After 21 years of guiding, one thing really stands out — fly fishing for smallies is plenty challenging.
Frankly, those of you who have put in the effort and learned to do all these things well should be darn proud. I believe anyone who can drive a bulky bass fly out 50 or 60 feet all day, handle constant line belly caused by current, and then consistently drive the hook into the steel-jawed smallie is truly an elite angler. To effectively fly fish smallies 9 or 10 hours a day takes great skill and stamina.
And conversely, if a client can’t do these things to even a minimum degree, no guide can make them catch fish. And this is an essential thing to know when you’re considering hiring a smallmouth bass guide. If you have barely picked up a fly rod before your guided trip, don’t expect miracles, no matter how expensive or notable the guide. Same for your fishing partner. You may have caught plenty of smallies on a fly, but if the person you’re bringing is a novice their experience will be dramatically different than yours.
Bringing a Newbie
In fact, a client bringing someone along who is brand-new to smallmouth bass fly fishing is one of the leading causes of frustration with guides. It’s not that guides are opposed to taking rookie clients. I actually enjoy teaching, if the novice is in the right frame of mind, and many other guides also do instuction on guided trips.
The frustration most often arises when an experienced client decides that one of his relatives or business associates would really enjoy a guided trip. But the experienced person doesn’t accurately explain what fly fishing for smallies actually entails. Or he may not realize that his business associate, father, son, wife, or whoever doesn’t have much interest in the trip. The newbie is enticed by the experienced fella saying, “you’re gonna love this, it’s easy and you’ll catch lots of fish.”
What can happen in these cases is the novice quickly becoming frustrated or bored, because they can’t cast more than a few feet, they have trouble properly working the fly in current, and when they do finally get a strike or two they miss them. Then the guy who set up the trip also starts to feel bad. And by end of the day, there are 3 unhappy campers in the boat, since no guide wants his clients to have a bad day.
A Better Way
There are two ways to avoid this unfortunate scenario.
First off, don’t force a complete novice into coming on a trip just because you love smallmouth bass fishing and think everyone else should, too. If your business associate or 70-year-old father would rather play golf, accept the fact that your passion isn’t for them, and either find other trip-mate or go by yourself.
Second, if the new person you’re bringing seems genuinely interested in going, you need to be as honest as possible about the trip. Stress that for them it will be a learning experience, NOT a fish-catching frenzy. Never imply that fly casting is similar to spin casting, or even that their experience dabbling a tiny trout fly in a creek is similar to smallmouth bass casting. Clearly explain that it took you a lot of practice to easily cast 50 feet. So they shouldn’t be surprised or frustrated when their flies only go half that far, and their casts don’t look like yours.
A rookie should realize that he or she is going to try one of the most exciting and enjoyable types of fishing in freshwater, but also one of the more challenging. If they actually land a fish or two, it will be an excellent bonus, but the most important part is the knowledge and experience they will gain. With these realistic expectations, if the new person gets lucky and catches some nice fish they will be thrilled, but they should be quite pleased even if it’s only an 8-incher or two.