Being a fishing guide sounds like a dream job, and in many cases, it is. However, getting a dream to come to fruition often involves hard work. While becoming a fishing guide on the New River requires dedication and perseverance, the rewards are many.
A fishing guide must possess fishing knowledge—knots, lures, and lure presentation are key. Being versatile and cognizant of changing seasonal patterns can be the difference in clients landing 100 fish or landing one fish. What worked yesterday is not guaranteed to be working today. As the year progresses, smallmouth bass switch from subsurface feeding to looking towards the heavens for a tasty meal fluttering on the surface. An astute guide will direct clients toward matching lures to mimic what’s on the smallmouth’s menu for the day.
Of course, on the New River, a guide must know how to row a boat. Rubber rafts and long oars attached to a frame are the transportation of choice through the waves and rocks of the New. One wrong move, and a client can be missing hundreds of dollars of gear or even be bobbing in the river. Most rapids are of the Class II-III variety on the New River. Fishing boats do not go for the biggest hits and largest waves, but aim for the best eddies and mid-stream structures. Knowing how to calmly catch eddies and slack currents puts customers in the best possible position to catch that lunker bronzeback.
The best guides have stories of previous river days, a deep knowledge of local history, and an excellent grasp of flora and fauna. Additionally, the ability to make a stone statue laugh never hurts.
Most importantly, a fishing guide must have personality and charm. Spending eight hours with two fishermen in the confines of a 14-foot boat allows a guide to really get to know clients. However, spending eight hours with two clients that are not catching any fish can lead to awkward moments.
Before becoming a fishing guide one must know what they are getting themsleves into. The days are long—you can start way before the sun comes up loading boats, packing coolers, and strapping down trailers. You can spend long hours on a metal frame with the sun blistering your very soul. Pulling into the take out at dark assures you won’t be home for a few more hours as you need to clean coolers and equipment at the end of the day. Guests will lose your equipment and some will even drive a fish hook into your forehead after you have asked them to watch their back cast for the twentieth time.
You will give up a luxurious career in the real world for river sandals, ham sandwich lunches, and a really nice tan.
With that said, the rewards are high. Nothing compares to watching a child catch their first fish or seeing grandpa interact with his grandson. That desk job won’t have you catching beautiful sunrises on the water, or offer you the chance to see a bear swimming in the river and an eagle plucking that bass you were looking for out of the river. These are the true gifts of becoming a fishing guide. Your wallet won’t get rich, but your soul will be overflowing with value.
If this sounds like the career for you, look up some of the numerous fishing outfitters in southern West Virginia and give them a call. Most train a few guides each year. It will be hard work, but the rewards are well worth the investment.
Cory Boothe is a fishing guide for The West Virginia Experience and a raft guide for Adventures on the Gorge. He has been guiding anglers on the New River for over 20 years.