Swedish version

How to pick the right Guide
for your next fishing trip

By Joe Guide

  If you are interested in sight-fishing for Red Fish (Red Drum) in the many different shallow water coastal communities along North or South Carolina during the months of May – September- you have a great many beautiful areas to go fishing. Tourists to these Carolina Coastal inshore waters will find a great number of flats and shallow water estuaries and bays in which you can pursue Redfish on a fly, or with light tackle- depending on your preference, skills, and abilities. It should not have to cost you a arm or a leg to have a few days of excitement and fishing no matter where you choose to go. Some guides will offer to pick you up at a local hotel, or motel, and there are others who want you to meet them at a particular landing or location. There are many different types of guides out there, all offering different packages and rates, and those who specialize in various types of fishing. You don’t want to go fly fishing with someone who doesn’t have a poling platform, no matter how nice their boat may be, nor do you want to go deep sea fishing in a jon-boat or a technical skiff.

  I have friends with $80,000 technical skiffs, and 200 hp outboards, but they cannot fish skinny water, nor do they wade fish for tailing redfish or can get way into the backcountry wilderness due to their big skiff drafts greater than 8” of water. How do you go about picking the right guide for your next fishing trip? I would like you to consider a number of things and consider asking various questions to a few guides before you actually book your next guide.

  Today, you can look at the internet and sporting magazines and you will find a large number of guides who will take sports out for a half day or a full day’s charter after redfish, but they may not be equipped for Tarpon and Reds when Tarpon come into the rivers in August and September. You may want to only fly fish, and of course, not all guides are fly fishermen, or have boats that are set up for poling the flats. You may not even want to go after a Tarpon. However you may enjoy wading for tailing Reds in the summer or early fall, however, does the guide you want to book wade fish? They may not. There are many guides out there that will tell you a great deal about their boats or skiffs and their abilities; however you need to let them know what you desire to do on your next charter. They will try to meet your needs if they are able. There are always a few guides that specialize in wade fishing certain flats where redfish congregate during flood tides and can be found tailing after crabs (mud, blues, or fiddler species). There are many areas down in North Charleston and Beaufort and many areas along the N.C. inshore where you can never wade, due to the bottom being too soft to wade. Many guides will never leave their boat or trolling motor. I know some that just fish along the ICW and if their charters are happy, then who’s to worry?

  Therefore it pays to do your research and read the guides websites or get a reference or talk to someone who has been out with a particular guide that you are considering booking. When you call let the guide know what exactly kind of fishing experience you have and what you are looking for in booking a guide. Have you thought about what the tides will be when you are fishing? Ask about the best tides and the weather during the week you are planning to fish. A good guide will have a record of the major areas they fish and will tell you more than you need to know, if you take the time to inquire about such questions. You will become more knowledgeable of the local area, and the guide will know exactly what you want to focus on in your next guide trip. It’s not all about the numbers of fish that you catch, it may be just as important that you have an enjoyable experience and many opportunities to catch a larger fish than you have ever caught previously. If you are after a trophy, it behooves you to inquire as to the very best time to go and make the effort to book a few days at least two or three in order that weather will not shut you down on an opportunity of a lifetime.

  I have put people in front of reds > 33” in less than 20” of water and the wind at their back at under 40 yards for their cast, and they may or may not hook up. However they had that shot. They had a unique opportunity to catch a release a large tailing redfish, or had four or six shots are fish larger than 26” in a four hour, half day trip. I’ve also seen the joy of a father who got out fished by his 12 year old son and will remember the photos taken for that trip of a lifetime. Most guides will want to work to make your day a memorable one. All guides are not the same. They want you to catch fish, but not all guides may communicate with you as well as you may wish them to. Some are set in their ways and methods of how they fish their home waters, and may not be willing to trailer their skiff 50 or so miles to fish a different area. It could just be they don’t want to pay the extra gas to travel far away from their local waters. You should ask about the area you want to fish, if you are on vacation with your family. You and your guide may want to make the effort to fish some distant waters if it could be arraigned. You will never know, if you don’t ask.

  You may want to inquire about the desire to wade fish. You may be surprised that not that many guides wade fish or fish in areas were the bottoms allow for wade fishing. Many guides do not have skiffs or boats that are set up for anything but bay or bait or plug fishing, so you need to inquire as to the type of fishing that your guide specializes in. Some guides have moved down south from the North Eastern part of the USA, and may only live in the coastal areas for part of the year and may not spend that many months on the water. You never will know if you do not ask the questions.

  You may want to only book one day or you might be interested in a few days depending on your trip plans and conditions. Ask about their cancelation policy, if they are USCG Certified or a registered guide, and what kind of boat or skiff they operate. Those types of questions will make you a more knowledgeable fisherman and client, and will allow you a more personable experience. Does your prospective guide provide all the fishing equipment for the fishing trip, or does their web site tell you exactly what do you need to bring. Is their website currently update, or is it old or outdated? You should take the time to speak to him or her over the phone, and ask some specific questions before you book your next trip, even if they have a beautiful website. That is a good time to talk to them about their boat, or skiff, and you can inquire more specifically as to what you would like the Guide to provide and see if they will meet your needs. You may find that they have some gaps in their schedule or perhaps you might ask about their normal fishing area, and do they like to fish on a falling or rising tide in a particular area. Do they use a trolling motor, do they wade fish, and wade with you or not, or if they pole you through the flats or just primarily fish the cuts, creeks, and bays. You would not necessarily learn these things from just looking at their website. What is their cancelation policy? Do they provide flies or have insurance or not? Does the guide cater to families or just adults and not children that are under the age of 12? These are questions that are important to many people, but they may not be to you. I mention it to have you reconsider what questions you may wish to ask your guide before you decide on who you will book.

  Does your guide recommend that you bring your own rod, or what types of rods and tackle do they provide? You may want to try a SAGE or a SCOTT Fly rod on your next trip. You guide may not use or be sponsored by those fly fishing companies, but may use a perfectly good fly rod, and if you ask him, they will more than likely tell you why they use what they use, if you take the time to ask the question.

  Does the guide provide lunch, or just water and a snack? Can you bring a non-fishing companion (like a spouse or a child) with you on your trip? Has the guide only been guiding for a few years, or just a few months each year? Are they local or do they live a few hours away from where you want to go fishing? Inquiring minds desire to know such questions. You may simply just want to catch fish, regardless of fly fishing or tossing a shrimp under a popping cork. You should ask the guide what he or she would recommend for the time and day for your trip. Perhaps you are bringing a young person along, would the guide allow a person under 16 to go for half price, if you book your trip? You may be surprised at finding a deal depending on the date and time of your next charter. It all depends on your guide and how their booking season is shaping up. In certain times and months, you never will find the answers you seek, if you don’t take the time and effort to ask.

  There are some seasons of the year when the weather turns warm for a few days and there are a lot of excellent fishing to be found on the flats, now wind, water temperature and weather are always in flux come winter time, but like March and October winds, there are always some excellent opportunities out there to catch fish in various times of the year. I think you would respect a guide who told you to not book during a certain time, or month, because they don’t catch fish during that area or during a certain month because of their experiences on those waters. However there are times when redfish or speckled trout make be taking refuge from the cold, or prowling the flats, sometimes they are quite willing to take a well presented fly. Your local guide should be able to tell you about their waters, and you can better decide if you want to book him or her or choose another day or month or time when the tides are much more conducive to making your next guide trip more exciting and enjoyable.

By Outdoor writer Walter (Joe Guide) Dinkins 2012 ©



You can read more about the author’s adventures in the South Atlantic and Gulf Coastal states if you desire. Get a copy of the author’s fly fishing book: RED FISH ON A FLY (www.redfishonafly.com) and learn more about the nine major red fishing states from the most scholarly fly fishing book ever written on the Red Drum; or you can book a trip with him via (www.joeguideoutfitters.com) if your next vacation brings you to the beautiful coastal community of Wilmington, North Carolina.


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© Mats Sjöstrand 2011

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Mats Sjöstrand, Sweden

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