The Virtues of a Guide   1 comment

I’ve been a guided client a few times in my life. I never thought much about how the guide felt during the experience. A guide’s job is to shepherd you through an activity that they know a great deal about, not only teaching you how to do it, but also going a step further to make sure that you are actually having some success while under their tutelage.

What I mean by this is, if you haven’t done something before, you will obviously need to learn a bit about it before you can do it, unless you’re bungee jumping, I suppose. Not much learning there, I wouldn’t think.

Bungee jumping is an easy thing to do successfully, even if you’ve never strapped in to a bungee cord before. The “guide” who shepherds you through the bungee jumping process does arguably half the job of a fishing guide or mountaineering guide.


A newly-made fly fisherman, learning to cast to a dinner plate-sized target.

A newly-made fly fisherman, learning to cast to a dinner plate-sized target.


A fishing guide must show the client how to approach the water, how to cast, where to cast, what to use, how to adjust, and on and on, all the while working his damnedest to find the fish and get them to take the fly so the client can feel successful.

Last November when Stephen Rose and I went up to the Brule and hired Tim Pearson as a guide to show us how to fish for Steelhead, I was generally satisfied to understand the what and the how. I was hoping to catch a fish, but it wasn’t something I expected. If I were to learn the ways of fishing for Steelhead I knew I could return year after year and put that knowledge to use to have success.

But Tim had a serious look of relief when both Stephen and I had each caught a fish. And now I understand why.


A cold water spring dumping out of the hillside in Iowa County, Wisconsin

A cold water spring dumping out of the hillside in Iowa County, Wisconsin


Showing Eric the ways of spring creek fly fishing on Saturday, I was happy with the job I did teaching him the “how”. I believe he could go out and gear up, hit the water, and make casts to likely holding lies. And if you do that enough, you’ll catch a fish.

I really, really wish I could have gotten a fish onto Eric’s line, but it didn’t happen. I’ve heard stories of clients who were angry with their guides when the didn’t feel like they got their quota of fish. I can’t imagine how I’d handle a client who acted that way, but I know that’s what paying clients expect from a day out with a fishing guide. That’s a big reason for hiring the guide.

Eric was a model client, and I really appreciated that. There was not a hint of blame from him, indeed just the opposite. He showed an appreciation and new knowledge for the challenges of spring creek fly fishing. Eric can do what he pleases with the skills and knowledge he picked up on Saturday. Hopefully the skunking won’t deter him from trying for trout another day.

As for me, I can’t say I’m longing for another chance to be a guide. It was a pleasant day out with a new friend, but I can see how a fisherman who turns his hobby into a job by becoming a guide might start to have mixed feelings about fishing. I plan to get out and teach others to fish, and hopefully more often than not, we’ll get some fish on that line of theirs.


Eric executing a nice roll cast to waiting trout.

Eric executing a nice roll cast to waiting trout.



One response to “The Virtues of a Guide

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  1. Welcome to the club

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