Why a Guide?
  |  First Published: December 2012

The ‘group fishing getaway’ is becoming a very popular option amongst rec anglers these days. With places like Hinchinbrook offering easy access and plenty of quality fishing-friendly accommodation it’s no wonder that anglers come from far and wide to froth the waters in the hope of landing a trophy fish. But despite extensive planning and research, so many go home empty-handed.

The majority of anglers who find themselves fishing new territory for an extended period of time often rely on their own knowledge acquired from fishing their local waters or information scrounged from the internet through the use of fishing forums or magazines. Many even arrive with dreams and aspirations of landing fish after fish based on the fact they are fishing iconic fish-rich destinations.

However, the reality is that on many of these trips the lack of local knowledge regarding variables, such as tides, moon phases, bait locations and fishing spots can often see even the most experienced anglers struggling to raise a scale.

Eventually seasoned anglers may well put together a pattern after two or three days on the water in regards to lure and bait choice, tides and spots and the fishing may improve. But spending this time investigating and gathering information is vital fishing time lost, especially when you may only be up for three or four days fishing.

There are some who try to overcome this by fishing the same tides and times every year, yet even this can prove unreliable as it only takes a shift in weather conditions and wind direction to see previous years productive spots shut down.

The good news is there is another option available to those planning an extended fishing getaway to greater the chances of making it a trip to remember and landing that trophy fish – charter a guide during the first day of your trip.

Most seasoned anglers wouldn’t be caught dead handing over their hard earned cash to pay someone to take them fishing but if you think about it, investing a bit of cash to get a bucket load of local fishing knowledge may be the difference between a trip to remember and a trip to forget!

Now to avoid confusion I am not talking about booking a guide for your entire stay, instead only for a day or two at the beginning of your trip to help gather that vital intelligence for the rest of your stay. By booking a guided trip early, you get the opportunity to fish with someone who fishes the area every day on every tide and, most importantly, for a living. As recreational anglers if we have a poor trip we often just shrug it off and plan our revenge for another day however guides are paid to deliver so they are going to take you to where the fish will be.

In a place like Hinchinbrook, Cape York or even a stocked impoundment this is a huge bonus as the fishing area can sometimes be the size of a small European country. Knowing where the fish are and what time and tide they are feeding is a big head start.

Guides will also provide quality local advice on lure and bait selection, including what seems to be working at the present time. Some weeks the fish may be responding to hardbody lures while on others they may be going off on softies or deep water vibes. Your guide should be able to tell you what is currently proving the best lure or bait choice, including colours and bait rig selections.

Spending three hours with a guide should have you well and truly on the way to understanding the appropriate gear selection and fishing technique to give you the greatest chance of success in snaring as many fish as possible. This should put you in good stead for the rest of the week when fishing on your own.

This can go as far as how to approach a snag or drain with the boat and even how many casts you should invest into an area before moving on. Lure retrieval information is also worth listening to as sometimes the fish may be responding to speed or a slow twitch retrieve. This was recently highlighted on a guided trip where the difference between success and failure was as simple as colour choice and retrieving the lure as slowly as possible. For this very reason it is best to hold off blindly spending big bucks at the tackle shop on lures that you think may work. Instead, get in touch with your guide to get some info on what to buy before arriving.

If you have made the decision to invest in a guide then the next step is to try and book one that will fulfil your needs. Remember the purpose of the guided trip is not to catch a million fish (although if this happens I doubt you’ll complain) but to gather as much information as possible to put you in good stead for the rest of your trip.

Choosing a guide that will mentor and guide you in all facets of fishing is important. There are some great operators/guides who realise that people don’t just want to catch fish but learn how to fish as well. They can spend just as much time teaching you the fundamentals, techniques and know-how as catching fish. This is a worthwhile investment, especially if you are planning to come back year after year.

Operations such as G&T Fishing School and Charters out of Townsville and Hinchinbrook is a prime example of this different type of operation. They are becoming increasingly popular for both amateurs who want to learn the fundamentals and experienced anglers who want to refine their skills to catch trophy fish.

The best way to judge whether the guide will suit your needs is to pick up the phone and have a chat about your plans and what you want to do. Guides are fishers too and, like all fishers, love to have a chat about what’s biting. It’s important to explain your situation your skill ability and experience and most importantly what you want to get out of the day. Be up front and explain how you want to gather some information to help you on your extended trip. A good guide will be flexible to your needs.

It can sometimes mean making a few phone calls, but this will soon weed out those who want to help and those that just want to take you fishing. Local internet fishing forums are a good place to peruse, especially in the north with places like Townsville and Cairns having their own small forums that are regularly visited by local guides and fishers who use them.

Once you have chosen your guide it’s important to get in contact a couple of days before arrival to get an update on what the fish are doing, what gear is working and what to bring. As mentioned before, it is best to hold off making big tackle purchases. It is amazing how much people will spend on tackle and gear before a big trip but will baulk at investing in a guide because of the cost factor, which is often considerably lower. Nevertheless, the more people, the bigger the pool to pay for the guide.

The biggest stumbling block with organising a guide is that large groups of people are sometimes too big to all go out together. This has been an issue on several of my own trips, however there are solutions to this problem. Firstly, you can book a couple of different guides to spread your intelligence options further; the only drawback is this can be quite expensive. The second is to book the guide for two days with one group going one day and the next going the second day. The third option is best suited for those that do the same trip every year and to let one group go one year and the other group the following year. The final option, and my favourite, is to draw straws and the winners get to go. However they are charged with teaching everyone else for the week, which can be a very arduous task.

Finally the biggest factor when choosing the guided option is to leave your ego and prior experience at the ramp and listen carefully to your guide. I am amazed at the amount of people who pay good money to use local know-how but persistently fail to listen to advice. You need to hang on every breath and word from your guide and constantly keep asking questions even if they seem a little stupid. Continuously keep asking if you are doing anything wrong or ways you could have improved your last cast or retrieve.

Likewise, keep an eye out for how your guide uses his sounder and positions the boat for fishing. Get your guide to tie your knots and rig your baits. If he uses one you haven’t seen before get him to show you how to tie it. On every guided trip I make it a priority to learn new techniques and knots as deckies and guides are some of the best knot tiers and bait riggers around.

Finally, make sure you explain that you will be here for the week as they will be able to give you a great game plan to use during your stay. No guide will take you to their absolute hot spot but the good ones will give you enough advice on maximising your success.

So next time you are planning your yearly fishing trip to a far off destination consider investing your time and money into a guided trip to kick things off. You will be amazed at how much more confident and informed you will feel in all your fishing choices during your stay. There is no question that for some anglers this time away is one of the most anticipated events of the year, so why not maximise it to its fullest capacity by investing a little cash to enjoy a priceless experience.

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