A Guide's Perspective - guest blog post by Jako Lucas - 25.07.2013
After my blog post from Wednesday and with all the comments here and on Facebook (a big thanks by the way), I thought it would be cool to ask a professional fly fishing guide I know from South Africa to write a guest blog post for today. He's a guy by the name of Jako Lucas from FlyCastaway, and I have worked with and around him on numerous occasions now. I did get the chance a few years back to spend a few days photographing him when he had a bit of time off chasing yellowfish on the Vaal river not far from Johannesburg, and the lad can fish as well, holy cow !! As I said the other day, I work around different guides all around the world, and I happen to hold this particular full time guide in the highest possible esteem - Jako guided for 320 days last year so that must be saying something, and he is also fast gaining a reputation for the short fly fishing films he makes. Huge thanks for doing this for me Jako................
This is some of the truly insane fly fishing that Jako guides - "Gangsters of the Flats", one of his short films, and it won the "Best Fishing" category at the 2012 Drake Mag Film Awards - see here. How could it not win Best Fishing with the utter insanity that is fly fishing the Indian Ocean flats for giant trevally ? I break out in a sweat every time I see this short film, and that is coming from a photographer (me) who has seen most likely hundreds of GTs caught on the flats now.
Jako, tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be a professional fly fishing guide - "There are many reasons why people end up doing what they do for a living, in my case it was meant to be and it was in my blood. As with most of us you learn your love for fishing from your father and grandfather, but even with my love of fishing I never knew that there was a way to make a living out of it one day. So while studying (probably more part time, because of fishing), I met one of our previous Directors of FlyCastaway, while on holiday at the coast. After telling me what he does for a living, there was no doubt in my mind what I was going to do and I wanted to do it immediately. He told me what steps I needed to follow to become a successful guide and I got right to it. I made sure I finished my degree and soon after my studies I headed to London for a working holiday. I managed to get a job at Farlows, learned as much as I could about the fishing industry for a year".
The FlyCastaway guides rigging up the clients' gear as we head for the remote St. Brandon's, over 200 miles away from Mauritius. Yes, we're on a ship.
"Out of the blue I got a phone call from one of the guys at FlyCastaway and the rest is history! I have now guided full time for 8 years; in the outer Atolls of the Seychelles (Cosmoledo, Farquhar, Providence, Astove, Assumption), St Brandon's, 5 years in Norway, Mongolia and extensively throughout Africa and South Africa. Last year I ended up guiding 320 days solid! I would not recommend that to any guide though, rest is very important!"
Jako is one hell of an angler as well - here he is with a decent smallmouth yellowfish I photographed him with from the Vaal river. Guides for the most part are incredibly easy to photograph as they are so used to the kind of stuff I am asking them to do.
"Being in the fortunate position to guide at the best and most remote places on earth, you get to guide people from all over the world. It's essential to remember that you are sometimes guiding very successful people in their industry, as these trips are expensive. Lets be honest here, guys that can afford other people to take them fishing and guide them are sometimes quite wealthy and successful. Most of the time these people are very busy and do not always get time to practice as much as we would love them too".
Jako pointing out a shoal of bonefish to a client on St. Brandon's. These guys spend a lot of time looking for and spotting fish and they will generally be far more tuned in than you or I.
"So first of all, you can never be upset with your client if he can't always make the cast and you might have to give him some pointers or even casting tuition. This is a very painful thing to take, especially when you have the golden opportunity for a trophy fish and it disappears into the distance because the cast was not made. I normally see it as a chance that was not meant to be - you will get that fish some day. To make your client feel good about the situation you tell him better luck next time. Then you can cry yourself to sleep later that night! Remember if it were not for him or her then you would not be out there in the most beautiful office in the world".
You work as a professional fishing guide amongst some of the best fishing on this earth. What should a client be expecting from their guide ? "A good guide can come back at the end of the day with his clients being happy, even having had a bad day fishing. People skills are the most important. As I said before, these clients are sometimes high profile, so make sure that you get to know them first before you start swearing and talking about the South Park episode that you watched last week. You need to stimulate them with an interesting conversation and always try and make them laugh. When the fishing is going well it is easy to keep your clients happy".
Jako walks the lonely flats with a client. I can't imagine that there are that many people out there who know these Indian Ocean flats like Jako, and I can't imagine going on a trip like this and not wanting to learn as much as I can from these guys.
"Another aspect which is very important is being able to read the water. No matter where in the world you are, you must be able to see potential spots where the fish would be and thus also try to read and understand the fish - habitat, feeding patterns etc. Another very important thing that I see in good guides is a huge passion for fishing and nature. It is always great to see a new guide who is like a little kid - continuously asking questions and always eager to learn something new. What flies, What spots, How to...? Ultimately, hungry to learn!"
"Remember in the sport of fishing you will never know it all. I don't think that specific qualifications will make you become a great guide; it needs to be in your blood! Having also said that there are some guide schools in the States, one being with Sweetwater Travel, which would just point your passion in the right direction. The rest is up to you and how much you want it".
Jako landinga bonefish for a client, festooned as he is with spare rods, leader material etc. All part of the job.
Do you ever fish with a client ? "The most important of all is that you will have to accept that your personal fishing has come to an end. As much as people would like to tell me that it is better showing a client first, so that he can visually see how to do it, I would disagree. I have never felt comfortable or enjoyed casting a line with a client. There is no better joy in my life is to see a client catch the fish of his dreams! The days that I get to fish with fellow guides are few and far between, but they are priceless! What we try and do with our clients is to prepare them for the fishing coming up on his trip. I would go through the species with them and what they should do in each situation, it is not always going to work perfectly, especially when you have a 100lb GT rushing up to you and all hell breaks loose, but be patient".
What this photo doesn't show is that this bus of a GT ran amok amongst a bunch of coral bombies, and as much as the client is a serious angler, this fish was having none of it and legged it quick smartish. Jako literally ran/waded/swam way down the line, picked the fly line up, dived under the surface, freed the line from around a bombie and tailed the GT just as cool as you like. Yes, it was rather awesome to watch, and I will never forget as the other client was effing and blinding off to the right I think it was as an Indo Pacific permit was sending him round the twist !! Permit doing that ? Never !!
"Sometimes you can start slow, take them to a place where they can walk and spot fish easier. If I am in the Seychelles I would take them fishing for bonefish over white sand. If the client has problems casting I would give him some tuition on the grass in front of the lodge and continuously help him throughout the trip. It does not help showing the client on the flats how you cast 90ft to smash a fish that he would never get anyway. Nothing is about you! So rather try and prepare him and try and position so that he can have a crack himself, like I said if he does not get it, it was not meant to be. If you catch the fish there will be no joy for him, you have given that fish an education (so next time he will be even harder to catch) and you will just make him feel that he does not have a chance to catch the fish. As much as they say it, no client wants to see his guide catch a fish".
"Always go the extra mile. Even if you are having a bad day, don't go back to the lodge early, always keep trying. I have had many days where we got a trophy fish right at the end, and that can flip your whole day around from a tough day to an awesome day! People very easily forget about the hard times when they get stuck into a good fish! When the client manages to get that fish of their dreams, remember to make him feel like they have the skills of Lefty Kreh and just keep going all the time. There is no reason to come back to the lodge and tell everyone about how you got the client onto the fish. The guide will always be the unsung hero!"
When these guys get the chance to fish, more often than not they hammer them !!
I know you are getting more and more into your short film making, and you've recently won a prestigious award for your latest short - tell us a bit about about it - "Not too long ago I also started filming on the flats. The shame about being a guide is that you can't always explain to people what you see happen out there every day. It can be difficult guiding and filming, but I would normally make sure of the situation. How has the day been so far? Or can the client make the shot... Something that most of the clients appreciate is good pictures and video of the trophy fish! To be honest the main reason for my filming is that I would really like to get more people involved in fishing and get away for the stigma that it is only old, boring people that fish. So if I can one day create a movie where all ages of people can appreciate what we do and people can become aware of some of the crazy thing that fishing has to offer, I would be extremely happy!" - Jako Lukas, professional fly fishing guide.
Jako's latest short film "The Aqua Hulk" has just won the "Best New Film" category at the 2013 Drake Mag Film Awards (see here). Well done Jako. Gotta love those bumpies !!