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The value of a guide

By Don Allphin - | Jul 28, 2014

Much of my private fishing time these days is spent helping others learn to catch fish. Notice I didn’t say learn to “fish” but rather “catch fish.” There is a big difference. Most recreational anglers spend less than seven days a year on the water. That time is usually split into several half- or full-day trips or as snippets of time carved from family vacations with other things (besides fishing) on the agenda.

I realize that many of those that share my boat don’t really know how to jump right in and catch fish. So I gladly give them a “fisherman’s blessing,” which simply means I either let them use my tackle or I retie theirs and help them understand exactly what we are doing and how we will be catching our fish. It is far better to shorten the learning curve and begin catching fish versus struggling all day with poor equipment and tackle and “hoping” to catch fish. Much of what I know today has been learned from a series of great guides.

My father was my first guide. He taught me how to cast a fly line, to rig a fly and a bubble, and to understand which flies to use when and where. But the nugget of knowledge that stays with me and shines as brightly today as it did when he taught me is how to be an observer of Nature. He showed me how to analyze the water, the environment and the weather in order to make the best decisions as to how to approach each fishing day.

In Alaska, our family hired a guide to teach us how to catch king salmon. We have since hired guides for halibut, salmon, bass, tuna, ling cod and even walleyes. Our combined learning curve for the above-mentioned species was shortened by leaps and bounds, and without exception the money was very well spent. For us, guides turned the average into extraordinary.

Last Saturday evening I watched an episode of Hooked on Utah, a local fishing show hosted by my good friend Gary Winterton. He was filming a guided fishing trip on Flaming Gorge. Ashley Bonser, of Addictive Fishing, took Gary and a few family members on a kokanee salmon outing. The episode was priceless and showed just how exciting it is when children learn to fish at the feet of a guide. To a person, everyone in that boat was having the time of his life including Winterton. They learned how to rig the tackle specific to catching kokanees; they learned how deep to fish, how fast to troll, how to play the fish and how to net them. As Winterton put it, “These kids will remember this trip for the rest of their lives.”

Hiring a guide to help you teach your children to fish is not a bad idea … with a couple of rules thrown in for good measure.

First, do your research BEFORE hiring a guide. The Internet is a wonderful place to find reviews. You must find a guide that is comfortable teaching children to fish. I once watched from a nearby boat as a guide raised his voice to one of his clients for moving the fishing rod the wrong way while waiting for a strike from a large lake trout. Never pay good money to have your guide yell at you or your kids.

Next, choose to hire a guide when you have the best opportunity to catch fish. That means do your research and then ask your guide via email or by phone when is the best time of year to being fishing for your target species. Although catching fish is never a given, your chances improve immensely when the fish are biting and are in season.

A good guide can change your perspective about fishing, shorten your learning curve and can get your children hooked on fishing in very short order.

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