Each trip out on the water is unique. Some clients are looking for a specific species while some really don’t care what they catch. Others want to land multiple fish in a day while others are just happy to be in the outdoors. No matter what I find that most people are just happy to be in the outdoors doing what they love. I know what I am looking for. I want all of my clients to leave happy and fulfilled with their time on the water.
One of my last bass trips this year happened in mid-October. I was taking out a father and son and the weather was not looking good at all. The forecast was rainy, windy and cold. I am always careful when taking young kids out, especially during the shoulder seasons where the weather can play a big factor. Nothing is tougher on young anglers than being in a boat in the cold rain for a whole day. Most older anglers don’t even want to do that. With young anglers it is vital to get fish in the boat quickly and often to prevent boredom and to keep them engaged. A slow cold wet day on the river is ok for most seasoned anglers, but not for an energetic youth.
I chose my go-to river for smallmouth for this late season trip. A lot of anglers stop fishing for smallmouth bass after the summer, but the fall time is some of the best fishing, with many larger specimens showing up more frequently. The bass are also looking to bulk up for the coming winter and focus on feeding on the available baitfish. The takes are strong and leave little doubt of their intentions. This was a good thing as we were trolling and the inevitable question came up from the young client. “How will we know?” I always just grin and reassure them “trust me. You will know!”
On this day the bass came to the net frequently, which was a blessing. We had received a ton of rain the week leading up to this trip and many of the tributaries were running high and murky. After finding clean water we were on. One other important thing to remember with young anglers is to help them do most of the work themselves. It gives them a sense of pride and teaches them important life lessons. That lesson would be that you could do everything right and still not land a fish. You need to move on and try again and if you give up your chance at failure is 100%. One thing I like to do is if a fish jumps and spits the hook I talk it up as a great experience and that it was exciting to see the fish do that. As a guide you really do set the tone for the experience of all anglers. The highlight of this trip may not have been noticed by my clients. As the father was reeling in a nice fish I handed the net to his son and coached him through netting his father’s fish. The key here was to not stress him out so he wouldn’t be too nervous.
As a guide, you have to be ready to accept mistakes and possible broken or lost equipment when taking young anglers out. Don’t freak out. Have a backup plan and have enough equipment to go around. I have lost a net over board a few times so I always have a packable net in the bow of the boat. Lesson learned over time. If you handle mistakes like a pro then they will have confidence in themselves and you most importantly. If you could honestly look me in the eye and tell me that you have never lost or broke equipment while on the water I would probably laugh. It is part of doing business and being a professional. That young angler was so proud that he was netting his father’s fish and you could see it on his face. That really made my year during those moments.
I had one client so excited to finally catch a very nice bass on the fly during a mid-summer trip that he put the fly rod down and accidentally stepped on it. The look on his face was priceless, but I just laughed because it was a moment of pure happiness after catching his fish. If I had gotten mad it would have completely wrecked the moment and the whole trip. I could from that point vouch for how durable that rod was, as it did not break, which we all found amusing.
So remember no matter what you are doing try to keep in mind what you are ultimately looking for. You may not know specifically what you are seeking, but enjoy every minute of it and live in the moment. Keep a level head, accept mistakes and take a kid fishing while you are at it.