By Andrew Derr
[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ome guides are curmudgeonly by nature and others just seem to relish every second of their job. As we all know, rapport and chemistry with your guide is so valuable. When you have all that dialed in, shots are easier, communication clearer and everything seems to work out better. Here is a short list of things that you can do to make your guide happier and in turn, yourself more successful on the water.
Boat shoes: Think about your shoes a little bit before you leave for the day. If you are getting in a guide’s boat for the day, wear something that will show you respect his vessel. Black soled or dirty street shoes in a vessel are often frowned upon and may require of your captain an extra hour cleaning his boat at the end of the day. Think about it. If your guide is bristling over the black scuffs you are leaving every minute or so on his gel coat, he is going to be distracted, irritated and not putting forth his best performance. Same goes for drift boats. Studded boots are a no-no and cause damage to the one very expensive thing your guide uses daily.
Trout lift: The dreaded trout lift is the bane of saltwater guides. Unless you are trout fishing, do not raise your rod tip to set the hook on a fish. Use a strip strike with your left hand pulling on the line while you sweep the rod to the side. I have seen guys miss fish after fish this way. It is so frustrating to go through all of the motions from setting the alarm clock until convincing that fish to eat your presentation, only to have it foiled by this simple error. By the way, we have all done it…
Flies: Have you ever gone on a fishing trip, loaded up with flies you’ve tied or that were recommended from your local shop, only to have your guide snub your pretty collection? Listen to him. Use what he says. Guides understand that you may want to use your stuff sometimes but when it come to pattern selection, go with what your guide recommends. I have personally caught guys on the bow of my boat switching flies to some outlandish creation of there own without my knowing until a trophy fish pulls a quick u-turn and beelines for deeper water. Not cool. We just spent all morning poling into the wind until finally having the stars align for a shot at a trophy and you decide you want to test out your new jelly fish fly? Now I am pissed…
Time: Show up on time. No need to get your guide bristly before the trip even begins. Yes, it is your money and your trip but arriving late can rub a passionate guide the wrong way. A happy guide is a more productive guide and in the end, that’s what you want.
Tipping: A friend of mine tells a pretty good story on tipping. He fished a new client out in Montauk and the guy kept absolutely every single fish that he could legally kill and threw each one in the livewell. 10 bluefish, 2 stripers and 6 porgies later, he had amassed quite a pile of protein. At the end of the trip, my buddy told him what he owed him and and the guy counted out exact change, no tip. My captain friend asked him if he was pleased with the trip, wondering about the lack of a tip after such a stellar day. The guy responded, “Oh sorry man, I only tip the mate.” Of course, little boats like this do not have mates and my friend took it in stride. Next thing the guys says is, “Hey, do mind cleaning these fish for me?” Aptly, the captain responded, “Oh sorry, that sounds like a job for a mate.”
Don’t point: If there are a lot of boats around looking for the same fish presumably, use your voice, not your hands to tell your guide about a rising or rolling fish. Otherwise, a wily guide may watch you point and beat you to the spot. I have seen it happen in Boca Grande, Montauk and elsewhere.
Bananas: Superstition, silly wives’ tale, urban myth… Call it what you will. It still irritates some guides when you bring bananas on boats. Silly as it seems, avoid irritating your guide even if it is a goofy legend. More practically speaking, I dislike when people spill a greasy bag of potato chips on my boat.
Weather: This one comes up a lot. It is the guide’s decision to cancel or not cancel a trip due to weather. I can’t tell you how many clients call to discuss the weather or to make a case as to why the trip should be cancelled. If your captain is qualified, he will know how to read the wind and precipitation forecast and relate it to the fishery. A good captain will not make you go if the weather is a shit show. I have yet to meet a captain that enjoys arguing with a stock broker or architect about the forthcoming fishing conditions in his home fishery where he guides daily.
Booze: Ask if it is okay to bring a few beers. Handle your alcohol like a big boy. I have had friends bring drunk d-bags back to the dock due to drunken outbursts on the water with other boats. The drunk guy gets to leave at the end of the day but the captain has to go out on the same water in the same boat the next day and doesn’t need enemies out there. If someone is out of line, your captain will handle it as he or she sees fit.
Manage your emotions: Some people get really bent out of shape after a missed shot or less than stellar fishing. They either take it out on themselves or blame the so-so fishing on their guide. Most experienced anglers understand this one. Not everyday is magic and we can only control certain variables of the fishing equation. In my experience, it is the noobs that lose their composure over such stuff. So when the blood pressure starts to rise, just remember that there will be more shots, more fishing days, and more bent rods in days to come.