a couple of those trips the clients told horror stories of booking guides to do that very thing, only to be told upon arrival that the program wouldn’t work that day for whatever reason. So, instead of poling the flats, they ended up throwing live bait on conventional tackle in deep water. Talk about going from one end of the fishing spectrum to the other.

I make a point during the pre-booking discussion to inquire, “What are you hoping to accomplish; catch a big fish or catch a bunch of fish?” Invariably, they answer, “I want to catch a bunch of big fish.” There’s some honesty for you.

Once you have agreed on species and method for your particular trip, ask all your questions up front. Ask what the guide provides, what type gear they use, length or duration of the trip, is fish cleaning provided, are there any associated charges, or is the price he quotes you a turnkey deal. Leave nothing to chance because you and the guide will both feel better knowing that nothing was vaguely implied or assumed. Everybody has heard the rather humorous implications of the word assume, I’m sure.

Another question for your potential guide is whether he or she might be able to provide a few references from recent clients. Most guides will be happy to oblige you with this as it serves as a great way to get an even better feel for your trip. References are a big help, especially if you are traveling a great distance. There are several places that specialize in helping fishermen who travel, they are always a great help and provide quality information to those willing to inquire.

I cannot stress enough the importance of being up front and honest with your guide about what you expect for your trip. People who take care of the details and leave assumptions out of the equation are more often than not rewarded with a great day on the water. Nobody wants to spend their valuable free time doing something that doesn’t interest them or benefits them in a meaningful way. A good guide will do everything possible to ensure you and your family or friends have a great day on the water.

In saying this, I also advise that you please remember; even the best guides have tough fishing days and are forced to deal with inclement weather at times. In some cases, where the weather forces a change of method or species, or the trip to be cut short, many guides will offer some sort discounted rate or other option to help offset the inconvenience. Most of the guides I know would rather do as much as possible to keep their customers happy than to risk having one leave disgruntled. Again, all this goes back to both sides being up front and honest about all aspects of the trip.

I hope that by sharing some of this information with the readers of TSFMag, each of you have a better understanding about how the “finding and hiring process” works. Hopefully some of these tips will help both you and your guide in the future and better insure you will receive the best day possible on the water.