My reasons for guides are
- You pay a lot of money to travel to a fishing destination. You have read all the books, seen all the youtubes, heard all the stories and dream the dreams. If you have the time to explore, I suppose you will eventually find your way. If like me, you have limited time, a good guide will have options that suit your level of skill, and the weather. They will know where to go, what to use, and how to fish the water. If you are good enough, you may catch fish.
- At the Villages in Kiritimati it is expected that everyone pays for a guide whether they use them or not. This is a premier bonefish destination, and being a fishing guide is the most prestigious occupation. The guides earn only about A$5,000 per annum. This is their only form of income. Sure, their English is not so good, but they have tremendous eyes and can see the fish. They are also great fun if you relax and listen to the way they see the world. Your guiding fees support the community. If you are lucky enough and get to fish with head guide Eketi Tekaibo, and you are open to learning, you will learn more than you ever thought possible.
- A short story and the characters will remain nameless. Les has dreamt about catching a salmon in New Zealand for years. He asked me to go. The main rivers are the Rakaia, Rangitata, Waimakari and Hurunui near Christchurch. For those who have never been there, the Raikaia River is about 1km across and is a series of braids. My comment to Les was I did not want to go and wander aimlessly around the rivers hoping to find a salmon. We would probably still be walking. Salmon run the rivers at certain (read very uncertain) times and stop to rest in lies. Identifying where salmon will lay up or hold is local knowledge. So we engaged a guide friend of mine and he literally worked his butt off. The salmon were not running, and despite his better than best efforts we only saw one. So he took us to the Opihi and Tasman Rivers to catch brown trout. The Opihi was crystal clear and the fishing was superb. We put in a long day and fished the Tasman under Mount Cook..not so many fish but they were rewarding. Les’s comments on the last day after a few beers…”the guide will drive you to the spot, he will put you onto fish, he will advise the type of fly...but you have to be good enough to catch the fish”..and he wasn’t which prompted my previous articles on fly fishing. The guides frustration is just that…he can put you on the fish, but casting and catching the fish is up to you.
4. In many places you need a boat. Tarpon, redfish, dorado, bonefish, snakehead, giant gourami, permit, marlin, sailfish, and trevally all require a boat...so unless you have a boat, or access to a boat, you will need a guide with a boat. Fishing the Delger Moron and Onon rivers in Mongolia for taimen is best done by raft. Our distributor Yuruult (Yogi) is a superb guide based in Ulaanbaatar, he puts you into some amazing places. You camp along the river and raft about 50-80km down the river. Taimen (River Wolf) are an exciting top water fish.
During Covid I had a trip to Cape York in North Australia. A guide friend and I boated north and camped on the beaches. It was glamour weather and I boated 10 permit plus many other species…one of those trips that will stay indelibly imprinted.
- In some places, it is compulsory to have a guide. In the Khao Sok National Park in Thailand, it is compulsory to employ a park ranger to accompany you as you walk the rivers for the blue mahseer and sebarau. There are elephants, wild boar, buffalo, sun bear, leopard, and tiger that can cause harm. We were walking back along an elephant trail late one afternoon and there was growling in the bush beside us. The Thai ranger went on instant alert..the sound of the M16 being cocked in the silence of the jungle was deafening. He moved through the jungle like a spirit...amazing bushmanship skills. We never did find out what it was.
- Last but not least you meet so many great people who will put in as much effort as you do. If you are prepared to listen and learn, most guides are a wealth of information, and there is never a trip goes by that you don’t learn something. Like everything there are both good and not so good guides. If a guide is not working out, don’t be afraid to keep looking because not all personalities get on. Guiding is long hours and can be hard work. Work with the guide. Occasionally you will blank...that is fishing and it is usually not the guides fault. They will always say “you should have been here last week” ..that’s just guides talk.
- Tipping. Tipping is not part of our Australian custom, but in many countries the guides live off tips. Tipping is discretionary, and the better your experience usually the bigger the tip. That’s just how it is.
And if you are really honoured you may get to fish someday with Stuntman Ronan or even with Paul..in their eyes every fish is catchable!. Be warned…there will probably be plenty of sighs…but it will be fun.