11 Signs You’re a Dodgy Guide

1. You tell clients whatever they want to hear

Don’t manage clients expectations. Talk up the fishing to potential customers, telling them whatever they want to hear. You know there aren’t any stripers around yet, but you won’t tell them until you’ve left the harbour, until it’s too late.

2. Communicate as little as possible with the client

Leave organising gear, meeting time and location to the last minute. Make the client call and email you. After all its the client that wants to fish with you, they should have to chase you up.

3. Pickups are best when they are as convenient as possible for you

The harder it is for the client to get to the meeting spot the more relief they will feel just having had made it. After all the journey is more important than the destination. Tourists? Without transport? They’ve come half way around the globe, another $100 for cab fare isn’t going to deter them.

4. Make it hard

If a client finds the fishing too easy they’ll wonder why they even hired you.  Therefore you need to be creative with your boat operation. When on the flats, loudly jamming the pole, kicking the gunnel and last minute boat movements during the presentation cast are the key.

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5. Carry limited flies

There are a few ‘go-to’ flies that you use for 90% of the fishing. Only take 1 or 2 of each per day. Once these are gone insist on using experimental or prototype patterns that have never caught fish before, unless they want to use their own. This will save you money and time at the tying vice. Also make sure you clip the fly off the clients line at the end of the day. You don’t get paid enough to let each client take home a used fly as a souvenir.

6. Don’t carry a net

Whether wading, poling or rafting, these $20 pieces of gear are too efficient at landing fish and keeping them healthy while removing hooks and posing for photos.

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7. Grab the leader

Once a client has hooked a fish, and since you don’t have a net, make sure you grab the leader as soon as possible into the fight. If the hook pulls it was because of a bad set and not your fault. The tippet may also break, lucky you’ve already got the client using their own flies.

8. Any photo is a good photo

So the client wants a photo, you’re a fishing guide not a photographer. Get this over and done with as fast as possible. If the angler and fish are both in the photo, you’ve done too well.

9. You leave fish to find fish

So the client has just landed one. Give yourself a pat on the back, then relocate to another part of the river, lake or fishery. Catching one fish after the other gets boring. This is also a good point to change flies.

10. Have a fish yourself

Whenever possible, carry a fully rigged rod. Tell the client that it is a backup or so you pretend to fish in order to protect more water from other anglers. Once the client is busy fishing further down the pool have a crack yourself. Make sure you get the client to stop fishing and take a photo of you with your steelhead, but don’t release it immediately. Check the photo first and make them retake it until you are satisfied.

11. You regularly quit early

Never mind that you told the client you’d fish all day if they wanted to, and you haven’t even had lunch yet.

Believe it or not, these are all situations I have experienced first hand. While there are plenty of good, hard working fly fishing guides out there, there are plenty that don’t deserve your time and hard earned dollars. Being able to tell these apart is sometimes difficult, especially when travelling.

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South Creek Bass

If a million fish die in a creek and no one sees it, do they make a sound?

No. They don’t.

At South Creek in Western Sydney a group of passionate anglers act as the eyes for this small but unique fishery. And it’s just as well too, otherwise the devastation caused to this waterway might never have come to light and nobody held accountable.

For those that haven’t already heard about the disaster on South Creek and the lack of recognition from the authorities, you can catch up here.

In short, a factory fire adjacent to the creek in January and who knows how many other incidents have resulted in a critical amount of pollutants entering the waterway. Tests and visual inspections have detected large amounts of oil and a pungent acidic chemical smell was present throughout a extensive length of the creek, with dead fish, estimated to be in the 100’s found floating in the slick and washed up on the shoreline. To this date the council refuse to acknowledge a problem or even send inspectors to sample the water. It was easier to just blame a ‘black water’ event and try to flush the creek to get rid of any evidence.

The South Creek Bass Club have created an online petition in order to try and get a proper investigation initiated to prevent this kind of event in the future. The petition can be found here. Whether you have fished South Creek or not, are an angler or not, you need to sign this. We need some accountability for actions that damage our waterways.

The passion and hysteria about the lack of response to the South Creek catastrophe does prove one thing; the importance of anglers as the gate keepers of their local waters. Without these eyes and ears on the water the damage could continue unnoticed with no follow up or consequences.

The simple fact is that recreational anglers protect waterways.

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A healthy Australian Bass

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New Zealand; Part II – Southland

After snaking through the alps and a quick stop in Queenstown for a fergburger and some food supplies I headed South to banks of the world renowned Mataura River. I briefly stopped for a captain cook at one of the Nokomai Gorge access points. The river was a lot lower than I had previously seen it. Even with the scarce flow it didn’t take long to find a handful of trout sipping willow grubs under the cover of low hanging branches. I watched these fish for ten minutes and was tempted to rig up the rod, but I knew I had to keep moving if I was to camp the night at Mavora Lakes.

The drive up the valley to Mavora is always special, with the Mararoa River to the left and the world famous trophy waters of the Oreti to the right, separated by a dusty gravel road that encourages Colin McCrae inspired driving in the rental car. I pulled up at one of the upper Mararoa access points, just below the lakes and landed a few decent rainbows on a tan cicada in quick succession. Unfortunately the Mararoa has felt the full effects of a didymo invasion, but this year a heavy flood had helped to scour the river bed earlier the summer.

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Solid Mararoa Rainbow

After camping the night at South Mavora Lake and a quick fish for a couple more rainbows in the morning, I headed back to Queenstown to meet up with a group consisting of Illawarra and Lakeside Fly Fishing Club members, and my partner for the next week of fishing, Leo. Most of the group of 14 are regulars on this trip to Southland, staying for a week at the Mossburn Hotel and fishing any of the multitude of rivers or lakes within an hours drive. This year, the fishing and weather were excellent in most spots, with the only exception being the upper Mataura which we found not to be as good as previous years, although the lower reaches and tributaries were still first class.

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Couldn’t have hoped for better weather

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Standard Southland Brownie

Together, Leo and I fished rivers including the Mataura, Mararoa, Waiau, Waikaia, Hamilton Burn with plenty of dry fly action on either cicadas or willow grubs. Some days I would tie on a woolly bugger and swing it through current just to try something different.

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Fish in the Waikaia were in good nick

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Plenty of Browns around the 60cm mark

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Willow grubber caught in the skinny water behind

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Perfect glides full of waiting trout

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Two in two casts on the tan cicada

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Gorgeous late afternoon willow grubber on the Hamilton Burn

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Gems of nature

The highlight of the week would have to be the day spent jet boating on the Waiau River with Ken of Fish Jet. A group of 4 of us and Ken left the boat ramp at 10am and spent the day getting chauffeured between usually inaccessible gravel bars and islands or even casting out the front of the running jet boat to sighted trout. The day was only interrupted by a lunch of fresh venison and crayfish tails. Life doesn’t get much better than days like this. All 4 of us were amongst the fish all day. The fast flowing currents of the Waiau produce well fed fish with incredible strength that require stronger than usual tippets up to 10lb. Most of the day we fished large dries such as cicadas or bushy stimulator patterns. Nymph droppers were also used but most fish were quite willing to come to the surface. By the time dusk was approaching Ken loaded us back on the jet boat and we headed back to a small island near the ramp. There were hundreds of seagulls around, which Ken stated was a good sign for an evening rise. We parked the boat on the island and all necked a beer while waiting to see if a hatch eventuated. I switched to a Twilight Beauty ready for any mayfly action. Sure enough, Ken was on the money and it wasn’t long before a few rises started. Two casts later I was attached to a meatball of a Rainbow that gave me a workout before Ken netted it in a calmer cove around the back of the island. The hatch only picked up from here, soon there were fish rising everywhere, with an incredible amount of mayflies on the water and in the air. The seagulls are a real pain and will take a fly as a couple of the others found out. The hatch would have lasted close to 40 minutes and I landed 6 fish in that time. The others did similarly well. It was just after 10pm by the time we arrived back the ramp, Ken the Kiwi legend had guided us for 12 hours straight, champion! We were all stoked and I think Ken was happy with the new daily record of 41 fish landed.

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Smallest fish in NZ on a size 14 Twilight Beauty

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Chunky Waiau Rainbow on the jet boat

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New Zealand; Part I – West Coast

Returning to New Zealand in late January seems to have become somewhat of a summer tradition. And so, with the rental car booked for 3 weeks, I planned to spend each week fishing a different region of the South Island. Namely the West Coast, Southland and Otago regions. I had fished these regions before and knew of the vastly different trout fishing each would provide.

West Coast

After landing in Queenstown, a quick stop at the supermarket and camping store to stock up on food and Cicadas, I pointed the Subaru North and began the drive to the West Coast. When arriving in New Zealand for a fishing trip, the adrenalin always kicks in and it seems as though you can never hit the water fast enough. I had a plan to fish a spot on the Haast River that evening to try and break my duck, but NZ had other plans. As I arrived at Makarora the road was blocked due to a rock slide in Haast Pass. Vehicle access would not resume until 8am the following morning, which meant I had to spend the night with the monkey on my back.

After what felt like an early morning jailbreak out of Haast Pass, I arrived at the Haast River and hiked to my preferred section of water. The Haast is a glacial river with flour and fast water, required a combination of blind casting and sight fishing. I fished a few runs of the river, working my way upstream, without any action on the dry-dropper rig. Dismayed I started following a stagnant green backwater back towards the road when I saw a fish cruising. I hit the deck immediately and laid a cast onto what I thought would be its projected course. The fish never arrived. Unsure whether I had spooked it or not I stalked the rest of the backwater carefully but could find no trace of the fish. I had given up, but decided to head back for a second look when I noticed what would have to have been a genuine 10 pounder sitting in the still shallows. I was creeping around and down some rocks to get into a position to cast when another trout appeared from under a rocky edge below me, working along the shore. I led the fish by 3 metres with the tan cicada. The fish heard the cicada land and immediately began the ascent, engulfing the fly in a slow motion gulp. As the descent began I lifted the rod and hell broke loose as the trout tried to get underneath the rocks I was standing on. After a minute of bullying, the trout was safely in the net. A nice brown, but nowhere near as big as its mate at the other end, which had disappeared during the commotion.

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Surprisingly productive backwater

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Monkey off the back

Driving further up the coast I stopped at a road side creek to have a quick cast at a sighted fish before setting up camp for the night. No dice on the fish, but it did spark enough interest for me to return and fish it the next morning.

Persistant rain overnight and throughout the morning saw the water level in the creek rise by close to half a metre. But since the creek was already tannin stained it did not have an effect on the clarity. First run I fished had a perfect bubble line flowing right underneath an overhanging beech branch. First cast produced a beautiful mahogany brown with a deep body. It wasn’t long after this that I ran out of fishable water, with the creek too deep to stand in.

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Perfect bubble line, solid brown

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Great colour on this fish

With the rain still falling I made the call to proceed with a hike to a backcountry hut in the upper valley of one of the West Coast’s stunning rivers. I began the trek up the sopping trail mid afternoon, with a heavy pack laden with a supplies to last a few days. The next few hours almost pushed me to breaking point, but after losing the trail a few times, multiple falls and a crawl across knee deep boggy fields, I arrived at the hut just after 8pm, soaked to the bone. The hut was empty, and after lighting a small fire to keep the sand flies out, and a feed from the Jetboil, I hit the hay.

Sunlight streamed through the hut window, projecting a distorted rectangle onto the dusty, worn wooden floor. A quick glance out the window confirmed my excitement. It was the kind of day trout fishermen spend all winter dreaming about, the sky a stunningly bright blue in every direction. I couldn’t rig up fast enough. It was warm enough to wet wade, with unbeatable scenery, trout that were waiting for a dry fly and I had the whole place to myself. It was a red letter day. Then somehow, the following day was even better.

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The backcountry Hilton

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Plenty of refusals but got him eventually

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Different water around every bend

Cicadas were on the menu, although different fish had preferences for different cicada imitations.

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Does it get better than this

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Big head

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Paradise

The third day I begrudgingly hiked back to the car, which was a hell of a lot easier in the dry weather. With the next set of storms barreling down on the West Coast I legged it South to camp at the Haast River before exiting to Southland. ###