Ever fish with a guide? I never had until the Bahamas.
Now some of you may be thinking….
”Ummmmmm isn’t Captain Mark a guide, like isn’t that kind of the whole point of this Flyosophy website the promotion of his career as Captain of Flyosophy Charters via the horrible business model of having some mildly amusing, attention starved, Pez Dispenser of unrequested wisdom spouting off whatever idea should bounce around his empty and presumably pointy head?”
To you I say the following:
First – Shut up!!!! You’ll hurt my feelings, my head is not pointy, and seriously who thinks “Ummmmmmmm….” Being an omniscient narrator RULES!!!!
Second – Fishing with a Captain is not at all like fishing with a Bahamian guide.
Like most things it’s probably a cultural thing, the culture in question is one of fly fishing not of the Bahamas or of the Northeast.
The primary service a captain provides is access. A good captain will safely bring you to the fish – that’s a huge deal when you think of it. Though he has knowledge of the best flies and gear to use, can provide presentation tips or casting advice if needed, that’s generally something you ask about ahead of time. The information is offered but rarely volunteered – because that’s not the culture. When you are on the water, the lion’s share of the actual fishing is on you (minus the whole finding the fish thing which is the greatest share of any fishing endeavor, but you get the idea.) The culture – though not necessarily the truth – is that a guy who catches a massive striper with Captain X is made to feel he could have caught that fish on his own. Fishing with a captain is a lot like fishing with a very knowledgeable cousin, friend or something…they’ll help however they can but unless it’s obvious you want help (i.e. you ask…) they may be a bit reluctant to offer.
The Bahamian guide I fished with wasn’t like that, not even a little bit. He would have climbed inside my shirt and cast the rod for me if I let him. I did not enjoy this, and in fairness, he did not enjoy me.
Flyosophy Fun Fact: When I was in High School my plan was to go to West Point. My grades and SAT scores were incredible. I was even a National Finalist in the Math Olympiad – yes that’s a thing. So confidently I went through the application process and proudly told my uncle – The Colonel – of my plans. He is a dour man with the unfortunate habit of telling lousy jokes over and over again until you laugh. He can’t believe that the joke wasn’t funny, so he assumes you either didn’t hear him or didn’t get it. He just told me one word that day, “Don’t.” It was one of the very few times in my life that I actually listened to someone. Many of my teachers and classmates were surprised when I changed gears and started looking into other colleges, they believed the military was a good fit for me – they also had zero experience with it. To this day I find it telling that everyone I know who has military experience (like Mark’s Dad) confirms that I would not have functioned well in that environment. Why? Because I respond negatively to being told what to do…also why I tend to bolt out of relationships…
I did not enjoy fishing with Mr. Guide.
He would aggressively snap his fingers at me and point.
“Cast, Cast, Cast!!!”
I’d start false casting in the general vicinity he was pointing, paying more attention to him then looking for the fish. I can’t do much in this life – the Good Lord saw fit to bless others with the gifts of intelligence, ambition, and social skills, but damn it at least I can cast. At least I can when I’m not being told what to do every moment of it. It’s like brushing your teeth. Easy beans right? Now picture a scary dentist in a mesh tank top (That’s right Mr. Guide wore a peach mesh tank top) behind you in the mirror yelling, “Molars, Incisors, the gum line, the GUM LINE DAMMIT!!!!” It’s a lot harder.
“STRIP STRIP STRIP!!!!!” Followed by “Why did you strip so hard, strip softly…”
I mean the dude is on the cusp of an aneurysm imploring me to strip like somehow the fate of the universe depends on the fly moving. He voice is rattling my spine with its insistence that I strip the line with urgency yet he wanted these gentle slow little strips. He had no concept of matching the tone of one’s voice to the situation. It was like bellowing “I LOVE YOU PUPPY!!!!!!!!” and wondering why your little dog is quivering under the bed.
Flyosophy Fun Fact: The best way to torture a Golden Retriever Puppy is to pet it and then turn your back on it saying “Ignore.” The dog will go nuts trying to get you to pay more attention to it…works on insecure women too…i.e. all of them. Yes I wrote this for no other reason than to include a puppy picture…
Mr. Guide hated me for a lot of reasons, most of them fair. I did find that when I was fishing on my own I spotted fish fairly well, made good casts, and hooked up a huge percentage of the time. However, with the guide around to look for fish my eyes and brain wandered to observing the weird crabs, shrimp, sea-turtles, poking stingrays with my rod, coming up with characters for the children’s book I’m working on, imitating the Baptist preacher who ran the lodge – he was great dropped f-bombs and the N word (he was black and called his 20 something latent son by no other name) a thousand times a day while accusing the female members of his congregation of trying to seduce him. Come to think of it the only word I never heard him say was “Amen.” Anyhow you get the idea, Comedy Gold.
So Mr. Guide got sick of me and started hounding Mark. Now, Mark possesses a quality I lack. Though we are more or less bookends in terms of fly fishing ability, Mark exudes a confident air of competence that people respect. For example, on more than one occasion we will be tying together at some Expo or Event and a guy will come up to us, point to the fly THAT I AM TYING IN MY VISE and ask Mark about it even though I’m sitting right there. Reminds me of the time I won some prize for Scholarship and my well-intentioned professor suggested I have someone else speak at the award ceremony because I am “Stupid looking.”
So anyhow, Mr. Guide is giving Mark a hell of a lot less crap than he gave me yet one gem stands out.
Mr. Guide pointed to a bonefish Mark had already spotted. Given the strong winds on his casting shoulder, Mark took his time to keep his eyes on the fish, but bring his rod and body around to lay out a backcast presentation. Fly fishing 101 – actually that’s would be higher up a core concentration course at least.
Mr. Guide has the patience of a Viagra-doped Frat Boy and starts ordering Mark to make a “70 foot cast” towards the coral beach to intercept the fish.
Mark – forever the exact scientist – says “I can’t do that.” He couldn’t do that not because of the wind or lack of skill, but because the fish was barely 30 feet away, a 70 footer would have placed the fly far up on the dry marl. Without a second thought, Mark delivers the fly a strip or three later the fish is on.
Later that day on the boat ride back, Mr. Guide decides to use this as a “teachable moment.” He goes into a lengthy and philosophical discussion of how in life many are the things which seem impossible or daunting. Despite that we should always try, try to dream the impossible dream, fight the unbeatable foe, seek out the ineffable and see if we can’t eff it after all… Mark was wrong to say that he couldn’t make that cast, because when he did try he managed to catch the fish. Powerful life lesson shared and learned Mr. Guide is a philosopher as well.
Mark didn’t see it that way, “No I couldn’t make a 70 foot cast because the shore was only 40 feet away. What are you on the metric system or something?”
So that was my first, possibly last, experience of fishing with a guide. I will say this – the guy knew his stuff, and I did learn from him (more on that later, also I’m fairly certain “Mr. Guide” will become a Flyosophy Character the greatest honor anyone could ever receive.) I firmly believe he was a good guide and I would recommend him to a friend – provided that friend really wanted a guide. It is a much different culture than I am used to or would like to get used to. He spotted fish better than I could, his boat provided better access then we would have had doing it ourselves, but all in all I enjoyed the one day we went out and found no fish pretty well – at least I didn’t get yelled at.
Fishing with a Guide is a lot like having sex with a woman who keeps telling you what to do – it makes you feel cheap, kills any sense of accomplishment, and you end up wishing you just stayed home and did it yourself.