So you took my advice on how to choose the right kayak guide for you (CLICK HERE IF YOU MISSED IT!) You now know who is going to give you the experience you crave, and booked your big day with the “It Guide” you found.
Now, proud of yourself for getting your name in your guide’s calendar, you grab your favorite plate, knife, and fork from your kitchen, then drive to that new steak house everyone is ranting and raving about, and ask for a discount on your meal, because you brought your own equipment. Oh guy mod. Do NOT be that client with your kayak fishing guide! Now what I’m to level with you is How To be the Right Client for the Guide you’ve chosen!
Look friends, if you wouldn’t go into a restaurant armed with your own kitchenware expecting a reduced price, please don’t expect you can do that with a kayak fishing guide. Yes, you may have top of the line equipment (go you!) but your guide is a business. He or she has worked hard to provide his or her clients with top kayaks and gear, which he or she knows too well—and isn’t interested in risking your safety by allowing you to use equipment with which the guide isn’t already familiar.
Sorry not sorry; don’t do that to your guide. Now, if your guide says they’re cool with it without you having to ask, that’s different. But don’t assume you can show up with your own kayaks and fishing gear to cheapen or sweeten your deal. It ain’t sweet or cute, so just DON’T.
And on the subject of haggling, let me break this down for you:
I’d wager 95% or more of kayak guides are independently owned and operated “mom and pop” businesses. Their pricing reflects their personal livelihoods. Every guide out there has a family to support and/or bills to pay. Go ahead and compare the pricing of their competitors. If your choice of guide is way above the median, double check your decision to book with that person. If he or she is way below the median, I’d be asking WHY?! There’s probably a sketchy reason, if you ask me. Bottom line, though, don’t haggle. If you don’t want to pay their price, you don’t want to go. Be honest with yourself. If it’s about the money, you’re not ready.
Let’s stay on this topic of honesty now, shall we?
Knowing your limits is only HALF of your responsibility. Because your guide is responsible for you, you’re responsible for letting him or her know what you can and cannot do! (And if you’re not responsible enough for yourself, you’re not capable of booking a guide without help. Go get mommy to assist you in booking.)
Before you ever contact a guide, you better understand and be honest about your own experience level. And no matter how badly you wish this counts, floating down the Yucatan River over a decade ago is not experience. Nor is rafting, canoeing or tubing—or anything that relies on a current and prayer that you don’t flip.
If you’re booking a kayak fishing trip on the open water, or flats, YOU are the force of propulsion, not the current. There are rarely banks lined with trees to block the wind. You have to rely on your own core strength to get from point A to point B. So if you just had knee surgery and are still on crutches, you should probably decide if you really need to go right then. And if this is something you insist on doing despite having heavy metal screwing your joints together, you should ABSOLUTELY tell your guide IN ADVANCE of the planning stages for your individual experience.
Now, I’m not suggesting you must be professional whitewater paddler to enjoy your trip, nor in peak physical health, but please be honest with yourself and your guide about your real-world experiences with kayaking and your real-time limitations. Do not sugar coat or embellish.
Why? Because if you tell your guide you have a greater deal of experience than is accurate, (or, say, leave out the fact that you cannot walk unassisted,) he or she will get excited to go further than they would have, knowing the truth. He’ll attempt to guide you out further, to those less-hit spots, or maybe she’ll want to hit more spots than you’re able to keep up with. Nothing is more disappointing for everyone than planning out an awesome trip and then after 45 minutes you, the “experienced” client, is suddenly asking for a break, or worse, to opt out entirely.
And I completely understand how easy it is to lie to yourself sometimes about your capabilities and experience…I’m a PRIME example of not being honest with myself.
At 19 I became hooked on kayaking. I was still running on the energy and guts of a teenager, but with the freedom of an adult. I paddled everything from ponds, to moderately swift rivers, to calm bays…all the way up to paddling the Mediterranean Sea when I was 25 years old. I had sexy abs and visible muscles, but no real life responsibilities. Adventure, paddle sport, and travel were part of my identity. Then I got married, pregnant, had a very sick and dangerous pregnancy followed by a poorly timed car accident, keeping me on very strict bedrest for little over a year. So when I thought I was back to my “old self,” I was actually in my 30s with severe scoliosis, sciatica nerve pain, among a slew of other health related issues I didn’t realize had fundamentally changed my body. I was absolutely NOT my old self.
In my head I was still that hot-bodied 25 year old kayaker, touring the waters of Eastern Europe, but not the new mother with a bad back in my dirty thirties. So the first time I went out kayak fishing (post parent-mophosis,) was an eye-opener I’d rather not revisit or go into details. But believe you me: ya’ll don’t wanna go there either. Be HONEST with yourself, so you can be honest with your guide! It’s a safety thing!
If I had told a guide about my extensive paddle history, but not my more realistic and medically-affected present, I probably would have pissed off my guide and became his cautionary tale, because he’d have had to assume responsible for my struggles, as well as suffer being greatly slowed down by my handicaps. That would not only have been rude of me, but also just wrong!
So lets say you realize (as I had) too late… at least do the courtesy of listening to the guide once you are out. You are paying them for this experience, so why not learn how to cope with your shortcomings, to get the most out of your fishing trip?
It’s not just the guide’s job to lead you to fish… but I firmly believe a guide should be teaching you (while you are fishing) the ins and outs of paddling, regardless of your level. Because we can all stand to learn at least one new thing. Even if we’re experts. If you don’t agree with that, you’re not as smart as you think you are.
Your guide will show you what to look for, maybe point out some of the other life around, not just the fish. Maybe there is beauty around you that will help distract you from any challenges that have crept up on you. Just be considerate of your hired professional. Your enjoyment is a priority for them, but they’re also not miracle workers. That whole “being human” makes it impossible.
And remember, if you hire a professional guide, and then proceed to tell him or her how, when, where, and why you want to go… and that you want to fish the way YOU are accustomed to fishing, I want you to understand that you are no longer hiring a guide, but expecting to pay a guide to let you lead… and that’s crazy, backward, and dumb. So don’t do it!
Ryan Ford, owner of Rockport Kayaks, has explained to me that he’s had clients who’ve told him where they wanted to launch, where they wanted to go, what they wanted to use, and then expected him to get them on fish, regardless of conditions making that nigh impossible. If that’s what you have planned, then why hire a guide in the first place? Go by yourself. It’s very poor form to tie a guide’s hands like that and expect the trip to produce fish from thin air (or water.) Let’s put it in terms the idiot who would try this crap can understand:
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If your usual kayak fishing trip isn’t good enough for you, and you think a guide will change that, you’re dead wrong. You can’t think by hiring a guide and doing as you’ve always done is all it takes. Seriously. That’s nuts.
If you have a favorite launch spot, or fishing hole, by all means, ask your guide if he or she is familiar… and just MAYBE your guide will want to try to teach you to better utilize your own honey hole. Just understand that a guide is a professional, and does this for a living… and will know if weather or other factors may play into fish activity that day for your favorite spot. If they say it’s not going to be worth your money, trust them. Listen to them. They are wiser than you.
Okay, sorry for going from MommaShark to “MommaSnark” about this, but it’s just as important for eager anglers to try to be the right client for the guide they’ve picked out, as it is for the guide to know their craft. So let’s review:
1.) Don’t assume you can show up with your own kayaks and fishing gear to cheapen or sweeten your deal.
2.) Don’t even try to haggle.
3.) Be honest with yourself and know your own limits.
4.) Give your guide FULL DISCLOSURE of your experience, limitations, physical and mental handicaps
(you don’t have to tell them about each voice you hear, but try to give them a heads up of the most talkative…)
5.) Listen to your guide and follow directions.
6.) Don’t tell your guide how to do his job.
If you can follow those six, simple client-to-guide social guidelines, you can be sure to enjoy a successful trip! Thanks for reading!
Ryan Ford, owner of Rockport Kayaks contributed to this blog post.
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