“We’ve Caught a Fish, Now We Can Leave”

I’m lucky to get to fish with a variety of guides, all of different bents and trajectories even if we do have a common language.  This past week I fished with Robb Kessler, who’s been guiding in Key West now for a decade.  He comes from a long career on the Madison River, where he spends four or five months a year.  Guide talk being what it is,  we eventually talked about fish pressure and resource protection.

With a couple of my old clients, I shared the sentiment that if we caught a fish in a location, we could move on and fish somewhere else.   It was always acknowledged with irony, since we knew staying where we were was an easy win.  But we’d also proved our point, and we didn’t want to punish the fish there.  Besides, I was much too anxious to want to see new (and even find) new spots, see how far we could take a little bit of success.

Does that sound counterproductive?  Does that mean we’ll catch fewer fish?

In the short run, yes.   In the long run, definitely not.

“I’ve seen many flats ruined by guides who sat on them day after day,” I mentioned to Rob.  “Forcing yourself to move not only teaches you to find fish, it means you can come back to that spot where you just caught a fish tomorrow–or better yet the day after tomorrow–and catch a fish just as easily.  The added benefit is that you get to see a lot of country.”

Rob pointed out that guides sometimes need to fish the same spots on consecutive days/tides in order to keep clients in fish.  I concurred.  You do what you gotta do.  I did the same when I guided.  But I think we both agreed that working to plan made a lot of sense.  And planning not just for tomorrow but for next month and next year actually means you will catch more fish in the long run.


  1. http://Mike%20Guerin says

    A giant AMEN on that sentiment. Guides in particular should have sense enough not to beat up on a spot as they should know zillions of them.

  2. This is a great post. I do this regularly on my guide trips. If my clients give me any grief about changing spots and moving on, I ask them, “did you enjoy catching those fish?” They generally reply quickly, “yes I did.” I then explain to them that by us moving on and not trying to sore lip every fish in the hole, we’re ensuring that my next clients will enjoy the same success they did. Managing your honey holes is a big part of guiding, and a good guide is always looking for more, so he/she can better manage their fishery.

    I’ve written articles in the past about not leaving fish to find fish. In certain situations where time is limited, you have clients with disabilities, or when you have a narrow window of fishing opportunity, I will stick around a little longer than I normally would. Most of the time though, this isn’t the case.

    Kent Klewein

  3. I subscribe to that philosophy, but it is getting harder and harder to do. For many years, I was able to run and gun, never beating up any spots and always finding fish in multiple locations. Some special spots would only get probed a day or two each week and never when anyone was around to watch. Unfortunately, as many of the waters I frequent have become more crowded and people are always watching each other and jumping on water where they see fish being caught, this is becoming very hard to do. Now, I am often forced to stay longer than I like on a good spot, in case I don’t get another one.


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