I just had the chance to fish for steelhead on the Salmon River in upstate New York with others from the Field & Stream team, including Joe Cermele, Colin Kearns, and illustrator Mike Sudal. Quite an interesting contrast from my last steelheading adventure on the Dean, to say the least. I'll have plenty more to say on all of this later, but the initial impressions I took away were that the water itself surprised me in its beauty and complexity, and the fish themselves were bigger, brighter, and far tougher than I expected them to be.
I also came away with a deep respect of guide and Salmon River guru Gary Edwards (above). I had heard of Gary before, but it was a real treat to fish with the guy. He's definitely in the elite level. And it all boils down to the two factors I think set the best of the best guides apart from everyone else: patience and adaptability.
Interestingly, I find that the best guides I know often come from places where the rivers get crowded. The Salmon River is certainly in that category. Like Cheesman Canyon in Colorado, or the Bighorn in Montana, and more and more places.
When I fish with a guide who complains about the crowds, I worry. If I fish with a guy (or gal) who knows how to work around 50 drift boats or 60 walk-waders, and still produce results, color me impressed. If they are able to do so with a calm demeanor, that smacks of even more confidence.
In the guide world, it's pretty easy to tell the difference between who has the goods and "all smoke and no fire."
The best I know, whether they work in busy rivers, or in wide open spaces, are almost always, ALWAYS low key. Joe Demaldaris on the Delaware. Tim Linehan on the Kootenai. Terry Gunn at Lees Ferry. Pat Dorsey on the South Platte.