When I travel I always hire guides. It is money well spent, educational and with time retrains like most, more productive fishing...
My day job has me anesthetizing patients for a group of plastic surgeons in which I meet a wide range of people with different goals. A common theme among the patients that comes up is why they chose particular surgeons. More often than not it was either because of online research, excellent references, the initial consult interview or repeat business from a personal experience or that of a friend. Granted, choosing a fishing guide is not as critical as say facial surgery options but what the fly fisherman can learn from this is the homework being done to make the right fit for you, no pun indented.
Even as a guide, when I travel I always hire guides. It is money well spent, educational and with time retrains like most, more productive fishing. But not all guides are equal and neither are surgeons. They all have a specialty and what I want may not work for you. Both the client and guide have defined roles and you should know both.
It all starts with a check on the basic credentialing and license requirements. Without proof of the bare minimal, you can move on quickly. Start with checking out state or providence guide license requirements, liability insurance, and first aid/CPR certifications. If powerboats are involved guides will have the Coast Guard Captain’s license. This particular license ensures boating expertise, drug testing, navigation skills, emergency training, and rules of the road knowledge.
The guide needs to have intimate info on the local water. Few guides have just a single piece of water but should have more than enough alternative watersheds or flats. This helps to guard against Mother Nature and fishing pressure. Be sure to check on these contingency plans.
Equipment is provided on most guided trips. Not only is it available but also needs to be appropriate for the species and techniques. Sure you can land a 9 in. wild brookie but it is not quite the same experience. Ask about the equipment to be used and what guide programs he utilizes. If there are brands you never heard of, raise the red flag. Companies of quality gear offer very good discounts to qualified guides. Seeing logos of industry leaders is just another way of assuring some confidence in who to look at as a possible guide to hire.
Lastly and maybe the most important is a guide needs to have a good attitude, integrity and a bit of patience. Some days more patience than others. Remember a guide wants you to have a good time regardless of the fishing. Even the very best guides cannot control the fishing. But can make for a great outing with his demeanor and style. You can do your part with a few preparations.
Yes you are paying for a day of fishing. Yes you are the customer. But you can avoid issues by interviewing and talking directly to your guide. I remember staying at an expensive lodge in the Keys many years ago. I hired a guide to fly fish for bones with the marina manager. I trusted what he had said and met the guide the following morning. I was skeptical when I saw the boat and rods, a mixture of miss-matched junk. When we stopped to catch pinfish, the gig was up. The captain neither cared nor was receptive to my desire to return. A stalemate was at hand and for not my on acceptance of the misunderstanding I think things could have turned ugly. It only takes one time to be had and despite being out 0 bucks, I can honestly say I have never had a bad guide again.
The above scenario biggest lesson is to talk to the guide directly and be prepared to ask the following:
1. What is your experience level, where have you guided and for how long?
2. What is the cost, hours on the water, license requirement, and food and water inquires?
3. Ask for references and other clients. No references move on!
4. Ask about equipment and what you need to bring extra.
5. Ask to describe a typical day on the water.
Personality and communication are a big part of hiring the right guide so do not under estimate a chat such as this. You just may relate to one person better, a bonus when talking to multiple outfitters.
As the conversation flows (your goal and a good thing to look for) you will need to tell the guide what you want to do. Remember it is your day and trust me when I say the guide does not want a surprise. Good guides like to be asked the right questions and better ones will ask you questions as well. Look for receptive guides. They will want to know your skill level, whether you after numbers or a trophy, do you want to learn a technique like sight fishing or explore a certain piece of water? You do not want to inflate your skill because you may find yourself on a breezy flat with tailing permit you can never reach or a windy canyon that you cannot cast effectively to the far bank. Guides like to plan the day accordingly for the best shots based on your levels of experience. Guides like newbies and veterans the same but need a plan. Guides who inquire are usually worthy of the money. Good job. You have now done your homework and booked the day. Check back in the day or two before your date. Review the plan, your expectations and meeting times. The best guides have many clients so they do not mind a refresher about your trip.
The Big Day
There is not much more excitement when your meeting the guide and being pumped for your first big brown trout or tailing redfish. Take a few moments to relax meet and greet. Check out his gear or show him yours. Talk leaders and flies. Rig up. Get a few practice casts in and maybe get a tip or two or three. Review distances and clock settings for sight fishing. Check out any safety issues. A few moments now may help get the first fish or create one of those guide client Zen moments leading to a friendship and trips year after year. Oh yeah, one last thing from guides everywhere watch those backcasts, PLEASE!
Captain Paul Rose