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The Ultimate Guide to A Good Guided Fishing Trip

It sounds like a horrible trip but despite all that, the fishing was great and I genuinely had a good time. My easy-going attitude offset some of the guide’s shortcomings. But, could I have been more prepared? Asked more questions leading into the trip? Well, every guided day or trip is different, but here are a few pointers to help you get the most out of your guide. I’ve been on both sides of the guiding coin. I’m a freshwater guide in New South Wales and I’ve also been the client on guided trips all over the world. One thing I’ve learnt is the success of a trip doesn’t always depend on the actual fish caught. Some of my favourite trips have involved some very tough fishing, while with others, the fishing was fantastic but at the end of the day, I was left wanting. The difference? Often it was the guide and what I was prepared for. 


BEFORE THE GUIDED DAY

With that in mind, here are few suggestions to help ensure you have a great guided day, starting with well before you are anywhere near the water. 

Choosing Your Guide 

Step one is choosing the right guide; including the one that’s right for you. There are a number of factors to consider:

Insurance and Safety

A professional guide will carry the right insurances, and have the most up-todate knowledge of the area you are fishing. Plenty of anglers might like to call themselves guides, but if they’re not properly insured, steer clear. If your guide is always insisting you pay cash then there’s a good chance they aren’t insured or running a legitimate business. It’s best practice for guides to carry first-aid kits, have up-to-date first aid training, and if they operate in more remote areas, to carry an EPIRB. It can’t hurt to enquire about these things. 

Regular or Occasional Guide? 

All other things being equal, a guide who spends a number of days a week on the water has a higher likelihood of getting you onto fish than a once or twice a month guide. This becomes very evident if the conditions are unfavourable on your trip. Guides who are out there a lot will have a backup plan during floods, changing wind conditions, clear skies or overcrowded locations. And because busy guides are likely to be guiding a range of different anglers, they are more adept at matching the right water with the angler’s skills. If their website looks like it was made in the 1980s or you haven’t seen them post a client photo on their social media in a while, then it may have been a long time between guiding drinks – or they may be work - ing so hard, they have neither the time nor need to update it! 

Personality

Consider your guide’s personality. You will be spending many hours or even days with them, so regardless of the fishing & catching, it’s important that you two get along! Referrals and re - peat clients are one way to assess this, although you still should try to match your particular temperament and approach with your guide. Would you like a guide who wants to hunt down as many fish as possible while scarcely drawing breath, or would you rather spend the day with someone with a more relaxed attitude? Neither is right or wrong, but it does help to match up if possible. Some things should be non-ne - gotiable though. All guides should have patience, delight in sharing in the client's successes and ensure the client comes first. If you sense your would-be guide might not have these attributes, look elsewhere.

Experience and Communication 

How long has the guide been flyfishing and guiding? And if you want to learn from them, then they need to be effective communicators. Do they return your calls and respond to your emails? Many guides are busy and are hopefully out fishing the majority of the time, but it is still okay to expect a certain standard of response when organising your trip.

Guide and Client Preparation

Once you’ve chosen your guide, then preparation plays a huge part in the success of your trip. Let’s assume your guide supplies you with all the required information: where to meet; what time; and what to bring according to the weather. As a client, there are several preparations which can help to make the day more enjoyable for yourself and your guide. 

Travel and Accommodation 

Depending on where your guided day is, you will need to take into considera - tion travel time, with the possible need to book some accommodation before or after the day. Will you feel like a two hour drive after you’ve been hiking and fishing all day? Or would you prefer to be in front of a warm fire, glass of wine in hand, looking at pictures of your catch? Even for day trips, booking local accommodation can often be a great decision. 

Gear and Equipment

Carefully read the guide’s pre trip in - formation including gear recommenda - tions and flies. Determine beforehand whether or not they provide flies and if there’s more than one of you being guided, bring your own recommend - ed spares anyway in case you need to change or re-rig while the guide is looking after your partner. If you need an excuse to buy some new fishing gear then now is your chance! Clothing is massively important, so if the guiding operation doesn’t provide it, find out exactly what you need in terms of staying warm or cool, staying dry, sun protection, insect protection and waders/ wading boots. Never sec - ond guess this – a sunny day in Sydney is no guarantee it’s not snowing around Oberon. Sunstroke or hypothermia are both sure ways to ruin a good day.

Casting 

The best advice I can give any flyfish - er before a trip is to spend some time practising your cast. Unless you’re a first-time flyfisher, chances are you know the basic elements of casting. It might have been six months since you dusted off the fly rod, but if you want to get the most out of your guided day, set aside some time to prepare before - hand, and re-familiarise yourself with casting. If you are investing in an overseas fishing trip then this is even more important. And it may even be worth taking some local fly casting lessons before you leave. If you’ve spent a lot of money on an exotic trip, ideally you want to spend hours catching fish, not working on your cast. No one ever regrets improving their casting and it can be the difference between catching your dream fish and catching not much at all. By all means expect your guide to offer helpful tweaks and adjustments to your cast though – a few on-the-wa - ter tips are handy for all of us!


BEFORE A TRIP... SPEND SOME TIME PRACTISING YOUR CAST.


Managing Expectations 

One of the most important skills a good guide can have is the ability to manage expectations. 

Angler Skill Level 

Correct expectation is assisted by the client honestly rating their skill level as best they can. As a fellow angler, I un - derstand that honesty is not always our strong point! However, learning to rate your ability is the best way to improve it. Communicating clearly with your guide what you want to learn from the day and what you think your skills are – describing your experience and casting ability – allows the guide to craft a day that suits you best. Some rivers or lakes may be very technical, and more suited to an ad - vanced angler. If you mistakenly overrate yourself, it may lead to a frustrating day for both angler and guide. 

Guiding Hours

Another useful thing to consider is how long your guided day is likely to be. Is your guide charging top dollar for a 6 hour day, or is it more like 10 hours? There may be good reasons why the guide needs you to be out of the gorge while there’s still plenty of daylight; or you may find a guide who wants to fish into the twilight (assuming you’re not too exhausted by then)! Once again, there are no set rules for what’s right and wrong in terms of hours but it helps a lot if you know what to expect before you’ve paid your deposit. On one particular overseas trip, I hired one of the most expensive guides in the area. He picked me up at 8am, and by 3.30pm (after some ad - mittedly great captures) he chimed in, “Okay, let’s go.” “Another river?” I asked, assuming there was no way we could be finishing this early. “No, we’re finished for the day.” I felt cheated. Having paid for the most expensive guide in the area, I certainly did not expect to finish the day at 3.30pm, with at least a few more hours of daylight (and fishing!) Was this all his fault? Maybe I should have asked more questions at the booking stage. 

Locations You Can Return to Unguided? 

This is an important point: if you are after places you can return to on your own, tell the guide beforehand. On big, popular waters such as the Ton - gariro River or Lake Eucumbene, this shouldn’t be a problem. But on a small, fragile creek, it probably is. Either way, use your judgement and respect the location the guide may have taken you to. Perhaps it’s a less - er-known location, and they’d prefer it’s not blasted all over social media with the GPS coordinates. One day’s fishing for you in their special spot holds much less value to you than it does to the guide, who may return to that area sev - eral times over a season. Consider that you may never have known about that location unless they took you there, so if you plan to return or pass on information, check with your guide first. This will lead to them trusting you as a client and continually taking you back to their best and most secret fishing spots! If I notice that a client is tracking every road on the GPS of their phone, this doesn’t inspire me to take them to my favourite, most unknown locations. 

Release or Keep?

Many if not most guided flyfishing op - erations these days encourage or even insist on catch-and-release, irrespective of official regulations for the area. How - ever, a good guide will normally en - courage you to take some nice photos of your catch and assist in the process. Most of my clients will bring a camera, but I also take plenty of pics over the day too.If you do want to keep a fish or two, be sure to be very clear about this when making your initial enquiries. At the very least, this is likely to limit the locations the guide is happy to take you to and it may actually be a deal-breaker, so it makes sense to get that sorted out well before any trip. 

Remember, You’re Hunting a Wild Animal in the Outdoors

When it comes to expectations, it’s important to remember that your guide is not a magician. With my own guiding, it’s very rare to have a day where no fish are landed, and extremely rare that a fish isn’t at least hooked, lost or missed. Nevertheless, part of the thrill of the sport is also its downfall. Fish are unpredictable and just like us, they can have a bad day. Unfortunately hiring a guide can’t guarantee you a fish, but at the very least it should guarantee that you’ll learn a lot, and learn it much faster than you could have on your own. An appropriate expectation is that your guide will take you directly to the areas that match best with your skill level and give you the best chances of catching a fish – but without absolute certainty of the latter. 

ON THE DAY 

So you’ve met up with your guide and you’re finally on the water. What next? 


Listening

It might be stating the obvious, but listening to your guide is one of the most important elements of a successful day. After all, if you’ve followed the first part of this article, you should now be with a guide who is worth listening to! I once guided a husband and wife on my local trout streams, and the difference in their results at the end of the day was striking. The husband was a very decent fisherman, but had no experience in the area. The wife understood the basic casting principles, but was happy to admit she knew very little about fishing itself. The tally at the end of the day was four fish for the wife, and just one for the husband. The difference? The wife listened to everything I had to say, following my instructions to the best of her ability. The husband on the other hand would listen, but then change tactics after a minute or so, returning to what he thought had worked best for him in the past.

Keep Up 

Following your guide is also important. A good guide will judge your fitness, or ask you at the start of the day, so they can adjust their speed walking around the lake or up the river accordingly. Do your best to keep up with them in order to see what they see, and hear what they hear. When your guide says, “Okay, let’s move on,” they are doing so because their experience tells them nothing is happening in that spot and it’s time to find more likely water or more willing fish. Instead of making another cast, and snagging another fly in the tree, wind up your line and keep close. Good guides know their environment, the fish and the location. The closer you are to them throughout the day, the more you will learn. 

Trust Your Guide 

A few years back, I took a client to one of my favourite sections of the Fish River, west of the Blue Mountains. I know this stretch of river well and can almost name all of the bigger trout that live there. I know every pool, every log and the behaviour of the fish in those pools. However, on this particular day there was a hot, bright sun with not a cloud in the sky. I knew the fish were there, but that they might not appear until the sun went down. Despite seeing nothing all day, my client trusted my knowledge of the river. And his trust was well rewarded when finally, at 6.30pm, the fish began to show. He landed three fish between 3½ and 4 pounds, with another dropped after a good fight. Had he given up and lost trust, we may have left early and missed those memorable moments. You often pay good money for a guide, so listen to them, follow them, and trust them. 

AFTER THE DAY 

Your guided day is done. You learnt a bunch of new skills, and even managed to land a few great fish. Guide and client are both happy. If you liked your day out, stay in touch with your guide. Let them know what you learnt and what you enjoyed. The best guides will go above and beyond to give you a good experience. If it’s been a tough day they’ll stay out til dark, beyond their usual hours. They’ll answer your questions via email, even weeks after the paid exchange of the guided day. They’ll help you find the right gear when you’re next shopping for equipment; and they’ll recommend flies and locations for your next trip, even if it doesn’t include them. A Google search for your next guide is easy. But maybe it’s worth digging a little deeper to get the most for your money. Ask as many questions as you can, and listen even more. A good guide is worth every dollar for those who make the most of the opportunity

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