There are many reasons why people end up doing what they do
for a living, in my case it was meant to be and it was in my blood. As with
most of us you learn your love for fishing from your father and grandfather,
but even with my love of fishing I never knew that there was a way to make a
living out of it one day. So while studying (probably more part time, because
of fishing), I met one of our previous Directors of FlyCastaway, while on
holiday at the coast. After telling me what he does for a living, there was no
doubt in my mind what I was going to do and I wanted to do it immediately. He
told me what steps I needed to follow to become a successful guide and I got
right to it. I made sure I finished my Degree and soon after my studies I
headed to London for a working holiday. I managed to get the job at Farlows,
learned as much as I could about the fishing industry for a year. Out of the blue I got a phone call from one of
the guys at Flycastaway and the rest is history! I have now guided full time for 8 years; in
the outer Atolls of the Seychelles (Cosmoledo, Farquhar, Providence, Astove,
Assumption), St Brandon’s, 5 years in Norway, Mongolia and extensively throughout
Africa and South Africa. Last year I
ended up guiding 320 days solid! I would
not recommend that to any guide, rest is very important!
Being in the fortunate position to guide at the best and most remote places on earth, you get to guide people from all over the world. It’s essential to remember that you are guiding very successful people in their industry, as these trips are expensive. Lets be honest here, guys that can afford other people to take them fishing and guide them are normally quite wealthy and successful. Most of the time these people are very busy and do not always get time to practice as much as we would love them too. So first of all, you can never be upset with your client if he can’t always make the cast and you might have to give him some pointers or even casting tuition. This is a very painful thing to take, especially when you have the golden opportunity for a trophy fish and it disappears into the distance because the cast was not made. I normally see it as a chance that was not meant to be - you will get that fish some day. To make your client feel good about the situation you tell him better luck next time. Then you can cry yourself to sleep later that night! Remember if it were not for him then you would not be out there in the most beautiful office in the world. So on that point when a guy asks me what it takes to become a guide I would simply tell him the following:
A great guide can come back at the end of the day with his clients being happy, even having had a bad day fishing. People skills are the most important. As I said before, these clients are high profile, so make sure that you get to know them first before you start swearing and talking about the South Park episode that you watched last week. You need to stimulate them with an interesting conversation and always try and make them laugh. When the fishing is going well it is easy to keep your clients happy. Another aspect which is very important is being able to read the water. No matter where in the world you are, you must be able to see potential spots where the fish would be and thus also try to read and understand the fish - habitat, feeding patterns etc. Another very important thing that I see in great guides is a huge passion for fishing and nature. It is always great to see a new guide who is like a little kid - continuously asking questions and always eager to learn something new. What flies, What spots, How to...? Ultimately, hungry to learn! Remember in the sport of fishing you will never know it all. I don’t think that specific qualifications will make you become a great guide; it needs to be in your blood! Having also said that there are some great guide schools in the States, one being with Sweetwater Travel, which would just point your passion in the right direction. The rest is up to you and how much you want it.
The most important of all, is that you will have to except that your personal fishing has come to an end. As much as people would like to tell me that it is better showing a client first, so that he can visually see how to do it, I would disagree. I have never felt comfortable or enjoyed casting a line with a client. There is no better joy in my life is to see a client catch the fish of his dreams! The days that I get to fish with fellow guides are few and far between, but they are priceless! What we try and do with our clients is to prepare them for the fishing coming up on his trip. I would go through the species with them and what they should do in each situation, it is not always going to work perfectly, especially when you have a 100lb GT rushing up to you and all hell breaks loose, but be patient. Sometimes you can start slow, take them to a place where they can walk and spot fish easier. If I am in the Seychelles I would take them fishing for Bonefish over white sand. If the client has problems casting I would give him some tuition on the grass in front of the lodge and continuously help him throughout the trip. It does not help showing the client on the flats how you cast 90ft to smash a fish that he would never get anyway. Nothing is about you! So rather try and prepare him and try and position so that he can have a crack himself, like I said if he does not get it, it was not meant to be. If you catch the fish there will be no joy for him, you have given that fish an education (so next time he will be even harder to catch) and you will just make him feel that he does not have a chance to catch the fish. As much as they say it, no client wants to see his guide catch a fish.
Always go the extra mile. Even if you are having a bad day, do go back to the lodge early, always keep trying. I have had many days where we got a trophy fish right at the end, and that can flip your whole day around from a tough day to an awesome day! People very easily forget about the hard times when they get stuck into a good fish!
When the client manages to get that fish of their dreams, remember to make him feel like they have the skills of Lefty Kreg and just keep going all the time. There is no reason to come back to the lodge and tell everyone about how you got the client onto the fish. The guide will always be the unsung hero!
Not too long ago I also started filming on the flats. The shame about being a guide is that you can’t always explain to people what you see happen out there every day. It can be difficult guiding and filming, but I would normally make sure of the situation. How has the day been so far? Or can the client make the shot… Something that most of the clients appreciate is good picture and video, of the trophy fish! To be honest the many reason for my filming is that I would really like to get more people involved in fishing and get away for the stigma that it is only old, boring people that fish. So if I can one day create a movie where all ages of people can appreciate what we do and people can become aware of some of the crazy thing that fishing has to offer, I would be extremely happy!