It’s not about collecting money and being a celebrity. Being a guide is “entertainment” but it also about “catching fish.” The bottom line, people have to have the opportunity to catch fish. Getting paid to take people fishing is a good place to be in life.
When things are good, guiding is sitting there just watching people catch fish. The way I do it, the slower days, a lot of time spent “teaching”. I’ve often been told “I got more out of it because the action wasn’t great.”
Things are usually good but in fishing, there are bad days. That’s just part of the game. You still get to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors with time on the water on a bad day. Luckily, they don’t happen that often.
Opportunities are tougher than they used to be. The cause: Unknown. The future: It should come back but if it doesn’t, I will make some changes. Things just aren’t what they used to be. Pompano. Off. Flounder. Off. Silver trout came back but for nine months they were completely gone for the first time in 25 years. Not good. Species closures, long enough now, some improvements are being seen. Imagine how much better it would be if some people didn’t ignore the rules.
Communication: Customer feedback tells me a lot about what I’ve done to meet the expectations during a fishing trip. “What people want”. Getting the information before the trip. I try to determine what kind of trip it is. Action trips, the out of towners who are pretty much happy with a bent rod and as much action as I can possibly provide. They’re pretty easy (usually). Ladyfish are a very cooperative fish for this. Years past, a silver trout hole is gold. The more specific trips are the people who are into fishing, live local and want to get better at catching specific species. Redfish is a prime example. I have trained hundreds of people how to target and catch this species. It is more exact.
Expert knowledge is what is provided in either case. I take them to the best locations; I teach them what they need to know to be successful. For beginners a big one is casting. Make the longest cast, catch the most fish. The tides, the wind: All of it factors in. Being a good guide, making good decisions, you provide the best experience possible. Quite simply there are some days it’s just “better not to go.” Some days have higher winds but the fishing is good enough to go. Calm windless days are nice but not always what you are going to have.
There are a number of things that come up in trips. The spouses who take instruction better from someone else is one I encounter occasionally. The spouse will listen to me and my instructions when they might not listen to their significant other. These ones are fun.
Teaching kids the right way, the kids often reaffirm the lessons to the parents better than vice versa. Kids are fun. Newer to them than older people, kids absorb what you tell them and with good action the enjoyment is obvious.
Using the equipment, the boat, the positioning: Part of what I teach, there are just ways of doing it that are better. Using the lures to get active gamefish to eat them, fighting technique and handling the various fish. All the skills. Can you learn it from me and go back out on your own and be successful? The answer has been yes over and over again throughout my career. I’m proud of it.
Skills. Picture taking. Ease on the fish. Getting a photo that makes the fish look realistic. “Where is the picture of the big one?” That was it, you just held it in too close to you. Properly using the gripper. Getting good light. Perils, fish with teeth and gill plates. Get better at it, get faster at it. Get your picture, get the fish back swimming healthy. The internet, frequently you see it where people don’t have these skills and I know that fish pictured may no longer be alive. It’s too bad but it happens.
Pretty much, mostly all enjoy the experience. The trick is not to tip off what you “think” it will be when you have had days like you had there right before that. Notes from the past: “I had the clients yesterday throwing lures at packs of snook that were all slot to over slot for over two hours.” Oh, to have opportunities like that again. It has gotten much more difficult around Tampa Bay and situations like this just aren’t possible anymore. I fought for the snook. Snook are still a pittance of what they were 11 years ago. I keep trying. I want what’s best. I have to fight the system to get there.
Weekend versus weekday? When to go. The tides, the wind and the weather. Building your trip has a plan. Use the right criteria and you are out there at the better times. It really is that simple. Fish don’t care what day of the week it is. Yes, you might experience less traffic on weekdays. But you can usually have peace on the weekends if you choose the right spot.
When it’s easy? When I am able to say this:
I was literally blessed with people with decent talent this week. When it is someone who is already really good: It can be an outstanding day, easily. But I do like the blank slate: The people who are learning it from the start. I find that easier in many situations. But, I can work with existing skills too. I evaluate and “suggest.” No matter what your skill set, I can make you better.
I get requests. I refer them off to other people. Location is one. Guys send me clients for my area and vice versa. I’m kayak fishing. There are certain requests that are better done in a power boat.
There is great satisfaction in being a successful guide. You get to watch the results in some cases. “Teaching people how to fish” is my goal. Life is fun. Fishing is fun. If it’s not part of your life: Why not?