The Reward of Finding and Catching Fish All on Your Own

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The blissful reward that comes from Doing It Yourself. Photo by Louis Cahill

Being a guide, it’s safe to say that I’m a little biased when it comes to how valuable I feel having a guide on hand is for the average fly angler.

Most of us don’t have the time with our busy work schedules to spend a few days figuring out the current fishing conditions, the lay of the land, and what the hot fly patterns are going to be on the water when we finally manage to wet a fly line. Therefore, hiring a guide that’s a local expert in the area that you’re going to be fly fishing is almost certain to not only put the odds in your favor for maximizing your fly fishing success, but generally it also will gurantee that you’ll come home a much more comepentent fly angler. That said, I’ll never look down on fly fisherman that refuse to hire professional guides, as long as they respect what professional guides bring to the table for anglers. I’ll be the first to admit that there’s something really special and rewarding when you find success all on your own, even if the decision to not use a guide means that you may not catch nearly as many fish during your trip. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that there’s a time and place for guides to be hired, and each angler has the freedom and right to make that call.

When Louis, Scott and I headed down to Louisiana for some redfishing this past month, we planned from the very get go, that it would be a total DIY redfishing trip. Scott had the skiff covered, while Louis and I brought all the fly fishing gear we were going to need for the trip (correction, Louis brought 95% of the gear, I just tagged along). I guess you could say, going in, we were all confident we’d catch some redfish, but we didn’t know if that meant we’d catch 1 or 50. We knew there were going to be plenty of challenges that we’d have to overcome if we were going to reach our goal of us all catching redfish on the fly. One positive we had going for us, was that we wouldn’t be heading into the Delacroix, LA waters completely blind. Louis had previously gathered some intel on the fishing grounds during a recent photography shoot down in the bayou. That said, we’d still have a lot of figuring out to do once we hit the water, since Louis hadn’t actually wet a fly line during his time in Louisiana. We all agreed even if we figured it all out during the trip, we’d likely still catch far fewer redfish than if we had all ponied up, and hired a local guide for the fishing trip.

Did we wear the redfish out during our trip? No, but we did find some success, and I have to say, that doing it all on our own, felt pretty damn good. However, the three of us could have easily gotten skunked during our redfish trip. After all, the weather had selfishly stole two of our three days of fly fishing away from us. In the end, the only real reason we met our trip goal, which was for each of us to catch multiple redfish on the fly, was because we spent every minute on the water working as a team. When we’d strike out in one fishing location, we’d openly debate where we should head next in search of redfish. Furthermore, we all gathered intel on the water, and openly shared it, no matter how insignificant we thought the information might turn out to be for helping us to find success. More importantly, we checked our egos. If you want to get the job done on a DIY fly fishing trip, that’s often hundreds of miles from your home waters, it’s crucial that you fish smart and pool together the resources you have on hand. Not only that, but keep in mind that your first trip out of the gates is probably not going to be your best, nor your last. Your end goal for your initial trip should be that you’re going to be much more prepared for your follow up trips. Even if you’re not catching fish, it can be invaluable to explore the water that you can safely reach, so that you can learn the lay of the land and gain further knowledge of how to catch the fish you’re targeting on the fly. Try different patterns, fish different depths and types of water, and above all, fish hard during your time on the water. If you do so, eventually you’ll figure out where the fish are and you’ll start catching them.

I’ll never forget my time in Delacroix, LA with my good buddies Louis and Scott. Big thanks to both of you for allowing me to tag along with you guys. I hope I can make the follow up trip down the road, which I’m confident will be much more catching and less searching.

Keep it Reel,

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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11 thoughts on “The Reward of Finding and Catching Fish All on Your Own

  1. Guides are invaluable. That being said, it does feel pretty damn good to strike out on your own and accomplish your fishing mission. Sounds like you guys had a blast.

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  3. I dare to state that for bonefishing Google Earth is more valuable than a guide.
    For other fisheries a guide can be pretty handy. For tuna or tarpon, for instance. You can cover a lot of water and the guide will know where the pods hang out and help you out with the cast and fight by positioning the boat.
    Nice article again, love your blog.

  4. There was a few thing that stood out to me in this write up. One was that you worked as a team and openly debated ALL your thought big or small, and the other was you left your egos back on the hill. Again, this is why I like this community. Not only did these two things ultimately lead to your DIY success on your trip, but it will work anywhere on any trip! If you didn’t work as a team you would have been working against each other and probable not shared all you ideas because your egos would have gotten in the way. Funny how it all works isn’t it ?! The power of positivity and team work. God bless!

  5. The day after Christmas, three of my buddies and I with two skiffs headed for the Everglades. Our guide for a day had to cancel at the last minute so we were left on our own. We poled flats in Florida Bay and creeks in the Everglades. We had no idea exactly what to do. Some hard poling, much casting and fly changing did pay off though. My first snook on the fly, a nice trout and a few nice redfish were out reward. And as you said Kent the next time we will be better prepared. The guide would have been great, but the reward could not have been better.

  6. I am not a fishing guide. I have fished with guides tons of times and on my own much more than with guides. I fully agree with your post.

    One of the hardest things to do in the salt for almost any flats species is figuring out the tides and where the fish will be at different times. There is so much water and places to fish that it can be daunting. Guides spend more time on their home water than weekend fishermen and especially DIY folks, so they will know much about location that those folks have to figure out by trial and error. Fish will be in one place one day at a certain time and somewhere else a day or two later. I have seen folks catching fish in one spot along structure that could not be found 50 feet on either side of the target. That degree of difficulty is why the reward of DIY success is that much sweeter.

    One other advantage of guides is safety. They will know their home water like the back of their hands, they will not get lost, they will know what the dangers are in an area and where to go or who to call if the worst happens. No time will be lost figuring out what to do.

    • Agreed. The percentage of trips to the salt with a guide is WAY higher for me than the percentage of freshwater guided trips. Unless I’m fishing in Steinhatchee, if I’m in the salt then I’m with a guide. I can remember my first days fishing around Steinhatchee, we’d look at a map somedays with a blank stare follwed by “where the hell do we start???” We’ve lost a few props and a skeg out there too….But it’s been fun learning!

  7. I think it is great that you find your own fish. However, if you work 90 hrs a week like I do, I think it is more fun to have a guide help you. He knows the water, he knows the beginning set of flies, and you can catch more fish. I also think that it is great that someone else is there in case you get into life-threatening situations ( stuck foot in rock, thunderstorm, creek rise 5 ft happened to me) The best part is fishing with a guide you know, trust, and can call a friend. It isn’t all about catching fish, it’s about learning, and talking trash with a buddy.

  8. I love breaking down a new fishing challenge on my own and the feeling of success that comes when you can do your research online, prepare for the trip, and catch a few fish without having someone do it for you. I would never take a destination trip without a guide, but if I can get there in a car in a few hours, I would much rather try it on my own.

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