Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

A fishing guide is not guiding you if they are fishing

The world of fishing guides according to Henry Gilbey !! We were having a discussion in my car over in Ireland the other day about the whole guiding thing, bearing in mind that the growth of interest in lure and fly fishing for bass especially will then as a natural progression produce more people who become interested in taking other anglers out fishing either to try and make a living out of it or else to make a bit of extra income to supplement whatever else they may do. Some people want to try and make some money out of fishing and some don't - but then fishing is fishing and guiding is guiding - they are very different things. Guiding is a potentially thorny issue and I am hoping that a few guides I know or indeed don't know might read this blog post and provide their own thoughts in the comments section at the bottom........................

OK you could well argue, what on earth does this Henry bloke know about guiding when he is not a fishing guide himself ? Point taken, but you need to realise that through my work I get to work around, work with and carefully watch some of the best fishing guides you could ever hope to be guided by. But what makes a "proper" or indeed professional fishing guide ? Well in many parts of the world there is no professional requirements to go and guide other anglers, so in reality anybody could start calling themselves a fishing guide and go touting for business.

But as with many businesses, the cream usually rises to the top and I have been incredibly lucky to have worked with some quite outstanding guiding based businesses over the years, and through this I think I have a pretty good idea what makes a good fishing guide - and do you know the one single thing that I notice about every single good fishing guide that I have worked with or around ? Not one single one of them fishes when they are guiding their client or clients (as you can see in all these photos here today). Speak to any "professional" guide and they will tell you that they are simply not guiding if they are fishing at the same time as their client fishes - guiding is a job, and if the guide is fishing away then they are not doing their job - which is many things, and not just trying to put their client onto fish.

So why shouldn't a guide be fishing with their client(s) ? I speak to some lure anglers who say that if they ever hired a guide they would want their guide to fish with them - but I then ask if this person has ever actually been professionally guided and therefore has half a clue what a professional guide should be doing for you. You are hiring them to guide you, and you are not hiring them to go fishing with you, otherwise why on earth bother hiring a "guide" in the first place ? Why would you pay for a "guide" to fish for the day ? You don't get paid to fish, so why should your "guide" ? When I worked as a waiter at my folks' restaurants I was there to wait on tables - imagine the uproar from the customers if I had brought out the food and then pulled a chair up and sat down to eat with them.

Within bass fishing either with lures or flies there are some well-established, what I would call "professional" guides out there who have been doing it for a number of years, have the proper insurances (more important than you might imagine), and year in year out they are getting repeat business - which says something does it not ? I get asked a lot about where and how to go about bass fishing (how about a UK/Ireland "guides' directory" ?), and I can't help but wish that it was more ingrained if you like within UK and Irish anglers that it can be so massively worth hiring the services of a good fishing guide. I often suggest contacting a guide, but more often than not the reply is nope, they're too expensive. What price shortening your odds of getting at potentially more and bigger fish though ? How much money could you actually save by hiring a guide to make sure you are in the right places at the right times, using the right methods and having somebody there to help you all the way ? But hiring a guide is not really in our saltwater culture...................

If I hired the services of a fishing guide for the day (and yes, it's a service industry) and he or she fished away then at the end of that day I would refuse to pay. End of. Yes, there are times when your guide perhaps needs to help you with certain techniques/methods by picking up a rod and demonstrating, and many fly fishing guides are also accredited casting instructors and can help teach their customers if needs be. But if my guide simply plonked me in a spot and fished away then there would be some "issues" come the end of the day. I am a paying customer who is paying for a guiding service, and I am categorically not there to help fund my "guide's" personal fishing. I want to learn. I want to better understand. I want to be guided. What happens if your guide fishes away and catches fish while you don't ? They ain't guiding, plain and simple. Putting you on a fishing spot and leaving you to it is not guiding - it's called taking you to a fishing spot and leaving you to it.

If you want to rant and rave against me here then fire away, but I would ask that before you do, you ask yourself one simple question - have you ever been professionally guided ? I don't mean a bit of cash in hand to some bloke who claims to be a guide when in fact they are doing no more than helping to fund their own fishing. No, I mean have you been properly guided by a professional guide or outfitting service ? If you have then you can rant and rave all you like at me, but you won't be ranting and raving about me saying that a fishing guide is not a fishing guide if they fish with their clients - because your professional guiding experience will not have revolved around your guide fishing with you. It will have revolved around your fishing guide actually guiding you.

And in case you were wondering, I have a huge amount of respect for professional fishing guides, indeed some of the finest people I have met in fishing are guides, and I can't tell you how much I learn from them and enjoy spending time with many of them. If I had my time over again I would think seriously about taking myself off overseas and getting into professional guiding (instead of making those TV programmes which live on and on). How ? By approaching the best outfitters and pushing hard until I got somewhere - which is what I do in my working world - push hard to get work.

So why this blog post ? Simple really. Aside from a very limited number of more established saltwater guides, the whole issue of saltwater guiding here in the UK and Ireland is in its infancy and I can't help but have reservations over what might happen in the future. We don't have a saltwater guiding culture here in the UK as they do say in the Keys (got to be a correlation here between the quality of the fishing, surely ?), and I would be interested to know how many people have themselves been professionally guided and therefore have at least an inkling about what it takes to then guide paying clients themselves to a high standard - which is not just about putting clients on big bass. I take my hat off to anybody who can make a living or at least part of a living via bass guiding from the boat or from the shore, but a part of me can't help but wonderhow this burgeoning industry is going to develop and what the potentially growing number of customers have a right to expect............