Fishing Horror Story - Or How to Choose a Guide
Lots of folks from all over the world
post the same question on numerous Forums
around the Internet:
By Christopher Chin, Jonquiere Quebec
"What do I need to do to find a guide service
for the River?"
I just love that MY homewaters are a dream destination.
I've been a part time Guide on Ste-Marguerite
River in Central Quebec for several years now.
To try to answer this question, (without looking
like a vulture trolling for prospective clients),
I'll use a little case study.
A few years ago, I was getting a little personal
time on the river in the tail end of the season.
I was going through the motions of signing in when
I noticed a rather sporty looking young fellow
pull up in a rented SUV. As I was finishing up
with my rod fee he asked, "Excuse me, but is
there a preferred place to fish for Salmon on
I was a tad taken aback as the season for
Salmo salar had been closed
since the 15th of September (almost 5 weeks
earlier). I went on to explain that the upper
reaches were closed for the season but that
the second run of sea run Brook Trout was in
full swing. Salmon were however closed, even
on the lower sections of the river.
The young fellow (sheepishly) explained that
he had been hired as a guide by these Italian
tourists (husband and wife) for a day of salmon
fishing. (here we go).
Problem #1 – guide has not explained to clients
what is available/realistic/potential for the
He explained that he usually guides up North
for Pike and Walleye, but a buddy called him
up. Seems that our tourists were vacationing
in Quebec City and decided to give a go at
fly-fishing. They bought two complete sets of
gear, waders, vest etc from a well know purveyor
of sporting goods in Quebec City then asked the
hotel's Concierge to book them a Guided day on a
Salmon river. Not knowing where to ask, the
Concierge asked around the office and one of
the secretary's brothers finally called up this
young apprentice Salmon guide.
The day was booked and pre-paid without either
party ever talking to one another.
Problem #2 (well,...should be #1) – Lack of
communication during the booking.
Our young and enthusiastic guide meets up
with the clients bright and early Friday
morning and realizes that they only speak
Italian and English. He can only speak
French and a bit of Montagnais (local
Indian band). Through hand signals and a
bit of cussing, he manages to load them into
THEIR rented SUV and they head off for a day
Did I mention that when I first met this group,
it was already 10h00 in the morning? Seems no
one figured out that the river is almost 3 ½
hours from Quebec City.
Anyway, I figure I can't do any harm (oops) so
I explain that with the high water, one of the
only places to reasonably fish would be on the
far side of the #8 pool. Too much flow to wade
across, but I have a canoe, paddles AND PFDs
pulled up on the beach.
As I was planning on fishing the #8A anyway,
I had them follow me back down the river to
the pullout for the #8.
As they piled out of the SUV, the guide pulls
out a submarine sandwich he had picked up early
that morning at a 7-11. While his clients start
suiting up, he starts munching out. Out of the
corner of my eye, I notice the clients looking
at each other, then the sandwich, each other,
the sandwich. In English, I ask them if they
have any food. No,...they figured that the guide
would have taken care of that. I tell them I'll
see what I can do and set out for the pool about
100 yards upstream to check out some nice spots.
While I'm looking over the run, I can see down
to the beach on #8. The tourists are strung up,
but by the way their winding the reels, I know
that they are attached to the rods backwards.
The guide doesn't seem to notice as his is
backwards too (apparently, he usually guides
with bait casters and really doesn't have any
idea how to cast a fly line).
None of the unlikely trio seems to be able to
comfortably cast more than 20 feet (9 feet of
rod, 7 feet of leader and 4 feet of fly line).
That's a problem because about then, the back
eddy on the far side starts coming alive with
splashy rises as the trout start waking up for
their morning feed (the water is only about 45
The clients notice (before the guide) and start
pointing at the canoe, the far side, the canoe,
the far side...Finally the guide realizes they
want to ferry across.
They pull out the canoe and (thank God) put on
the PFD's that are stashed in it. All three climb
in and push off gingerly from the beach. I knew
from the first instant that none of them had
EVER BEEN IN A CANOE!
I immediately spool up and start back towards the
#8. At the same time, 2 friends arrive in the
pullout. They had stopped because they found
it weird that someone was in MY canoe. By the
time I arrive on the beach, my two buds are
there too. The 3 Musketeers are about half way
across and just getting to the seam where the
gentle current merges with the back eddy. Sure
enough, as soon as the bow touches the back eddy,
the canoe starts swinging left. The sudden surge
of movement startles all three. Arms go up into
the air (why do people do that?)
Two eternal seconds later the whole trio is
swimming. Shouting orders and encouragement
in French and English, me and my buddies manage
to get they to drift down to the head of the
rapids. We secure lines and wade out and walk
them back. About the same time, another Guide
comes up in his pickup, grinning ear to ear,
my canoe and one paddle on the rack. (He saw
it drifting and pulled it out 2 pools downstream.)
The beach on #8 - Nice place to visit, not too warm
for swimming in October (low water conditions in photo).
Between the four of us, me, my buds and the
other Guide, we get a fire going, scrounge
around in the coolers to find the fixings
for some soup and warm up the survivors.
Next problem is that they don't have extra
clothes. Nothing even we can do to help them
out there. That said, one of my friends (a
real Guide from the area) explains to them
that they should come back the following
summer for a nice initiation course in FF'ing
and salmon tactics.
We packed up all three in their SUV and sent
them on their way. They apparently made the
almost 4 hour trip, in their underwear in
total silence. (We know this because the
couple DID come back the following summer
for a 3 day Guided stay).
The locals scoured the pool for the next two
weeks looking for 2 brand new Orvis outfits
which were never recovered after the canoe
So what can we learn from all of this misadventure:
4. Get a confirmation of the booking in writing.
5. Get a follow up contact just shortly
before the booked date to confirm that
everything is still A1 and in order (things
change,...zones can close, trends for the
season may see the Guide wanting to adjust
the itinerary a bit...)
A good Guide is there to make sure EVERYONE
has a pleasant day. By doing some research,
a bit of soul searching, being realistic in
your expectations and capacities and asking
the right questions, the client can help a
professional Guide do their JOB properly.
Peter and Jean-Yves on a sunny afternoon on
the #9. Not a lot of fish, but a pleasant day
for all. ~ Christopher Chin – Jonquiere Quebec
Chris Chin is originally from Kamloops,
British Columbia. He has been fly fishing
on and off ever since he was 10 years old.
Chris became serious about the sport within
the last 10 years.
"I'm a forest engineer by day and part time
guide on the Ste-Marguerite River here in
central Quebec. I've been fishing this river
for about 10 years now and started guiding
about 5 years ago when the local guide's
association sort of stopped functioning."
Chris guides mostly for sea run brook trout
and about 30% of the time for Atlantic Salmon.
"I often don't even charge service fees, as
I'm more interested in promoting the river
than making cash. I like to get new comers
to realize that salmon fishing is REALLY for
anyone who cares to try it. Tradition around
here makes some of the old clan see Salmon
fishing as a sport for the rich. Today our
shore lunches are less on the cucumber sandwich
side and more toward chicken pot pie and Jack
Chris is 42 years old as of this writing. He
is of Chinese origin although his parents were
born and raised in Jamaica. He has a girlfriend,
Renée. "She and her 12 year old son Vincent
started fly fishing with me last October 2002."
To learn more about the Ste-Marguerite River,
~ Christopher Chin
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