“Don’t Guess About Your Guide”
By Stan Fagerstrom
You can do much to assure the success of a long awaited fishing adventure before ever leave home. I talked about what some of those things are in my previous column. This time around I have other thoughts to share with you that guides and outfitters have shared with me.
"The biggest mistake I see people make," one Alaskan guide told me, "is to consider only the price they have to pay for a trip. They should be shopping quality and longevity. Once I saw people get off a plane in King Salmon. They had booked with guides who weren't residents of Alaska. The guides had gone belly up, but didn't bother to tell their clients. Those people were really unhappy.”
The two anglers pictured here are fishing for peacock bass on one of the tributaries of the Amazon River. The third guy in the front of the boat is their native guide. Get deep into the jungle as these anglers are and you'd better be darn sure you have a guide capable of getting you safely back out.
"Let someone come to Alaska and have a bad experience," this guide said, "and a reputable operator will never have a chance to show them what a good trip is like because an unhappy client won't come back."
I’ve heard guides here in the United States echo the Alaskan guide’s comments. I know an Oregon guide who has been has helping anglers get tied into Oregon salmon, steelhead and trout darn for near half a century. "Most of the people who call up to make reservations know nothing about me," he says. "I ask if they want references and they say they don't need them. That always surprises me. You pay good money when you deal with a guide and you should know what you're getting."
This guide also brought up a couple of other important points. One is to make your arrangements well in advance. Don't wait until you reach your destination to line up a guide. "The good ones will already be booked," he said. "If you're going on overnight trips, give the guide six months lead time."
This long time Oregon guide told me he always urges a customer to spend at least two days on a fishing trip. "Most of my clients actually fish three to five days," he says. "When you're dealing with migratory fish like steelhead or salmon they may be here one day and gone the next. If you have at least a couple of days to fish your chances are going to be much better. If you have only one day, go to have a good time. If you catch a fish it's a bonus."
There are many other things to consider in making certain the guide you select is the right one. One is to do your scheduling with a guide who specializes in the kind of angling you want to do. For years now the big pools behind the dams on the Columbia River have turned out some of the largest walleye being caught in the United States. Let's suppose you want a shot at a record walleye. What's the best way to go about it? One thing sure, it's not to line up a trip with a guide who has had only salmon or steelhead experience. I know fishermen who have done that and it didn't work at all.
I have a friend who is a full time guide for the elusive walleye. He has put walleye of more than 17-pounds into his boat and consistently gets fish for his clients when others are getting skunked. I remember his comments when I interviewed him once for a newspaper story. "If its walleye you're after,” he said, “book a trip with someone who specializes in fishing for them. Once you find such an individual, make certain he has a Coast Guard license to operate on the Columbia River. Don't hesitate to ask a guide about such a license or anything else. If he's the right kind of operator he'll welcome that kind of question instead of resenting it."
A guide can make or break your fishing adventure. The guide pictured here has made several great trips for me and some of my good friends. He is Scott Wolfe, chief guide of the Big K Guest Ranch on Oregon's beautiful Umpqua River.
In my next column we’ll take a look at certain other steps you can take to assure yourself of winding up with a competent guide or outfitter regardless of your destination.