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Fisherman aren’t created equal and some are born to be on the water daily. Most guides I know didn’t choose the path of guiding, but hours, days and months on the water turned the obsession into a career of sharing the experience with others. My experience is that a person decides to go with a guide after numerous strike-outs. When they are filled with doubt and frustration… then they decide to seek a professional to show them the secrets.  Others simply lack the time it takes to become intimate with the water and species they seek. If you’ve ever wondered if you should go fishing with a guide or not, here are some guide perspectives to consider.

photo courtesy of - Matt Shaw

Capt David Magnum making a run.

Captain David Mangum was born and raised in Florida and has spent the better part of 40 years fishing the region’s local waters for Tarpon and Redfish. David’s passion for fishing was cultivated from a young age, and through the years he has witnessed the evolution of the fisheries on the Panhandle.  He breathes the salt on a daily basis. He confesses that when you travel to saltwater destinations, most people have limited time and a boat is a necessity to get to some of the best fishing.

“A professional is going to give you the parameters needed and increase your success rate for catching a Tarpon.”  Like all professional guides, David studies the tides, migration patterns, weather patterns and is obsessed with the Tarpon he chases. It takes years of experience to gain the knowledge of and to understand the patterns of Tarpon.  Unless you have the time to submerse yourself in the endeavor of catching a Silver King, the best use of your time is to go with an expert.

photo courtesy of - Marty Sheppard

Marty Sheppard holds a steelhead for client Rob.

Marty Sheppard owns Little Creek Outfitters and was raised on the banks of the Sandy River in Oregon. As a child, he caught his first steelhead at the age of 5. Fascinated with steelhead ever since, he has spent his life mastering the skill of swinging flies with a double handed rod. Marty admits “People will go years without catching a steelhead and finally decide to go with me to figure out the secrets.” To be a steelheader you have to submerse yourself in the lifecycle and the culture and give up on girls and late nights out.

Steelheading isn’t just about catching; it’s about the people, the flies and the rivers that create our sport. A good guide is going to know about the history of the rivers and teach you how to fish it.  Fishing the same river, doing the same floats, for many years in a row, allows one to become intimate with the resource. Each run has a story to tell at certain water levels. Temperatures and subtle timing play a part in the plan that is laid out each day. Different conditions call for different plans. All great guides have a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C, built for the changing environment. A good guide is going to share stories, teach techniques and give you the best advice based on the conditions that day.

Alice Owsley owner of Riverside Anglers had a fly rod in hand at the age of 8 and has been hunting for any fish that will take a fly from the Rocky Mountains to the coast of Florida. Through 13 years of guiding winter ‘snow coach’ trips in Yellowstone National Park, Alice has accumulated a wealth of knowledge about the Park’s history, unique geology and animal habits. She transfers that knowledge to her fishing trips.

Alice explains; “Some of my clients book me year after year because we share the same passion. I know they have a map of the waters of Yellowstone on their office wall and they have a list of the type of water they want to fish on their vacation every summer. They love catching native cutthroat in their home waters and hiking miles into the backcountry, chasing pools full of dry-fly-eating brook trout. These clients will hire me for trips to Yellowstone because they know I am on the water almost every day and can help them maximize their vacation time. There’s always one afternoon while hiking out that we discuss where we should fish next year.”

Going with a guide builds a relationship with someone that is just as passionate as you are about fishing. When a trout is turned onto a hatch or a Tarpon is on a ball of bait you, forget about the sandwich in the cooler or the cellphone ringing and enjoy the rise. You build a bond that creates a lifetime friendship.

Good guides can handle all kinds of stressful situations!

photo courtesy of - Alice Owsley

Alice holds a cutthroat for a client

When I asked David, Marty and Alice if they had any open dates the response was similar, “the same clients have been coming back for years and dates are limited.” This is a sign of a respected guide and people are having a good time. In the end, whether you catch a fish or not, you create a friendship and gain valuable, local knowledge maximizing the time you have.  Going with a guide is worth every dollar.

How to choose a guide.

Research; do your homework. There are a lot of “Insta” experts out there these days.

Word of mouth.  Reputation plays a big role.

Professional guides have websites. They portray a certain image through this format. What is important to you? Look for specific clues that match your style. Photos tell the story.

Send an email or make a phone call. Don’t be disappointed if they don’t get back to you right away or their inbox is full. It sometimes takes a day or two to get in communication with the good ones. They are likely on the water all day (and the next and next) and out of the range of electronics.

Quality of communication. Spend a day on the water with someone who resembles fishing with a good friend.

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