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What Makes Guides Great? (And the Grudge Match Scoreboard)

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July 29, 2009

What Makes Guides Great? (And the Grudge Match Scoreboard)

By Kirk Deeter

Anyone who knows me personally understands that I think the sun rises and sets in the fly fishing world where guides say it does.  I've always been a fan of guides; I guide myself; how could I not be a fan?

I know, I know... it's expensive to go on a guide trip.  But in my experience, if you find the right guide, the investment is ultimately as valuable in your long term fishing experience as almost anything you can buy, save the rod and reel itself.  Put it this way... if the investment is not extremely valuable in this way, well, you went fishing with the wrong guide.

I think that's especially true in fly fishing.  Too many "gurus" approach this sport as a platform to show all the stuff they know that we do not, and maybe make a buck or too in the process.  The guide's mission should be exactly the opposite... to break down the barriers, to share understanding, and to instill confidence that this crazy sport isn't rocket science after all.

The guide who does their job right sits in the catbird's seat, and has the power to influence whether or not that beginner client becomes a lifetime angler, or a once-and-done customer.  It can happen in the first 15 minutes on the water.

As such, I think the fly industry has to do a better job of taking care of guides.  Some companies get it.  Most don't.  I think we need to give guides more than cheap gear.  In return, I think we need to expect more from guides. 

I'm working on a project involving guides now, and I want to hear any recommendations some of you might have.  Do you know any aces?  Teachers? Story tellers?  What makes a guide great?

Also, I must report that the Fly Talk Smackdown Grudge Match on the Colorado River yesterday was...

A tie.

I think I had Romano on numbers (barely), and I had the best eat... a hopper take that seemed like it lasted 10 seconds.  But Tim beat me cold on the big fish of the day... a 21-inch brown that ate his streamer in heavy rapids.  He had more chases too, but as is usually the case in streamer fishing, you rarely pin them all on. 

Guess we'll need a rematch.

Deeter

Comments (14)

Top Rated
All Comments
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

My favorite guide was just one of the guys. In other words, if you didn't know I hired him then you would think he was just the buddy that did all the work.

My worse guide was pushy and worked hard to get the numbers of fish he wanted. I'm really not the type of person who counts how many fish I catch.

As for your tie, I think Tim should be rewarded for fishing a steamer all day while you had all the fun watching fish explode on your hopper. Nothings more boring than stripping streamers.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ggmack wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

the best guide i ever had was a team of 10-20 guys. they are all retired from their jobs and they fish up the inlet every morning. there are retired principals, lawyers, doctors, grownskeepers, and engineers.

they break every morning at 7 am for coffee. they break wether they are bailing them in or they are getting skunked.

I had the pleasure of growning up around them. i am the fishermen and outdoorsman i am today because of them.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from anselmo wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

This leads to a favourite question: Should a guide fish when out with paying clients?

My view is no - unless showing a specific cast/mend etc

There is nothing worse than a guide who fishes all day long - in fact anyone who does that does not qualify as a guide IMHO

Definition: n.

- One who shows the way by leading, directing, or advising.
- One who serves as a model for others, as in a course of conduct.
- A person employed to conduct others, as through a museum, and give information about points of interest encountered.
- Something, such as a pamphlet, that offers basic information or instruction: a shopper's guide. e.g. A guidebook.
- Something that serves to direct or indicate.
- A device, such as a ruler, tab, or bar, that serves as an indicator or acts to regulate a motion or operation.

Just my opinion and worth what you paid for it ;-)

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from texasfirst wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

What makes a guide great is that sort of unbelievable patience and cool-headedness. Bad guides, some really great anglers, yell and carry on like damnfools. The aces are the ones who talk about getting hooked in the ear and you can tell by the way they tell the story they thought it mildly amusing, even at the time...

In the lower Laguna Madre, Skipper Ray, Skipper Mock and Eddie Curry stand out. Gilbert Vela's retired and now has a big fast boat with flames painted on it that he rockets around with tourists by the causeway. BC

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from 175rltw wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

passionate teacher of the art. able to find fish and no what to feed them. story teller. These are all pretty key and of course being able to row. I used to guide in my down time and I was always pumped to find out exactly what kind of experience a guy was looking for and challenge myself to provide it. You want a casual float- can do, how about lets pack in 7 miles on an overnighter for native brookies in the smokies or wild rainbows in the cohutta, sure sounds great. I learned as much about what makes fishermna tick as I ever taught about catching trout. In my view a guide dhould seem basically like a fishing buddy ( a ringer perhaps, but a regula fishing buddy nevetheless)

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from fflutterffly wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I feel a great guide has the ability to not only match the hatch but the client as well. Not the other way around. Many guides feel that they can just be grumpy asses and if a client doesn't like it... tough. The most successful guide I know understands the personality of the client and changes the way they instruct, communicates and challenges. Their love for the art, sport and education comes out in what ever skin they are in, transfers these traits without even letting the other person know they have just been given all the 411 they need to excel.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rob wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

If the group of surly low-holers that I see float by every day are an indication of guides and their skill level, their clients are screwed. Flop the bobber out and row away, boat after boat after boat. See another boat coming, elbows and arseholes to scramble in the boat to be in front. Boat after boat after boat........
Never waving or smiling, slumped over at the oars - I'm sure their are some great ones out there, that want their clients to learn how to cast, how to mend, how to appreciate the day. If I ever run across one, that isn't just enamored with #'s of fish boated and the size of the tip at the end of the day, I'll let you know.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from CheckURFly wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I feel that if my guide is fishing he is not doing his job. Not instructing but fishing,first of all he should be looking after his clients. First for their saftey and second for their needs. It looks easy if you catch fish all day. The really hard days are when the fish are not playing fair, very few or no fish. If a client walks away feeling like they have had a good day or they really learned something. The guide has done his job no matter what kind of day it was.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Peter Fallon wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Kirk - I really appreciate your thoughts on guiding and a guide’s responsibilities because it makes me reflect on my work, my mission, my weaknesses and my strengths.

In the last two weeks I’ve had two clients come back to fish with me, carrying new rods and reels that they had purchased after their experience in my boat. They were ecstatic about their new set-ups. I found myself thinking “that’s they way it’s supposed to work” in reference to the relationship between tackle manufacturers, guides and consumers: guide chooses gear based on personal preference and experience (not based on best discount)…manufacturer helps get that gear into guides hands by offering discounts…consumer tries gear with guide then goes out and buys what they liked.

Well, as you so clearly pointed out, that’s not what it’s all about. The ultimate goal from the industry prospective shouldn’t be just to sell one more rod but to add one more dedicated, passionate participant to the sport (or a segment of the sport new to that angler.) If a guide succeeds in that mission than all of us reading this blog know how many rods that angler will buy over a lifetime of fishing. More importantly, that angler may teach their kids to fish, join a conservation organization, write a letter to state rep, buy out of state licenses and find fulfillment in being on the water.

I know I’m staying tuned to hear more about what you think about higher standards, higher expectations for the guiding industry.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gil Finn wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

You boys must have been on the upper colorado. They are crushing hoppers down here. Last Sunday yielded 6 eastsover 20inches (all hoppers).

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from countitandone wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Deeter, as far as topic selection...this is a great one!
*Guides who yell and scream~we become one time clients
*Guides who tell tales~see us again
*Guides who show us the "tough mend"~see us again
*Guides who MUST HAVE THE LAST WORD~never see us again
*Guides who become friends can fish with us anytime
Awaiting the inevitable KD vs. TR rematch...any chance we can see it on pay-per-view?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

My favorite guide always ends up being a good friend. Not only does he do his job, but he provides a good time along the way and makes the fishing trip a little more personal..

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from James Card wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Kirk,

As a guide I've asked myself the same question. Check out the F&S photo gallery "Life as Korea's Only Fly Fishing Guide." There I wrote:

"I've given an enormous amount of thought to what constitutes the proper role of a fishing guide. The end result of a few thousand hours of analysis is that a guide should be the best fishing partner you ever had. He's the guy that gives you some helpful pointers on casting, lends a hand scrambling over greasy rocks, makes a decent sandwich, advises you on presentation and fly selection and reminds you-often many times-to stay low so the fish do not see you. You have another set of eyeballs working with you to find fish, and you have another set of hands to help untangle the backcast you just threw into the willows.

Also, the role includes but not is limited to: a meteorologist, travel advisor, naturalist, fly casting instructor, medic, folklorist, handyman, Sherpa, and marriage counselor."

Best,

James

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from chadian wrote 4 years 36 weeks ago

capture your moment in history with the enduring leagacy of art. chad lavin studio. www.lavinstudio.com

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from texasfirst wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

What makes a guide great is that sort of unbelievable patience and cool-headedness. Bad guides, some really great anglers, yell and carry on like damnfools. The aces are the ones who talk about getting hooked in the ear and you can tell by the way they tell the story they thought it mildly amusing, even at the time...

In the lower Laguna Madre, Skipper Ray, Skipper Mock and Eddie Curry stand out. Gilbert Vela's retired and now has a big fast boat with flames painted on it that he rockets around with tourists by the causeway. BC

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

My favorite guide was just one of the guys. In other words, if you didn't know I hired him then you would think he was just the buddy that did all the work.

My worse guide was pushy and worked hard to get the numbers of fish he wanted. I'm really not the type of person who counts how many fish I catch.

As for your tie, I think Tim should be rewarded for fishing a steamer all day while you had all the fun watching fish explode on your hopper. Nothings more boring than stripping streamers.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ggmack wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

the best guide i ever had was a team of 10-20 guys. they are all retired from their jobs and they fish up the inlet every morning. there are retired principals, lawyers, doctors, grownskeepers, and engineers.

they break every morning at 7 am for coffee. they break wether they are bailing them in or they are getting skunked.

I had the pleasure of growning up around them. i am the fishermen and outdoorsman i am today because of them.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from anselmo wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

This leads to a favourite question: Should a guide fish when out with paying clients?

My view is no - unless showing a specific cast/mend etc

There is nothing worse than a guide who fishes all day long - in fact anyone who does that does not qualify as a guide IMHO

Definition: n.

- One who shows the way by leading, directing, or advising.
- One who serves as a model for others, as in a course of conduct.
- A person employed to conduct others, as through a museum, and give information about points of interest encountered.
- Something, such as a pamphlet, that offers basic information or instruction: a shopper's guide. e.g. A guidebook.
- Something that serves to direct or indicate.
- A device, such as a ruler, tab, or bar, that serves as an indicator or acts to regulate a motion or operation.

Just my opinion and worth what you paid for it ;-)

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 175rltw wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

passionate teacher of the art. able to find fish and no what to feed them. story teller. These are all pretty key and of course being able to row. I used to guide in my down time and I was always pumped to find out exactly what kind of experience a guy was looking for and challenge myself to provide it. You want a casual float- can do, how about lets pack in 7 miles on an overnighter for native brookies in the smokies or wild rainbows in the cohutta, sure sounds great. I learned as much about what makes fishermna tick as I ever taught about catching trout. In my view a guide dhould seem basically like a fishing buddy ( a ringer perhaps, but a regula fishing buddy nevetheless)

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from fflutterffly wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I feel a great guide has the ability to not only match the hatch but the client as well. Not the other way around. Many guides feel that they can just be grumpy asses and if a client doesn't like it... tough. The most successful guide I know understands the personality of the client and changes the way they instruct, communicates and challenges. Their love for the art, sport and education comes out in what ever skin they are in, transfers these traits without even letting the other person know they have just been given all the 411 they need to excel.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rob wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

If the group of surly low-holers that I see float by every day are an indication of guides and their skill level, their clients are screwed. Flop the bobber out and row away, boat after boat after boat. See another boat coming, elbows and arseholes to scramble in the boat to be in front. Boat after boat after boat........
Never waving or smiling, slumped over at the oars - I'm sure their are some great ones out there, that want their clients to learn how to cast, how to mend, how to appreciate the day. If I ever run across one, that isn't just enamored with #'s of fish boated and the size of the tip at the end of the day, I'll let you know.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from CheckURFly wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

I feel that if my guide is fishing he is not doing his job. Not instructing but fishing,first of all he should be looking after his clients. First for their saftey and second for their needs. It looks easy if you catch fish all day. The really hard days are when the fish are not playing fair, very few or no fish. If a client walks away feeling like they have had a good day or they really learned something. The guide has done his job no matter what kind of day it was.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Peter Fallon wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Kirk - I really appreciate your thoughts on guiding and a guide’s responsibilities because it makes me reflect on my work, my mission, my weaknesses and my strengths.

In the last two weeks I’ve had two clients come back to fish with me, carrying new rods and reels that they had purchased after their experience in my boat. They were ecstatic about their new set-ups. I found myself thinking “that’s they way it’s supposed to work” in reference to the relationship between tackle manufacturers, guides and consumers: guide chooses gear based on personal preference and experience (not based on best discount)…manufacturer helps get that gear into guides hands by offering discounts…consumer tries gear with guide then goes out and buys what they liked.

Well, as you so clearly pointed out, that’s not what it’s all about. The ultimate goal from the industry prospective shouldn’t be just to sell one more rod but to add one more dedicated, passionate participant to the sport (or a segment of the sport new to that angler.) If a guide succeeds in that mission than all of us reading this blog know how many rods that angler will buy over a lifetime of fishing. More importantly, that angler may teach their kids to fish, join a conservation organization, write a letter to state rep, buy out of state licenses and find fulfillment in being on the water.

I know I’m staying tuned to hear more about what you think about higher standards, higher expectations for the guiding industry.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gil Finn wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

You boys must have been on the upper colorado. They are crushing hoppers down here. Last Sunday yielded 6 eastsover 20inches (all hoppers).

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from countitandone wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Deeter, as far as topic selection...this is a great one!
*Guides who yell and scream~we become one time clients
*Guides who tell tales~see us again
*Guides who show us the "tough mend"~see us again
*Guides who MUST HAVE THE LAST WORD~never see us again
*Guides who become friends can fish with us anytime
Awaiting the inevitable KD vs. TR rematch...any chance we can see it on pay-per-view?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

My favorite guide always ends up being a good friend. Not only does he do his job, but he provides a good time along the way and makes the fishing trip a little more personal..

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from James Card wrote 4 years 37 weeks ago

Kirk,

As a guide I've asked myself the same question. Check out the F&S photo gallery "Life as Korea's Only Fly Fishing Guide." There I wrote:

"I've given an enormous amount of thought to what constitutes the proper role of a fishing guide. The end result of a few thousand hours of analysis is that a guide should be the best fishing partner you ever had. He's the guy that gives you some helpful pointers on casting, lends a hand scrambling over greasy rocks, makes a decent sandwich, advises you on presentation and fly selection and reminds you-often many times-to stay low so the fish do not see you. You have another set of eyeballs working with you to find fish, and you have another set of hands to help untangle the backcast you just threw into the willows.

Also, the role includes but not is limited to: a meteorologist, travel advisor, naturalist, fly casting instructor, medic, folklorist, handyman, Sherpa, and marriage counselor."

Best,

James

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from chadian wrote 4 years 36 weeks ago

capture your moment in history with the enduring leagacy of art. chad lavin studio. www.lavinstudio.com

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

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