I get asked all the time what it is like to be a guide.
Some of the questions I get on a daily basis are, how do you do it day in and day out?
The other question is how can you fish every day and not get sick of it?
Another one is you must eat a lot of fish.
I’ve wanted to write this article for quite some time to explain why I do what I do, and why I absolutely love what I do. But I do have to admit, this job is definitely not for everyone.
The first thing I will talk about is my background and why I think guiding fits and works for me. The biggest thing I have is a passion for fishing. Without it, there is no way a person can be successful in this line of work.
To be honest, we as a guide a lot of time don’t get to fish all that much. Most of our time is trying to control the boat, rig lines, bait hooks, talk about what we are doing, etc. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of days we have to fish in order to figure out what the fish are doing and the mood the fish are in. It’s not as easy of a task as one might think.
The reason why guiding works for me is that I am a very goal-oriented person. Me playing hockey for a living did a few things for me. First, being challenged day in and day out to perform and to perform at a high level. You needed to be on top of things and you needed to be organized. The clock would mean nothing to me, other than what time I need to be somewhere. I was always early to everything we did in hockey and this is serving me well as a guide.
As a former professional hockey player, it also groomed me to work hard. I find so many situations each day with guiding that are so similar to playing hockey as a job. I think the biggest is the challenge to find and catch fish day in and day out.
I’ve told folks I don’t handle idle time all that well. So, for me, a schedule of getting up early to make sure the boat is ready to go each guided day is probably the best part of my job. I feel purpose, and my mind and body are busy.
Meeting new people can be a challenge for some. For me, hockey prepared me well for this. I love getting to know new folks if they are willing to talk. Some people are pretty reserved in the boat, and not all that easy to get to chat with. You learn to read people fast in this line of work! Especially if they are struggling to catch on to what the day is bringing as far as fishing goes.
If I’ve seen it once I have seen it a thousand times. If you have a husband and wife as clients. I can pretty much set my watch to the fact she will outfish him. Reason? Well, the wife will listen to me to a fault and the husband will try and reinvent the wheel.
Here are the deal folks, I put in your hands the best rods, lines, lure, etc. To help you catch fish. The stuff I have tied on is proven over and over in my boat or fish house to catch fish, and to catch fish consistently. One of my fellow guides says it best when he tells me he would never go to our client’s place of employment and tell them how to do their job.
Another thing we have going for us is we are literally a mobile fishing advertising billboard of sorts. I know a few bass stars and a few walleye anglers who get paid the big bucks when it comes to sponsorships. More power to those guys!
However, let’s be honest here, a fishing guide like myself logs well over 250 days on the water or on the ice working directly in front of people actually fishing. Not only do we have a captive audience in our boats, fish houses, and trucks, side by sides, but we are also very visible online, gas stations, boat ramps, fish cleaning stations, etc. If you want to know how a product works, how a product doesn’t work, how a truck pulls, or a boat handles the guides are my first stop every time I am in the market. The guides like myself use these things more than anyone! It’s not even a close second.
So, what are some of the hardest things about being a fishing guide? For me, the single most difficult part is the weather. We cannot control it! I wish I could turn the wind, rain, snow, heat, etc. Off, but that’s just not possible. So, we do get beat up on those days because of the weather. We end up having to fish on days most folks would be cuddled up on the couch with a blanket and the fire on. My dad gives me grief on those days, but I always fire back, you can’t catch a 30-incher on your lazy boy.
Another pressure-filled thing is high expectations. People only see the magazine cover shots of huge tables of fish, or a client holding a fish of a lifetime. We are all guilty of it as guides. Getting people into the reality of what to expect isn’t always easy to do. In fishing, both open water and frozen water hours are like years. Just because we crushed them yesterday, doesn’t mean it will happen today. Things change and things can change fast.
Days off? For me, there is no such thing. If I don’t have a guide trip scheduled, if weather permits, I’m out chasing the bite or looking for another bite. I tried to be a part-time guide, and that is extremely hard to keep your edge and do well day in and day out. It’s hard to roll onto a body of water and just put people on fish without being on the water daily. So being a full-time guide has helped me become a better guide and it’s for sure better for my clients. They are paying good money to get out on the water and catch fish. The scenery is always good but they could stay on shore and see that. So, for me, it’s so very important to be prepared and dialed in to give these customers a great day on the water.
Cleaning fish and eating fish. It’s natural to think I would eat just tons of fish every year. I honestly eat so very few it’s sad at times.
I really try not to keep extra fish for myself. I clean so many fish every year, the last thing I want to do is clean more for myself.
Another thought process for mine is conservation. Those 5 walleyes, 20 perch 5 pike are fish my clients might get a chance to enjoy the next day, or my kids to enjoy the next day. We as guides understand this, and we want fishing to remain solid for everyone for years to come.
The ND Game and Fish does a great job of monitoring this and if they feel stocking is required and or a lower limit, they will impose one. I feel okay cleaning a catch of fish for my clients to eat and or take home with them, because of this.
Crazy stories about clients on the water or ice? Well, I think for me I am going to save all of those for a book I want to write when I retire from guiding. The problem is, I may be 90 by the time I retire if I make it that long! So we will all have to wait and see!
Mike, you changed my perception of “guided” fishing. Having a couple days on the water with you I learned new things. There really was never a dull moment even if the fish were not biting. I am looking forward to your book and hearing more stories! I am spreading the word about your guide services.
I love what I do and I try to be the best host I possibly can. Come as clients and leave as friends. That’s what it is all about.