YOUR CHARTER (PART 2):
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE FISH DON'T BITE
by Daniel Kiazyk
I had received a number of e-mails, from a group of fellows who wanted a shot at some of the good fishing we had had since first (safe) fishing ice. My response was that they should come up and give it a go – with a couple of caveats – and it's always those caveats that you hope won't come true, but on some occasions do… Not every day on the ice/water will be a banner day but at the same time it's worth noting that not every poor fishing day is a "write off"! Being aware of what can happen and knowing that there are some things that you can do in advance can really make the difference when things don't turn out as expected.
My normal set up for a larger group would be to split the group and to have them fish a variety of depths/areas and baits. Generally, I won't direct guests to use this or that bait, but I'll give some general suggestions. I'll also demonstrate how I'll normally hook up my lures and bait – part of the experience is to see how the locals do it. This general approach to working with a group usually produces, but when it doesn't……
Regardless of how good a fishery may be there are factors that will put fish off – the bite. Perhaps the most uncontrollable factor is weather. Sudden changes such as drops in temperature, cold fronts with strong winds with a sudden drop in temperature will all have an impact on fishing. If this happens, I'll try to problem solve to find out where and on what they are biting. As an example tactic, I'll try to go a bit deeper, size down baits and fish with a line that'll be less active. An additional tactic that I'll employ when things don't go too well will be to move more often to more spots.
From time to time there will be those days when even after you've employed the aforementioned tactics and you've put your guests on the best spots, fish still won't bite. If the latter occurs, I try not to see the day as a write-off. I'll try to encourage my guest to see me as a resource. Acquiring more information than you had before you came is an excellent first strategy in making something out of a not so good fishing day. Getting to know the locale in this way is one way that allow you to get a feel for what you have to do to contact fish…..when they bite of course! But more importantly you'll have everything you'll need to come back on your own to do well on the system.
There are also a few things that you can do in advance to buffer a poor fishing day. I'd like to think that this preparedness and realism will allow you to achieve at least some other objectives if the bite is off.
I first would suggest that you consider buying maps of the lake, river or reservoir you're going to fish. Having the maps will be useful in the first place as going from place to place with your guide will give you the opportunity to pin-point those places where you whetted a line. Moreover, it gives an opportunity to pick your guides' mind about the exact locations of where things happened from year to year, species to species. This strategy of drawing knowledge from your guide, in my opinion, is the least a guide can do for his clients when the fish don't bite.
Another good idea for those tough times is to have a means of communication handy. Should the group break up or should you want to break up, using today's modern FM family class walkie-talkies, makes communication of over a mile possible. Keeping in touch can give you information (when a group splits up) about different areas. Moreover, when it's time to eat, leave, just plan ol' chat, these are indispensable tools. Communication of this sort when used in concert with a run and gun style has opened up that particular pattern/location on occasion when a more concentrated/sedentary style has not. The run and gun communicative approach will facilitate even more experimentation potentially resulting in the ability to crack the code on those tough days.
Finally, and this may sound pedantic, but a realization that fishing is just that…. "Its not called catching…" Some days even the best pro angler etc. will have a hard time. Be cool, enjoy the experience and try to appreciate the other elements that we too often pass over when on a fishin' mission…. Don't forget you're doing something that probably a million people wish they were doing…. But aren't. I realize that this might be easy to say but not the easiest thing to do. But realistically what else are you going to do? I am not suggesting that you give up but I'd suggest that you take on the attitude of getting the most you can from the experience.
It's a fact that not every day even on the best of waters will be smoking hot. Rather I'd suggest that both the guide and client have to be realistic and take steps to arrive at what might see the best possible given the worst circumstance! A wee bit of effort and preparation and a positive attitude go a long way to making the best out of an unpleasant situation.