When it comes to outdoor experiences and getting into position for a successful day, nothing beats most recent information, boots-on-the-ground knowledge of whatâ€™s happening and where, and no oneâ€™s more likely to be better prepared with that than an areaâ€™s professional guides.
Beyond the idea of a charter fishing trip on vacation or a dream hunt far away, many outdoor enthusiasts rarely think of guided excursions as something theyâ€™d like to do, but itâ€™s a great chance to learn new ways to explore familiar places. From a price standpoint, itâ€™s a drop in the bucket compared to funds already invested in gear. Where time is concerned, there may be no more productive hours afield than those spent listening and learning.
â€śA lot of people whoâ€™ve never fished with this kind of gear or on these waters are nervous about asking questions, but they shouldnâ€™t be,â€ť Randall Shaw, of Louisiana Fishing Charters, says, â€śI and all the guides I know really enjoy helping our customers learn how to do something new and enjoy it.
â€śWhen you think about it, I donâ€™t know why anyone would be a guide who didnâ€™t enjoy that. All of us catch fish. We catch fish every day. Helping someone catch a fish thatâ€™s new to them, or catch it with a new technique, really makes a trip special. It gets me fired up, honestly. If Iâ€™m not helping someone learn or get better at something, and getting excited as they succeed, whatâ€™s the point?â€ť
Roger Stegall, of Iuka, has been making his living on the water for the past three dozen years. After his success on the tournament trail led a steady stream of prospective clients to ask him to take them fishing, he added guiding to his resume. It wasnâ€™t long before his primary focus moved from one to the other and, decades later, itâ€™s a business plan thatâ€™s worked out well for professional and clients alike.
Though he still fishes tournaments on occasion, roughly 200 days per year spent guiding keep him busy most of the time.
â€śFor me, the ideal client is one who wants to learn,â€ť Stegall said. â€śThey may want to learn new techniques or learn new ways to catch fish on Pickwick. There are lots of techniques I take for granted that other people may not know about, or may not know how to actually use. The Carolina rig, for example. Everyoneâ€™s heard of it, but itâ€™s not uncommon for me to have someone say theyâ€™ve never caught a fish on it and would like to learn how to.
â€śMy favorite day on the water is one that ends with a client who says they canâ€™t believe how much they learned.â€ť
Steven Morris, a life-long fly fisherman and guide in North Carolinaâ€™s Blue Ridge Mountains, says his interest and enthusiasm is tied directly to that of the client. â€śWhen Iâ€™m with someone whoâ€™s willing to listen and eager to learn, it makes all the difference in the world,â€ť he said.
The best guides, most guides agree, are those for whom the job means everything. For Tony Murphy, of Key West, the hands-on experience gained from years of commercial fishing efforts have made him the professional he is today.
â€śWhen you have to catch fish to pay the light bill, you learn how to simply catch fish in any conditions,â€ť he said. â€śWhen the wind is blowing hard and the seas are high and the tide is against you, someone whoâ€™s fished to keep the wolf from the door will know what to do.â€ť
Where better to learn what to do than from guides whoâ€™ve invested decades making sure they knew?