So, you want to be fishing guide?
"Boy have you got the job!" I hear that one a lot. And, they're right. I love being a float fishing guide. But, you can't really make a living at it unless you are in a perfect environment. In the business world you hear one key component to success is "location, location, location". I couldn't agree more when it comes to being a successful guide. For example, if you live on the White River it's much easier to be a successful trout fishing guide then if you lived a hundred miles away. Fortunately, I guide not to make a living; but, because I just love to be out there float fishing and float hunting our streams.............And, I might as well take you along should you want to go. Actually, I'm retired from the business world and I don't really "need" to guide what-so-ever. For both the client and me, that's a good thing! Trust me, the day that guiding out on our streams becomes a "job" becomes the day I stop guiding. If there was something better to do with my time in Ozark outdoors then what I do now, I'd be doing it. "Do you ever run across a bad client?" The short answer is NO! I'll say this, if you don't enjoy being around people with attitudes and opinions different from your own then guiding is not for you. I've been surprised about one thing as a guide. There are a lot of great people out there that appreciate going on a float trip with me. I've never taken anyone on a float trip that I didn't throughly enjoy spending the day with on the river. Many of my clients have also become good friends and some of them have made trips with me for a decade or more. I look forward to our float fishing adventures perhaps as much or more as they do. It's common knowledge that a person should do some "screening" when looking for a guide to take them hunting or fishing, after all, it is their money. There are more "guides" and "outfitters" now then ever and finding a "bad" one is not hard to do. Something I've learned as a guide is to also do some "screening" of my own. There are some folks that should never take a float trip. After all, it is my time! "How did you learn to do that?" You just can't beat experience when it comes to guiding. I've learned a lot over the years about float fishing and hunting on my own. There is actually a lot to know about "what to do or what not to do" when out on an Ozark stream. I've learned near all I know about float fishing and hunting by simply doing it over and over, and then, over, again. As I said earlier, I love this stuff. I can think of few ways to spend a day that can equal a day on an Ozark river. I can remember my first float fishing trip with my uncle Bill and Current River guide, Berry Price in 1961 like it was yesterday. Plus, I can remember minute details about a 1000 float trips since. I have entire rivers visually memorized from start to finish. I can make a mental float trip through every shoal, every turn, and can tell you near all the places where fish have been caught or ducks have been shot. I can take you on dirt roads in the Ouachitas of Arkansas and Oklahoma to remote river slabs for a day's float and that's not even considering the hundreds of Ozark rivers that I'm familiar with from Fort Smith, Arkansas to St. Louis, Missouri. That knowledge can only be learned by doing. True, I could just learn a handful of float trips close by and guide on those.................But, that's a little too much like a job! "How much do you charge for a guided trip?" The short answer is a fee that makes sense. I tell folks in all sincerity, if you aren't happy with the trip, you don't owe me a thing. I've never had anyone leave a float trip unhappy and more times then not tips are offered. A short, day trip close to home for one or two can be done for as little as a couple of hundred dollars. However, if I'm travelling a long distance, requiring overnight expense, meals and extra vehicle costs then three hundred a day plus lodging makes more sense. Bottom line, I get about all the guiding I want every year. A few years back, rain delays and timing required me to book trips nine days in a row. Unfortunately, toward the end of that stretch my body was turning my attitude into "it's a job to go tomorrow". I resolved then to always give my body a break so that my attitude could be at it's best. For years, friends would say to me, "you should be a float fishing guide, it's what you are anyway." Truth is, I would have starved to death trying to make a living at it. But, a few years back I began to ask myself, "what are you going to do with yourself when you retire". So, I started and in my own experience, it's the way to go. If you love it like I do, it'll work, if not you can always play golf. I look forward to spending time on the river with my clients.........this year! Fishing's like that sometimes and it doesn't seem fair, particularly if you are 15 and went with grandpa expecting to bring back a mess of fillets for grandma to cook. Even if you are grandpa or a husband with three kids at the house and a lawn that needs mowing, it still doesn't seem fair. For that reason, I thought I'd share some thoughts about how to catch fish even if they're not in the mood. Of course, this is going to be about stream fishing. You've got a host of folks here writing about lake fishing, so I'll leave it up to them to help you with the same problem out on flat water. First, you've got to find the fish! Now that seems obvious; but, I've seen a lot of folks spend time fishing where not a fish can be found. I've done it myself. Just because there's water out there doesn't mean fish are everywhere. On streams, bass, walleye, google eye, green sunfish, suckers, and catfish are schooled together more times then not. Where you find one, you'll often find them all. If there is a place where fish are located most consistently on streams, it would be at the foot of shoals where fast-moving water comes into an eddy of water with depth. Even if fish are not biting, that's where they are. So, stay with them and go to work on what they want to eat. A little tidbit here for you to keep in mind is that one of the most consistent places for fish to school is in the last mile or two of a stream before it enters a lake or another stream. I think it has most to do with food and spawning. It's common knowledge that White Bass move up into streams to spawn early in the Spring. Less known is that the same is true for Largemouth, Smallmouth, Catfish and Walleye. If you've got a small boat and motor, then work your way up stream from the lake and "go beyond" what looks like the normal turn-around for the larger fishing boats. Yes, it may be a little extra work; but, it could mean the difference in catching and not catching fish. I catch a lot of fish every year a mile or two above the last boat and motor coming upstream from the lake. What do I do when the weather/water conditions are bad? Actually, staying home and mowing the lawn might be your best choice. Right after a hard rain or during a storm the conditions can be anything; but, safe. I never fish streams in flood condition, so, I'm not suggesting you should do otherwise. Another issue is that many times high pressure and bluebird skies follow a storm front that comes through the Ozarks. The water conditions may not have been flooded; but, based upon my experience, fish activity will be at it's lowest level for many hours following depending upon the rise of barometric pressure. Fish are on the bottom and often will not move to feed even for live bait. This is particularly true in the Spring; but, a rise in pressure is less adverse from July on through the Summer. On the other hand, though, fishing can be great on a "rainy day" even "a snowy day". I've been out there in these conditions and have found fishing to be outstanding. A classic example is Walleye fishing. A lousy day of weather in February is an OUTSTANDING day to try your hand at catching your best Walleye on a river. In mid-summer if the conditions have been "sunny and hot" for days and then surprisingly a mild, cloudy day shows up, then get out there..........conditions for fishing are perfect! One last point about weather, just because it's a 100 degrees in the shade doesn't mean fishing is lousy. On streams, that's EXACTLY when I want to be out there fishing. Most of my best bass that have been caught on streams has been in the hottest of mid-summer weather, right in the middle of the day! "Fish just won't bite what I'm casting and I've always done well on this lure!" It's generally true, if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten..........except when it applies to fishing! I love to fish a topwater bait because I love to catch a bass on top. The facts are though, there are days you might as well be bird watching. The conditions may change later in the day, of course; but, if you are on fish and they are not biting your lure then it's obvious, change tactics! Some times it's just a subtle difference. I'll share a good example. A couple of years ago I was guiding a couple of guys on an eastern Missouri Ozark stream and we found that a "Senko" was the go-to bait that day. This lure, if you are not familiar with subtle differences, would be termed by many as just another plastic worm. Actually, it's a fairly unique plastic worm because for one it is salt-impregnated, weighs a ton compared to other plastic worms and is an outstanding lure in some stream conditions. Anyway, we were doing well on them that day and all three of us were fishing it as we floated along. Both of these guys have nicknames, Butch and Bulldog. A few hours into our trip Butch and I noticed that Bulldog was out fishing us about 3 to 1. Naturally, Butch brought it up and I had to admit it. Confounding the situation was that he was fishing the same size lure, the same color and from all appearances not doing a thing any differently........until we got to the bottom of it. Butch couldn't stand it any longer and said, "let me take a look at your rigging". "That's it, you've got a toothpick stuck in your bullet weight!", Butch exclaims. Butch and I were also fishing a "Texas rig" with our Senkos and we were all using 3/8 ounce bullet weights. Essentially, Bulldog had attached the weight directly to the lure by snipping a piece of toothpick in the head of the bullet weight to keep it wedged against the lure. His Senko was getting to the stream bottom.........and to the fish more effectively. Shortly, we all had toothpicks attached and catching fish evened out. Don't give up, keep fishing. That's the best advice I can give to conclude. Some days are just better then others for fishing. Most encouraging is that some days can start out lousy, but end as the best day ever. So, get out there, make the effort to find fish, and then stick with it. Experiment and try something different. The first time I saw someone tie on a "bubble gum" colored lure to fish I couldn't help but make a comment and chuckle.........I now carry two or three different lures in Bubble Gum. What else can I say?