Ah, spring. That wonderful time of year, when the rivers crest with snowmelt, and the byways and river towns of the American West experience that special phenomenon we affectionately call the “guide hatch.” The guide hatch is an annual migration of sorts, when a fresh crop of peach-fuzz-bearded newbies pours forth from eastern universities, hell-bent on applying those liberal arts educations to the most noble of all professions: being a trout guide. I am often asked by “hatchlings” what the secrets to successful guiding are. Not being a successful guide myself, I have scant few answers. But I have at least learned from experience 10 things not to say to clients on a guide trip. I offer these nuggets of wisdom as a public service to those intrepid young souls, who at this very moment are beating a hot path westward in an overstuffed Volkswagen with a used kayak duct-taped to its roof …

Do not say:

Man, Dude, Bro, Holmes, Chief, Buster, or Cuz to a total stranger. (Female client no-no’s include, Toots, Honey, Sugar, Baby, and Doll.”)

“Hey, nice polarized glasses…did you steal those from Elton John?”

“Maybe you should try the next cast with your dominant hand.”

“Nice fish, pretty colors.” Ever.

“This is where Tripper found the corpse.”

“Sweet!” more than 74 times in one 8-hour float.

“Wiggle that a few more times, the knot might come out.”

“Wow, your daughter is hot,” unless you know for sure she’s his wife, and he’ll take that as a compliment.

“How much are you thinking about tipping me?”

“Holy crap, I bet you’ve never caught a fish like that before!” Even if it’s not meant as commentary on their fishing skills.