Perspectives: A Girl's Guide

You may have to prove yourself. But so does he.

Field & Stream Online Editors

For a woman, fishing with a guide is like going on a blind date. You'll either hit it off immediately or know your day is doomed from the start. A good number of guides (most of whom are men) don't believe women should be wasting their time at all. They have not seen many who are really interested in the sport; most of their experience has involved wives who tag along with their husbands -- few with great enthusiasm.

But even women who are serious about fishing usually have to prove themselves to a guide. If a woman falls short of his expectations, she may be bullied, sneered at, or ignored. To be fair, men are also subjected to the same test, but they usually don't care if they pass or fail. They have confidence in themselves as fishermen, something most women do not possess because they lack the same amount of experience that many men have.

Knowing all this, is it worth hiring a guide if you're a woman? Only if you want to catch fish. Why spend hours or days checking out new water when a guide will have you on fish almost immediately, especially if your time is limited? Why risk ruining your partner's vacation by being dependent on him to get you out of trouble? Yes, a guide is an expensive baby-sitter, but he has the potential to turn a dubious beginner into an enthusiastic fishing partner.

Some guides do understand the difference between male and female anglers, which is (to greatly simplify) that a woman can be satisfied with one perfect fish on a perfect day, while a man generally needs to catch many, regardless of whether the whole experience is pleasant or not.

I have hooked two truly huge fish in two different locations -- with two different results. The first was a king salmon in Alaska, where the guide yelled, "Hook 'im!" and promptly ripped the rod out of my hand to set the hook. He then returned the rod to me and let me crank in the only king salmon I will probably ever catch. The setting was perfect, and the fish was outstanding, but it was not mine, even though I landed it. Would the guide ever have thought to do such a thing if my husband had been holding that rod?

The second fish was hooked (by me) and heading for the bottom of a very deep lake in Maine. The rod was bent at an alarming angle, and I was hanging on for dear life. When my guide quietly suggested I adjust the drag, I reached down and realized I didn't know which way to turn the knob. In that one second of uncertainty (okay, stupidity), I gave the fish, most likely a huge togue, just the slack it needed to break off. I hooked it, played it, and lost it. My husband and the guide said nothing, and although I admit to turning the air blue, I had no one to blame but myself.

You can guess which of those fish I remember with fondness and which guide I will forever be grateful to.

So, what does a woman want from a guide? And what should a guide have the right to count on from a female angler?

For my part, I expect:

1. The guide will know where the fish are and get me within reach of them.

2. He will keep his hands off my gear unless I yell for help.

3. He will teach me, in advance, what I need to know.

4. He will not yell at or belittle me.

5. He will put up with my inexperience and never give up on me.

6. He will not assume I am less than serious about fishing just because I want to watch a loon when the fish are biting.

7. He will not spend the day talking to my husband and ignoring me as if I were an appendage growing out of my spouse's back.

8. He will keep me safe and help me enjoy fishing.

In return, a guide is entitled to the following from me:

1. When he teaches, I will listen.

2. What he teaches, I will do, to the best of my ability.

3. I will treat him as a valuable consultant, not a servant.

4. I wwill care for any gear I borrow and repair or replace anything I break or lose.

5. I will not blame him if the fish aren't biting or I'm not capable of catching them.

6. I will try to be focused, even if the leaves are just perfect or a moose is on the opposite shore.

7. I will be as tough as I need to be, walk for as long as I can, and remain cheerful.

8. When he tells me I've done well, I will believe him.