by Daniel Kiazyk

Observations from a biased point of view.

I sat on the River for a third Fall day with some guests and I wondered out loud if anyone was catching fish. My guest smiled and looked down in the water as he released another "to big to keep walleye"…. some of us are… eh! (he was trying to mimic that infamous Canadian expression… pretty good for a guy from down south).

So how can I arrive at such conclusions? Spending a good part of the fall on the river I see all types of anglers from the novices to some pretty serious anglers. And it is their reactions at the end of the day (where I hear the same questions and reactions) which lends some credence to my claim. "So how did you do?.... Well we caught quite a few sauger and a couple of walleye.... How did you guys do?..... Well we caught our limit of keepers (released) and a good one..... Yeah whatever........" The incredulity of some go a bit further than described here but I think you get the picture. And no it wouldn't matter if I had my digital camera on board, other anglers still don't want to admit to having done poorly..... too bad I often say. I'd be happy to share with almost anyone an idea or two on how to be more successful (the river can be brutal at times to those not experienced in her ways!)

Why don't anglers avail themselves of a guide service? I ask this question in light of people who are putting out a considerable amount of their hard earned money and have little or no guarantee they'll catch fish. It seems to me there are no simple answers. Perhaps some feel they'd be wasting more money with no guarantee of fish. Others are "guide shy" having had a bad experience or one they'd like to forget. Finally there are those who have never hired a guide and feel a bit uncomfortable doing so… I can understand as I was in this boat a few times going to a new fishery. Finally, one day I bit the bullet and now consider hiring a guide an integral part of a fishing trip's cost. The cost itself is not outlandish. Generally 2 or 3 anglers can cut the cost of a guide by sharing the cost. Some guides will even reduce their cost if you use your own boat and equipment. Many possibilities exist and it just requires a bit of preparation, communication to work out an acceptable arrangement where all parties are comfortable.

What does a guide offer that information gathering and experience on other waters doesn't: Experience relevant to those particular waters and a repertoire established as tried and true are the foundation to any guides claim to fame. Saying the latter doesn't preclude any angler form discovering these successful patterns – some can do it, but most (I say this humbly because many people I angle with are as good or better anglers than myself) can't as it takes time to get to know any fishery. A guide shouldn't accept your business without being forthright about what you can expect and what it might be like at the time you'll be up for your visit. Even the big TV personalities who espouse their skills and talents use guides for waters they've never fished. They do so because time is of the essence and having a guide cuts down on the process of elimination and hypothesis formulation. Using a guide means you have in your boat (or being in a boat) with someone who has an intimate knowledge of the waters and has a bag of relevant tricks when the going gets tough.

You probably won't have to hire a guide for every trip up to a new fishery. Many I take out bring along a GPS unit so they have a point from which they can start any other time/year they'll come up. I've seen many of my former clients come up on their own after spending a couple of days out on the water with me. I consider this a fact of guiding. If I can instill enough confidence in someone to return on their own, I've done my job!

What would I suggest to those who are not too sure about paying for a guide to go walleye fishing on a river that runs through their own state?. Consider the time effort and money you'll sink into an adventure to have it turn out only in a so-so way. Having only a limited amount of time means that you'll probably be on fish sooner than you would if you went on your own. Listen, I believe in "honing" my walleye finding skills as much as any guy, but if your going to go out and fish where everyone else fishes you're probably only getting at the tip of the proverbial ice berg. Going out with a guide your going to be with a guy who has to have more in his repertoire than the locals or visiting anglers ..... he has to produce if he's going to be in the business for any length of time.

I you finally convince yourself of the "guide" option Maybe you don't need one after all), communicate and work out an arrangement with the guide of your choice. Check out the person's reference if you really want to find out about what you can expect. Generally people will let you know if they had a good experience or if it was worth their while. Finally do this all long enough in advance so that you'll get what you want when you want it.

I admit this article is biased and I also acknowledge there are a lot of anglers who'll be out on the Red or Winnipeg rivers summer or fall who'll do quite well --- some better than I'll do on the odd day. The problem I have is that I don't see it when I'm out there and I wonder what it must be like to come that far only to catch a few or only to have limited success.

For another point of view read "Your Catfish Charter"