I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to guide lots of wonderful clients over the years. A large portion of those clients, that I now call friends, originally came to me through referrals from other fishing guides. When I get a client referral from another guide, I always make a point to take extra care of the client, and I do that for two reasons. First, because a referral by one of my peers is an honor, and second, it’s not just my reputation on the line, it’s also the reputation of the guide who recommended my services. The reason I’m bringing this subject up today, is because not too long ago, I had one of my favorite clients ask me to recommend a redfish guide to him for an upcoming vacation with his wife. The only two guidelines he gave me were that the guide needed to be based out of a specific city on the Georgia coast, and he only wanted to focus on fly fishing. I let my client know I’d be in touch with him shortly with a credible redfish guide.
The first thing I did was get on the internet and google redfish guides in the area. One thing that I made sure to steer clear of, were guides that marketed conventional tackle first, and fly fishing gear second. If you’re wanting to book a guide solely for fly fishing, it’s usually a good idea to search out a guide that focuses primarily on fly fishing. In the past, I’ve found out the hard way, that fishing guides that market both types of gear (especially in saltwater and warm-water lakes), sometimes end up keeping the fly gear locked up, and out of reach. I don’t mean this literally, of course, although I’m sure it happens, I just mean those guides tend to push fishing with conventional gear over fly gear, because it’s less technical and easier for them to put clients on fish. So keep that in mind next time you’re looking to hire an inshore saltwater or warm-water lake fly fishing guide.
Long story short, I found a well known veteran fishing guide in the area that advertised redfish and other species on the fly. Everything seemed to check out, so I called him up, introduced myself, and gave him the break down on what my client wanted. Next, I gave him the background of my client and his fishing skills. I let him know he was one of my favorite clients, that he was a ton of fun to guide, and also that he’d probably become a regular for him if they hit it off. Lastly, and most importantly, I stressed to the redfish guide that all the client truly cared about, was improving his saltwater fly fishing skills (specifically his fly casting technique and double-haul). I ended our conversation thanking the guide for accommodating my client, and I wished them a grand time together on the water.
About a month later, I got an email from my client who had booked four days with the redfish guide I’d recommended to him. Attached to his email, was a photo of him holding a respectable redfish landed during the trip. I immediately replied back congratulating him and asked, “How’d the redfish trip go, my friend?” Shortly after, I received a reply that read….
“The guide pretty much gave up on teaching me after the first day. He told me that my fly casting sucked, I was casting in an arc, and that the brand new saltwater fly rod and reel that I bought ($1200), was a piece of junk and needed to be sold on Ebay.”
My jaw dropped wide open when I read the reply, and my fists clinched up tight as hell, as I looked for something close by to punch. I’m telling you right now, hearing that information from my friend, really pissed me off in a bad way. How dare someone treat a client of mine referred to them, who booked four days for that matter, be so unprofessional and unaccommodating of a client’s request to learn. It’s not like the redfish guide didn’t know going in what the plan was. I told him straight up, as well as my client, he was dealing with a newbie in saltwater, and improving fly fishing and casting skills was far more important than catching fish.
A few minutes passed, and I thought to myself, “He’s got to be blowing this thing out of proportion. Those can’t be the words that came out of the redfish guide’s mouth.” So, I called him up to clarify, and sure enough, those words did come out of the redfish guide’s mouth. He explained to me that he had told the guide to be blunt and honest with him, but damn, any professional guide will tell you, it’s always a good idea to maintain some level of censoring (what comes out of your mouth) with your clients on the water. I’ll tell you one thing, that redfish guide doesn’t have to worry about me referring him anymore trips, and he’s lucky I’m still on good terms with my client since I was the one who recommended him. The only reason I didn’t call that redfish guide up and speak my mind, was I had to respect my client’s wishes to stand down.
I took the time to tell this story of a guide referral gone bad, because in my opinion, it’s too important not to share. It’s important for the rookie guides trying to make a name for themselves and build their clientele. It’s important for the anglers hiring guides to understand this isn’t normal practice, and it’s important that we band together and don’t allow our sport to be poorly represented in this way. My client told me straight up, that he would have sold all of his fly fishing gear if he wouldn’t have been guided by me. I’m very lucky he visited me first and not that redfish guide.
Furthermore, it makes me wonder how many people have left the sport of fly fishing, and no longer hiring guides or spending money in fly shops, because their first experience was dealing with an unprofessional jackass guide, like the one in this post. There’s far too many good guide’s out there that bust their ass every day on the water, struggling to make a living, to have this kind of thing going on. Give your business to the companies and guides that appreciate your business and work their tail off to give you the best customer service they can provide.
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