So you decide to give your favorite fly shop a call and get a fishing report. Are you expecting ol' John to tell you the fishing sucks? He probably never will. If you are dialing one of today’s “Boutique” fly shops, the after hours recording can provide more info than Lance, who’s just working the register in between his modeling gig’s for Patagonia. If the voice on the phone explains he has no idea what the thread count on the newest Gucci wading jacket is, listen. If the dude say’s JuJuBee is a candy, hang up. A shop that operates a guide service is privy to some pretty specific information from very reliable sources. The fact that most fishing guides are optimistic to a fault should be a clue as to what type of answer to expect. Hope and luck play such a huge part in this game no one should ever say "it sucks"and besides there are to many variables to say everyday can be as good as yesterday. Clients are different, conditions, guides, locations and time of day or year, change. All can be factors affecting the data, not to mention that poor shop dick needs to figure out who’s lying before he can confidently give good tips. The leader jockey starts deciding who’s a reliable source in the large pool of guy’s trying to impress someone and that aint easy. Once his broker starts providing info he can back up, he sticks with him, you should do the same. Obviously a lot of my info comes from guides I work with, but not all of them. A few are to uptight or suspicious and a few do the same shit everyday on the water so there really is no reason to chase them for answers. You have to read between the lines but try and trust somebody at the same time. Local guys who seem to beat you to the river everyday are good friends to have. Guides who fish on their day off or after a trip probably need another fishing buddy, believe me, introduce yourself. Shuttle drivers at least know what color the water is and who’s where. It can be anyone, George the bagel guy, Tommy the restaurant owner, a bar manager, a map maker, a newspaper photographer or your Aunt Sally. I actually get a ton of info from guides who work for other companies so don’t insist that your buddies need to wear the same colors as you. The team handbook say’s to always have hope, I expect my info to be laced with it.
What are your expectations for the day? Your guide or that shop dog have no idea how good you are, so a bit of honesty is useful. "I’ve been to Alaska 5 times” only makes us nervous and a touch skeptical. "Lefty taught me how to double haul" sounds like more missed hook sets. “How many fish am I going to catch today?” is like asking the caddie you just met how many pars you should expect to scribble on your card. If you can’t deliver the bugs, mend for a dead drift, strip the bunny or even set the hook then, what you get might not be what you were hoping for. Expectations should be different based on where’s, what’s and who’s. If my skinny ass is heading to New Zealand I expect to catch the biggest Brown of my life, sight fishing in real drab clothing with a guide that won’t let me cast until we see the fish. If I’m after some fish on Salmonfly drys then I expect that would be IN the spring and not ON a spring creek. If I’m fishing in the back seat behind Aunt Sally who has dragged her package through every good spot in front of me, I won’t be expecting to catch a bushel of fish on a size 20 emerger. I’m floating you down some of the most incredible freestone streams in the country, i love fishing and guiding them all, but honestly I don’t expect them to fish like the Big Horn or the Green.
Guides and fly shops don’t possess a hidden power to control the weather. If your report filled with glee came 2 weeks prior to the gale force winds you are now facing, don’t shoot the messenger. Weather can force guides to change tactic’s in an attempt to keep your 2 dollar flies working for the cause and that can jiggle the expectation fulfillment gauge. I would not expect to throw a size 20 dry fly in a rain storm and 40 mile an hour winds, you shouldn't either. Adapt to the conditions, the river and the other nuances our ever changing sport throws at us and you can still shoot par, unless maybe you are an Aunt Sally.
Get information directly from the source when possible and that’s your guide. Ask the shop dog you are booking the trip with to have the guide call you the night before, the good one’s do anyways. In most cases your Sherpa will have more details than the dude on the phone. That poor guy has the hardest job in the industry 2 months a year so cut him some slack.
That is not Aunt Sally pictured