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With the fly fishing season kicking into high gear, many a budding newbie fishing guide is literally getting his (or her) feet wet in what might really be the world’s second oldest profession. As such, I offer the following advice as a public service. (All of these foot- in-mouth, tip-quashing comments were indeed spoken by guides I know at one point or another. I’m withholding names to protect the stupid.)

10. “It’s really nice that you and your mom like to fish together.” (Hint, ensure that “Mom” isn’t really client’s wife of 35 years before saying that.)

9. “Wait… I have the fish in the shot, but I need to back up a few steps to get all of YOU in the picture.”

8. “Darn… same tuna sandwiches as two days ago… wait a minute… these ARE the tuna sandwiches I left in my truck two days ago.” (If you’re going to say this, do so before the third bite.)

7. Guide: “You cast like Mozart.” Client: “A Maestro!?!” Guide: “No, a dead guy.”

6. “Wow… nice sunglasses… did you borrow them from Elton John?”

5. “Don’t worry… everyone has trouble catching fish on their first day.” (Hint #2, ensure client doesn’t average 40 trips on the river a year, and isn’t fishing with you on day 6 of a Rocky Mountain dream vacation.)

4. “Hold my beer while I net this fish for you.”

3. “Got any more flies? I’m saving my last few hot patterns for a buddy I’m fishing with tomorrow.” (Again… these are true comments… I actually heard a guide say this, and then later complain to me that he got stiffed on a tip.)

2. Client, after fish sinks strike indicator like it was flushed down a toilet: “Did a fish eat that fly?” Guide: “Yes, but he also pooped it out… you’re that slow.” (Actually, under certain circumstances, an aspiring guide should say this… the point is usually well taken.)

1. Client (a jerk) with 20-inch trout thrashing at the end of his line: “What should I do to land this fish now?” Guide: “Dunno… after fishing with you all day, I’m rooting for the trout.” (I might actually be guilty of this particular infraction… it’s a long, complicated story…)

You might note that I left one simple phrase off the list… “I don’t know.” Because the truly seasoned and self-confident guide is never afraid to tell the truth. And the real truth is, even the best guide doesn’t have all the answers all the time. “I don’t know, but I’ll do my best to figure it out,” or “I don’t know, but we won’t get beat for lack of effort” goes a heck of a lot further in my book than do B.S. bravado and cheap theories. The water never lies. Nor do the fish. No matter what, a guide shouldn’t either.

Deeter

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