Choosing The Right Guide

By Dave S

When pursuing a fishery or a species you haven’t fished before, many of us turn to local guides to help us quicken the learning curve and to make the most out of the trip. While some people believe that it’s better to figure it out themselves, it’s better to leave that mentality to those people. Even world champion fly anglers utilize local guides when fishing in world championships, for the simple fact, it’s better to learn from the locals who intimately know the fishery. These locals make it their livelihood to put people onto fish and know how their ecosystems responds to changes in weather, sun, season and food sources. I highly recommend that at least one day is spent with a guide when fishing unknown waters. This can really make or break your fishing trip and the cost is typically modest when you add up all the other costs like transportation, flies, equipment and lodging.

Dave with his guide and a Monster Pike on the fly.

Now that you’ve decided on getting a guide, choosing the right one is incredibly important. My first experience with a guide was a terrible one. I had a business trip to Florida, and I wanted to get into some Peacock bass, so I booked a trip and couldn’t wait to get and catch these beautiful fish. Well luck wasn’t on my side and I was informed the day of that a cold streak a few weeks earlier had killed a majority of the peacock bass in the area and we would be fishing for small mouth bass. I can’t express my disappointment, in the fact that I wasn’t given an option to look for other guides, offered a refund or notified in advance. So off we go, in search of bass. After catching a couple of fish, the guide rigs up and starts fishing live bait. This killed the fly action as the bass were focusing on live bait, being presented in the same area. After asking that he refrain from fishing on my paid guided trip, he indicated that it’s common place for guides to fish alongside of their clients (it’s not). Needless to say, I felt that I had been taken, wasted my money on a guide and didn’t get to catch a Peacock bass. Don’t get me wrong, I still caught fish and it was DEFINITELY better than working. It’s just that a guided trip can be so much more enjoyable.

In a day a good fishing guide should be able to put you onto fish, offer advice on your casting/ presentations as it applies to the fishery, talk about the flies and why they utilize them and be able to adapt the techniques to your fishing goals.

Choosing a guide can be a bit of work, but like anything in life, the work pays off with a positive trip with great memories.

First off, you want to really think about what you want out of the guided trip. Are you looking to add a species to your catch list, you want to learn a certain technique, want a picture with a trophy fish, or you really don’t care, just want to have a good time on the water with your buddies and catch fish. These will influence which outfit you want to go with. Additionally, you want to honestly access your abilities. Are you able to cast the appropriate distance for the intended species, are you able to wade and walk, do you prefer being in a boat?

A good guide will get into the trenches with you.

Next step is to search for guides in the area you are planning on fishing. I’ll read their bios, reviews and their webpage and narrow the search down to a handful of guides. Recommendations/ reviews from friends is another great place to start. I’ll then give each of the guide shops a call and discuss my trip goals, options, availability and recommendations. A good shop will clearly communicate if your goals are plausible for the time frame or based on your experience level. Be wary of guides overselling themselves with promises that just don’t seem realistic. I’m sure every guide has had those epic days where they land multiple permit, or lots of large trout, but those are the exceptional days and can’t be expected day in and day out. Another important item to discuss, is what is included and what is excluded. A cheaper guide who excludes terminal tackle likes flies/ leader/ tippet could be more expensive if you have to buy this at the destination. If you’re an avid tier and are planning on bringing your own gear, it might be a better deal for you. Before finalizing payment and booking a trip, it’s really important to discuss terms for cancellations/ trip interruptions due to weather or unforeseen incidents (terrorist attacks, natural disasters, etc.). Some shops will only reschedule a trip, not refund it. This doesn’t help if you’re traveling overseas and can’t readily rebook a trip. It’s better to know before hand and negotiate terms before they have your money.

Results speak for themselves!

A week or so before the trip, it’s a good idea to call and confirm all the trip details, including meeting time, guide’s name, etc. This is a great time to ask about the current conditions, flies, anticipated weather, so you can be prepared for the trip. A quick call beforehand may help to manage expectations or allow for changes if the conditions changed and the desired trip isn’t available. It also helps prepare a packing list and save from bringing items you may not need.

I’ve followed this formula ever since being burned by the Florida guide, and have had successful trips since then. There is definitely a bit of leg work and talking to guides and making the decision is time-consuming. I personally think it adds to the excitement of the trip, and really gets my mind focusing on the fishing destination and the trip. Hopefully this helps make sure you get the right guide and have a wonderful experience.

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