Some Say I’m an Intense Fly Fishing Guide

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Am I too intense in my guiding, you tell me? Photo By: Louis Cahill

I’m sort of a blabber mouth on the water when I guide. Similar to a sports radio announcer that’s calling a game play by play, so the listeners can easily follow and visualize what’s going on. It’s a hands-on style of guiding that’s served me well over the years. Nintey-seven percent of my clients would have it no other way, but every once in a while, I’ll get a comment defining my guiding as being too intense. When it happens, I’ll back off and give them some breathing room, but I always chuckle, because it tells me I’m upholding a promise that I made to myself many years ago.

When I was a kid and had the dream of becoming a full-time fishing guide, I promised myself, if I was ever fortunate enough to become one, I would give my clients my absolute best every day on the water. And if the time came when I was unable to do so, because I lost my love for guiding or simply just got too old, I would promptly hang it up as a guide.

Beginners make up the bulk of my clients, and I’ve found the best way to teach them is by constantly communicating what’s going on in my head, and how I would approach and fish the water if I was doing so on my own. I’ll talk them through every cast and fishing spot throughout the day, if that’s what it takes for my clients to learn how to do it the right way and find success. The way I see it, if I can teach my clients to think like a guide when their out with me, when their on their own, they’ll catch fish like a guide.

I can be nit-picky at times, but its not done in a negative way. I’ll say things like, “your high-sticking this spot 90% correctly and that’s great, but there’s 10% of your technique that’s wrong and it’s keeping you from catching fish. Let me fine-tune you a little bit and show you how to do it 100% correctly. That way, when you find yourself in a situation like this during your next fishing trip, you’ll catch more fish.” I’ll instruct clients to walk behind me and follow my foot steps when we’re approaching a fishing hole. This teaches them how easily success can be jeopardized if they wade in the wrong places. “See how if you walk downstream of this shoal in the shallow riffle, you won’t send shock waves upstream to the trout holding in that flat water upstream?” Some may look at this as being too intense, but I see it as taking the time to teach my clients the stuff that you don’t always run across in fly fishing books.

I also have fun with giving my clients the reigns and letting them try to find success on their own during the trip. You might find me asking my clients, “if you just walked up on this spot, where do you think the trout should be holding?” If they’ve pointed out their going to fish water that’s not the prime water, I’ll explain to them why the trout should be holding in this spot versus their spot. If I feel they’ve missed an opportunity to use an easier or higher percentage type of cast, I’ll ask them, “what about if you tried this kind of cast standing here?”

I look at every moment with my clients on the stream as an opportunity to teach them and transform them into more competent fishermen. Don’t get me wrong, we laugh and find plenty of time to relax and enjoy ourselves, but they booked me to teach them, and I’m not the type of guide that’s going to sit back and keep my mouth shut as they’re making mistakes fly fishing. After all, you wouldn’t see a golf instructor silently watch a student slice the ball over and over again, without stepping in and correcting their stroke. Same with my guiding, I choose to step in when needed to make adjustments and explain the fishing scenario at hand. I care about my clients way too much to have them go on fishing year after year making the same mistakes, and not improving their game. And I also look at it like I’m paying it forward to their next fly fishing guide. If I can teach them the fundamentals, their next guide will have it easier and will be able to focus on more advanced skill learning. It’s a win/win for everyone.

When I get home from a day on the water and I’m completely drained, deep down it always feels good, because I know I’ve done my job. Even better, when I’m guiding those past clients down the road again, and I find myself not needing to step in to instruct them, I know my clients have gotten their money’s worth out of me. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I don’t find it necessarily a bad thing if a few people look at me as being too intense. The last thing I want, are clients at the end of the day, pondering over whether or not I gave them my all.

Keep it Reel,

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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20 thoughts on “Some Say I’m an Intense Fly Fishing Guide

  1. Kent,

    Don’t change a thing. The reason to hire a guide is to take advantage of their expertise. Whether it’s technique or knowledge of the location. Great guides impart that knowledge and skill to thier clients.

    Unfortunately many people see instruction as criticism. That attitude keeps them for taking advantage of the skills a great guide has to offer.

    Great guides also have a focus that can often make them appear intense, but it’s what makes them exceptional. Guides like that have provided me with some of my best outdoor experiences, be it hunting or fishing.

    I believe that no matter what you think your expertise is, there is always something to learn.

    I guess if you know everything, you just need someone to row.

    Look forward to getting the chance to fish with you someday.

    • Jerry,

      I thoroughly enjoyed guiding you and your wife. I hope to do it again this spring when we have some water in our streams and rivers. Thanks for commenting on the post. It means a lot.


  2. On the flip side, as a CLIENT, whenever I hire a new guide, when they ask me what my goals are for the day, I always tell them “Regardless of whether we catch any fish today or not, I want to be a better fisherman at the end of the day than I am now”.

    In my experience, this has always been a good thing to do as it seems to give the guide permission to teach without fear of offending me. Paying for a guide, for me, is an investment in my fishing skills. Why would I want to pay hundreds of dollars for a day with a guide, and then prevent or hinder the guide in any way? I want to get the absolute most I can from their knowledge and experience.

    • John,

      That is a great way to start out your day with your fishing guide. I always tell my clients that I’m not a mind-reader and that I always want them to provide me feedback on how I can be a better guide for them. Thanks for the comment.


  3. Kent, you echo my thoughts exactly. I just finished my first season and your philosphy as a teacher and hands on approach is the style I felt fit me best. I had the benefit of 80% of my clients being “never evers” so any ego attached to recieving advice was not there. This really aided in the development of that philosphy and makes me feel that I have to give everything everytime to catch fish consistently. There are more great moments as a guide than to count, but the greatest sometimes are when you help an novice or intermediate fisherman get over a hump. A type cast, presentation, mend, any liitle thing that improves them. Or even better is when you take a “never ever” and at the end of the trip they ask “where should I go and what do I need to buy to start this on my own.” That is when you have gone beyond teaching and you pass on your love for this sport. The high from that is why I know I found my true calling. Reading your words are like reading my thoughts (well with a few more years behind them). Great article, somehow I think age will get us long before we lose the passion.

    • Sanford,

      Congrats on finishing your first season of guiding man. If I think back really hard, I can remember some of my first trips I ever took. I can remember some sleepless nights as well, ones with me tossing and turning running as I ran through various fly fishing scenarios in my head…(I’ll do this if this doesn’t work, and go hear if someone already fishing this spot). Luckily, these days I don’t have a problem falling asleep before my guide trips the following morning. I’ve done all of them so many times it’s like clock work. That being said, I think it’s a good sign of a rookie guide if they find themselves having these pre-trip nerves. It shows they care about their job and want to do their best. Thanks for your comment.


  4. Thanks for this article! As a guide myself, I sometimes find myself letting my clients get away with mistakes, and not correcting them in fear of ruining their good time. You probably get a much more serious angler on average than I do, so while some of my guests are looking to learn as much as possible, many/most are simply looking to just relax and have a good time. With each new client, I find myself informally interviewing them before and during their trip in order to find out what their goals are for the day. That way I can take mental notes and decide just how picky I need to be with them and their technique.
    Great write!

    • Mark,

      It’s awesome to hear from some other fly fishing guides on this subject. Great point also that you brought up about tailoring your guiding to what’s most important for the client and/or clients. Sometimes, all folks want is to enjoy themselves and the outdoors with skill working low on the totem pole. Give them what they want.


  5. Kent, I can agree with Dave that commented above….don’t change a thing. As a friend and client, I appreciate the feedback you give on the water. Its constructive and helpful, and is only meant to help your client have a more productive day on the water. I can remember one instance on the water with you where I was having trouble placing my fly where it needed to be. After a couple of casts you were able to tell me the problem was with my shoulders. My shoulders werent pointed at my target. It was simple, but it fixed my problem quickly and made my day on the water easier. On top of that, now its something that I remind myself of every time I make a less than desirable cast. Everyone should appreciate a guide as attentive and knowledgeable as you. Period.

    • Justin,

      It was a great day on the water with you and I look forward to doing it again soon. Maybe i’ll have you fine tune my czech nymphing for me. Has your wife had the baby yet?


      • Looking forward to another shot at NCF soon. I’ll be sure to bring the long rods. We just found out we are having a girl and will be due in April. Talk to you soon.

  6. Kent,

    I really enjoyed this. As I have grown as a fisherman, I have used fewer guides. However, I know that I have a lot to learn and when I do use a guide, I want to get better. There is nothing better than spending a day with a guide that is “in the hunt” and is dialed in. . I especially like your comments about the approach to a hole, as after all these years I still find myself second guessing my strategy in new water. Thanks, I enjoy the blog.


    • Bryan,

      If your trying to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside that comment is doing it. Its always awesome to hear from our followers that our content is hitting home and being enjoyed. When you take the time to let us know it really pushes us to keep bringing our best.


  7. Well said. As long as expectations and styles are set ahead of time, there should not be an issue. The angler has an obligation to tell you when he books what he is looking for and his experience level honestly. If you can provide that, then the guide should discuss his plan and style. If there is a fit, there should be no issue. It’s like any business deal, there has to be a win-win. Don’t mean to state it so plainly, but that’s what it is. If expectations are stated and met on both ends, there’s no reason it should not be an excellent day for all!

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