The guy in a nearby booth at the restaurant wasn’t happy.
It was impossible not to hear what he was talking about. He had hired a guide for a recent fishing trip. The trip hadn’t gone well and the guide was getting all the blame.
“It rained all three days we were on the river,” he complained. “When I did finally manage to hook a good one, it broke my line the first time it jumped.”
The guy doing the griping might have had reason to complain about the weather, but blame the guide for it? No way! I was tempted to ask him if he’d bothered to change the line on his reel before he went on the trip. My guess was he hadn’t.
I’ve had the good fortune to fish with some of the best guides in the business. One such is Steve Fleming, a veteran outfitter who runs an outfit called Mah-Hah Outfitters out of Fossil, Oregon. Steve takes outdoorsmen on a variety of hunting and fishing adventures. Most of his summertime trips are for smallmouth of Oregon’s John Day River.
Veteran guide Steve Fleming is shown preparing to slide his drift boat into the John Day River in Central Oregon. How much enjoyment you derive from a trip with Steve or any other top rated guide depends in part on your own planning and preparation.
The John Day is one of the Northwest’s premier smallmouth rivers. Line up a trip with Steve and you will catch fish---lots of them--- and you don’t have to have a degree from the Piscatorial College of Advanced Angling Skills to do it. You won’t, that is, if you listen to what Steve has to say and then use the gear he provides in the fashion he dictates.
Much the same thing applies where other top guides are concerned. A guide wants you to catch fish just as much as you do. Your success is how he stays in business. The last time I fished with Fleming I asked him to list for me a few of the things he likes to have his customers do to assure success on their trip.
“Don’t wait until you climb into my boat to start your preparation for the trip,” Fleming says. “Your planning should start the day you received the information we send to all of our clients who are lining up a trip for the first time. “
Fossil is tucked away in the middle of nowhere out there in Central Oregon. It’s not the easiest place to find. You’ll avoid problems in getting there by simply studying the map Steve sends along with other information he provides.
Are you one of those not uncommon individuals who has certain diet restrictions? Don’t wait until you arrive to let your guide know about it. As a matter of fact, food preference is one of the questions Steve Fleming asks of his clients when a trip is scheduled. If the guide you retain doesn’t mention it, bring it up yourself, but do it in advance so your guide can make the necessary arrangements.
“I often get calls,” Fleming says, “from clients who want to know what the weather is going to be when they get here and what they can expect in the way of fishing results. That’s difficult to do. The weather can change in a matter of hours. I can tell you what happened on the trip I made today but that’s about the size of it.” Changes in weather may also call for changes in the clothing you bring along. “Dress for darn near anything,” Fleming advises. “Always bring raingear. I carry spare raingear for my clients, but I might not have the right size.”
If you want to see your guide’s smile turn into a frown, show up without the required fishing license. Perhaps your trip is due to start at daylight. There’s no place the guide can take you to get your license and chances are he won’t take you out if you don’t have it. That license is your responsibility. Don’t blame the guide if you don’t have it.
Remember that guy I mentioned in the beginning who had a fish break his line? Old and worn line is something guides often see among anglers who want to use their own gear. “We get a lot of inexperienced clients,” Fleming says. “Sometimes the gear they bring just won’t work well for the kind of fishing we do. We’ve been guiding for a long time and we have the tackle that will work. It helps when inexperienced anglers will use it.”
Guide Steve Fleming has put his clients onto thousands of smallmouth like the one this successful John Day angler displays. One of the keys to your own success on a trip with an experienced guide is playing close attention to what he tells you to use in the way of tackle and techniques.
The points I’ve covered are just a few of the things you can do that will make both you and your guide happy campers at day’s end. There are several others. I’ll get into some more of the details in the next issue of this column.