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How about a guide?

The teal have mostly exited the bottoms. The snipe are infrequent, and the big ducks and geese haven’t arrived yet. My buddy in Saskatchewan reports birds are still up there, but the temperature is dropping and the mornings are frosty. He is still wearing shorts and sandals which is not unusual. He has shown up at the elevator for coffee here in Kansas during dead winter with snow on the ground in sandals and shorts. Duke is growing a heavy coat, and winter is coming. Duane isn’t as tough as he once was, and he is loudly bemoaning the closure of the border due to the virus. We miss his enthusiastic winter rituals. The usual bet is on as to whether or not he has washed his truck. Wayne is nervous about putting diesel in that beast – so we shall see.

My buddy up in Russell has a hook in me. He says the two happiest days of his life were when he bought and sold his boat. I’m sure Judy has an opinion about that statement, but he has a point. If we figure the cost of the escapade in my boat versus riding in a guide’s boat once or twice a month year-round – we are idiots for owning a boat. Equipment, upkeep, insurance, fuel, and sheltering a boat for 12 months is not something I want to discuss with Sandra. So, you ask me, why do I have a boat? It is a very easy answer. I like the freedom of picking the lake, the time to depart, how long to fish, and who to do it with. I enjoy picking the spot, the method of fishing, and the targeted species.

Am I as successful as most guides that fish a lot of days each week? No I’m not. Do I care? Not so much.

I’ve frozen my tail off in a snowstorm on the opinion of a fishing buddy that the walleye would be jumping in our boat. We saw big waves and snow blowing – but not any fish. I have had storms form during night fishing trips that converted a calm, quiet evening into a wall of water crashing down on us as we struggled to get back to the dock. I’ve seen fear in my partner’s eyes when the wind exceeded 30 miles per hour. All those things prove that fishermen are what they are – and we will go to almost any length to get a tug on our line. I rest my case.

Guiding is a tough job. I had a friend in Colorado who got his outfitters license in college. He was the youngest licensed outfitter in the state. When I was 64 and he was 60 – he called me up one night and said he had just renewed his license – and he was the oldest active outfitter in the state of Colorado. He is buried on the land where he lived and is looking at the mountains we hunted all those years – I can see his grin. There are lots of very special memories buried in the agony and ecstasy of elk camp.

I have a high school classmate that has been a guide on Lake Texoma for about 20 years or so. He is a genius in people management, boat safety, equipment and bait/lure management. His big boat has huge engines and he can run to almost anywhere on that lake before your coffee cools. He is efficient and careful about limits and size regulations. You are usually done before noon with a limit of beautiful stripers filleted and bagged for the freezer. He has a website and I see gobs of stripers every week. I am awed that he honestly is excited about every fish that comes in his boat.

I can wear out pretty quick when fishing every day – even on the big salmon and halibut trips to Alaska it can become work. I had a glorious trip to Costa Rica a couple of years ago with Jimmy who picked the special guide for our trip. I caught the only sailfish of my life and got to release him unharmed to do a nice leap as he exited our area. That was a special moment for me – the guide managed the boat and the fish so that we got a picture and didn’t harm that beautiful creature. I won’t ever forget that moment.

Guides in Kansas have a hard life, I think. Being responsible for finding deer, turkey, pheasants, quail and waterfowl would be way too much pressure for me to consider. I am positive they earn their money and the guides I know are terrific fellows. I could never keep up. Setting up goose decoys in the dark on the chance some might fly by gives me the willies. Duane is impossible – he thinks he knows where every decoy should be and what direction it should face and how the blinds should be aligned to the wind.  

Research your guides and find one that is kind, efficient, knowledgeable about the species and has a high success rate. Then send me his name. I might sell my boat.


Doctor Dan Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusiast.