So, You Think You Might Want To Be A Guide!!

After being a "full time" professional fish finder for 7 years, I felt I have enough experience in this field to perhaps shed a little bit of light on just what being a guide is all about!  There are many myths associated with being a guide and I will try my best to try and dispel some of these rumours so as the next time you think about being a guide, you may think twice, or even thrice!

Guiding is indeed a job that many anglers dream about, perhaps even fantasize about!   I won't get into those visions as it could hurt some persons noodle!To be able to go out on any body of water, any river or any ocean, and do what you love to do and actually get paid for it, is indeed a dream come true.  This is of course the thoughts I had when still in the Force and trying to think of a part time job to carry on with once I retired so as not to drive my wife nuts by being at home to much.  I had all these visions of fancy boats, fancy equipment, and even fancy clients!  Oh, and I forgot to mention the big money, the most important factor in such a decision, ya, big money, that's it!

The fancy boats can indeed be a dream come true, as long as you currently hold a full time job and are able to make payments that would rival that of a small cottage on a lake!  After owing a beaut Four Winns I figured "go big or go home" so did just that, picking up a brand new Bayliner Trophy 2359, full meal deal boat with full cabin, fridge, stove, crapper down in the cuddy and more space then I'd ever know what to do with.  With a big Chevy 350 motor purring away under the hood I figured I'd be slaying the fish and bringing in the clients!  Well, I did finally manage to slay fish, about 3-4 years into the guiding on a new lake, getting to learn new lakes and new fishing techniques takes alot of time and, alot of money!  Although I had nothing but compliments on the big cruiser, the 14 GPH it burned at cruise ate up anything that may have been conceived as profit.  Besides that, have you ever tried to actually keep a fibreglass boat that huge, clean?  The wife cringed every spring when I gave it the complete treatment, we'd spend literally days just doing the hull and topside of this craft! 

With eventual financial suicide in the foreseeable future from operating a craft the size of the Trophy, it was a business decision to change vessels, and I made the best business decision possible going to the Harbercraft 1925XL.  With a Yamaha F150 four stroke at the stern the fuel savings were cut more than half and, I had a more fishable boat.  Lesson one, "go big or go home" does not apply to guiding, pick a boat that is firstly affordable to buy and affordable to run, leaving you more money to chase around after the fish!  The fancy equipment is of course again, expensive, just like that big fancy boat.   You can however, get by very well with lets say, lesser quality stuff and do just fine, and again keep a few bucks in your jeans.  All these fancy high tech sounder/chart plotter thingys look mighty fine, but rather than spend 3 grand on one you can do just fine with one that is only a grand.  This is one area I found I couldn't chinse on to much, a quality sounder pays for itself the first time out.  Fishing gear?  Don't try and impress anyone with your fancy Sage rods or Islander reels, your wasting your money.  I still have the same $45.00 Diawa Samurai glass rod from the time I started guiding and the same  $85.00 Shimano mooching reel, both still working like new!  Sameo goes for whatever other rods/reels you buy, go in the middle with everything, save your bucks for better things.  Hooks?  Want to save a fortune on these? Talk to other anglers or read a fantastic website like mine!  I have about 3 tackle boxes full of gear that I don't use, stuff that never did work and so it sits.  If I had to I'd pick 10 hooks out of the entire works I'd probably do just as well getting the fish.

If your expecting Shania Twain to show up on your boat don't hold your breath, because lack of oxygen can cause brain damage and I'm hoping that may fix itself over time!   What you can expect is a wide variety of cliental, some that will try your patience with every move and others that you wouldn't hesitate fishing with for a lifetime!   Your going to encounter whiners and then those (like Mikey!) that are just as happy to catch a few winks rather than a few fish, real honest to goodness anglers.  Also, don't get peeved when kids on board your fancy craft spread cookies and chips from one end of your boat to the other, or spill pop and other "stuff" all over, all part of the "big money" your making!  Oh ya, don't forget the BIG TIPS your going to get from these fancy cliental as well!  What I found was, the fancier they were, the cheaper they were.  It was always the hard working stiff who worked pay cheque to pay cheque that coughed up the couple of bucks for the trip, whether you caught fish or not.  Don't ever expect to get help from tips in keeping your business afloat, you may as well be in a riptide without a life jacket!  Although you may think just because you've caught your clients fish and put in alot of extra time with them, does not mean they're going to show their appreciation via cash!  Most times its going to be a hand shake and a harty "thank you"!  Now, I'm speaking about fresh water guiding here, the salt water guys do much better in the tip area but won't tell anyone!

So, that leaves the big money you make guiding, all those tax write-offs your going to get.  Well, don't be buying a new Ford F350 twin turbo diesel just yet, not with this job anyways.  I had a group of guys come out one day with me, full day trip, and one client "mentioned" to me how great it must be to make so much money and to go fishing at the same time!  I'd had about enough of this crew to start with and, after he broke my fish scale by doinking around with it I figured I may as well set things straight.  Here's an example of the example I gave him, and it applies to every time you take someone out fishing, just different figures.  So, lets say the trip cost $300.00 bucks for 6 hours.  Easy math, $50.00 bucks an hour, gotta like that!  Wait, lets not forget that guide licence and liability insurance you paid up front for, $1500.00.  Oh ya, boat insurance is more because its for business and you have to change the  category on your vehicle because it is also for business, sometimes the same price but usually more.  Anyways, back to the money up front, to pay off that $1500.00 you'd need 5 groups of people to pay that off, not a big deal deal so lets say I had 20 groups over the fishing season, that would work out to $75.00 per trip that comes out of that initial $300.00, leaving me $225.00 for 6 hours or $37.50 an hour.  OK, I can live with that to go fishing.  Wait now, we are burning some gas on this trip, lets just throw out a cheap figure of $50.00, a cheap day for gas.  Now we're down to $175.00 or $29.16 an hour, still pretty good!  I think I forgot something, a $450.00 a month boat payment!  So if we divide those 20 groups of people into that it works out to $270.00 per trip, oopppppsss, we seem to be running in the red now!  Hey, what about the guides wages!  Ya, that's right, don't expect a wage for at least 3-4 years and even then after that it works out to about $6.00 an hour!  Needless to say my rant about money did not fare well with my guests and the expected zip zero nix nadda for a tip came true!

What I did find after those years of guiding was that, for me at least, it didn't boil down to an hourly wage.  What it did for me was make me realize just what a unbelievable recreational sport we all have at our fingertips!  I had fished all my life prior to taking on the role of a guide and while I did enjoy myself for the most part, I came away with a new appreciation of just what we have as anglers, and that beats the buck any day!  Although I may be trying to paint guiding in a negative way, its not meant to be that way but to open up a few anglers/prospective clients eyes as to just what guiding entails, it isn't all roses! Guides, for the most part, OK, 99.9% of them, are a secretive lot, unless of course you go out with them and can coheres them into divulging their secrets.  They also like to leave the client with the thought that they, the guide, must have some mystical power to be able to catch fish, all the time, or at least that's what they've been told!  Of the fresh water guides that I know or know of, I don't any of them that can honestly say they make a "good living" from their guiding alone.  In fact, the fresh water guides in my area wind out guiding out on the coast during salmon season because it sucks in the Interior for fishing and for good paying clients, so what does that tell you about fresh water guiding!  Why on earth would you put up with $300-$400 a day for guiding on Okanagan Lake when you can quadruple that out salt water guiding.  So, don't let any of these "other guides" try and convince you that you can make a good buck doing this locally, you can't.  In the short span I have been in Sicamous at least 6 other guides that I know of have come and gone within 2 years.  The guides on the "other lakes" are merely supplementing their present income with the guiding.  What I am saying is, don't go all in under a false misconception that you can make your millions guiding, it just isn't going to happen.

So, you think you might want to be a guide, good on ya!  If you love the sport of angling, want to meet some great (and some not so great) poeple from around our great land and, also put a couple bucks in your jeans so you can pay your guiding expenses, then fly at it!  I thoroughly enjoyed guiding and actually wouldn't hesitate taking it up again, but in a different aspect of guiding.  The only reason I was able to pursue this line of business as aggressively as I did and make it into a viable business, was because I was able to put the time and effort into it, and have a supportive spouse during the process, it wasn't easy.  What I discovered though is that it wasn't all about money, but more so the fishing and outdoors, something I enjoy doing on my own time and terms.  Having to set aside 4-5 months of the year and be on call for other anglers isn't exactly what I had planned in retirement!  If in fact you plan on being a guide and also have another full time job, your going to find your weekends and even holidays are non-existent.  If you can and are willing to make such a big sacrifice just to go fishing, just remember that that's all you'll be doing because you won't be making any big money!  Revenue Canada explains it as " there has to be an expectation of profit" in order to keep a business going. 


If you can keep going until those big expenses such as  boat are done, you just might have a viable business that will fund itself, and good for you!  I would invite anyone who has any questions about guiding etc. to email me,  I have no secrets about it or about my fishing, its all an open book.  If someone else can learn and benefit from my experiences then my position as a guide is still intact, and shall be for a long time!                 The Captain Poppy aka Blampa aka Cappy