For Those about to Guide, We Salute You………. An Ode to Master Yoder
If there is one thing the Foul Hooked Whitey Loves to do is go on Guided Trips. Some anglers are either too cheap, or too into their own abilities to step into the world as a Guided client. On a recent trip to New Orleans a few weeks ago, I had both the opportunity and honor to fish with a guide by the name of David Yoder. Before I discuss my time with Mr. Yoder, let me be the first to say that not every Guided trip goes as bargained. Whether its personality, lack of fish or an overall lack of guide/client chemistry, it’s never easy to fork over between 5 and 6 hundred “bones” to a guide after the day is either poor, or dismal in terms of overall action and success. From a client’s standpoint that is usually the guides deal, and from a guide’s standpoint, that is usually the client’s deal. Either way, a successful Client/guide experience can be a lifetime relationship, or a comment as soon as you get into the car that goes like, “Damn, I’ll never fish with that guy again”.
For every Great Guided trip, there are going to be a few bad ones……
I floated the Stillwater River one time with a guide and my father who was in his late 60’s at the time. It was obvious that after a short period of time, this guide was not going to be able to meet my dad’s needs on this trip. For one thing, this jack ass Guide started to talk politics and policy and immediately piss my old man off. Let’s face it, not the time or place to EVER discuss those kinds of subjects. To make matters worse, my dad struggled to cast from the boat that day and every time he had to re-tie my old man’s tangled rig, this guide had to sigh and bluster as if the 5 “bills” his ass was making for the day, wasn’t enough to provide a little customer service to a man that might fish a half a dozen times a year. As soon as we got in the car, my Dad leaned into me and said, “I’m not going with him tomorrow”. This was of course after he forked over the going full day rate as well as a standard high end tip. When I called the guide’s wife that night to inform her of changes regarding the next day’s float, she asked me why my dad wasn’t going to go the next day. When I truthfully explained why, she sarcastically replied, “Wow, I’m surprised to hear that”. In other words she wasn’t surprised to hear that at all. How sad.
For every bad Guided trip there has been amazing ones…..
Each year that I head out to Oregon to “mine a little chrome” if you know what I mean, I try and fish with the same Guide by the name of Jesse Sampson. Why? Because Jesse is professional, he knows what he is doing, he knows when to talk and when not to talk, and he attempts to work within my skill set as an angler. That’s opposed to expecting me to do something I generally can’t with a fly rod. That doesn’t mean that Jesse doesn’t push you. That doesn’t mean that Jesse isn’t a smart ass, or bitch a little when you leave one of his precious chartreuse Clousers 12’ high in a tree due to a lame ass cast. What Jesse does successfully is he puts me on fish because he knows the river, AND the Salmon and Steelhead behavior. Plus when you get an “eat” with Jesse, he is as excited as I am at the opportunity to land something special. This Guide/client relationship didn’t happen overnight, but after a few floats together we know what to expect from each other, and that generally makes the day go well whether you are successful or not. Jesse Sampson showed me how to swing flies for the nicest fish I have ever caught. For that, I will forever be grateful.
A GUIDE taught me that.
When I was a rookie angler, I had the pleasure of floating a couple of times with a local, seasoned Big Horn River guide by the name of Del Despain. Del was and I am sure still is, the type of guide that just made you feel good about being out there fishing. During my trips with Del, there was never any stress, awkward quiet moments, or feelings of anybody not meeting expectations. Instead, besides a full day of angling it was collecting a small snake for one of his kid’s at home (safely secured in Crown Royal velvet bag of course), risking his safety by trying to remove river litter by means of a blue tarp that was stuck on some rip rap. In other words, when you were with Del, it was about the entire experience. And that made those early floats great. I will forever credit Del with making me become a Streamer fisherman. On a Big Horn River trip almost 15 years ago, Del basically shamed me to keep fishing Streamers even though I wanted to go back to the safety of an orange scud and pink sow bug nymph rig. Up to that point, I had only had a few “eats” and misses that day fishing nothing but Buggers. It wasn’t until the final straight away before the Big Horn Access, that I finally caught my first Trout on a Streamer. Since that moment, I have become nothing but a Streamer angler in the fall and winter. To this day in the shop, I tell customer’s “stick with it”. “Don’t give up” when throwing Streamers as it’s only a matter of time until “WHACK”!
A GUIDE taught me that.
This all leads me to my recent experience with David Yoder in Louisiana who Guides for Redfish in the Fall, Quality Tarpon in the Key’s during the winter and spring, and then off to Alaska for oversized Rainbow’s until early Fall. David is probably the most “Big Time” guide I have ever fished with. “Big Time” meaning David guides hundreds of days a year in some bucket list locations for nothing but premium fish species on a fly.
I fished three days with whom I will now officially refer to only as Master Yoder. We fished an area out of a town called Hopedale (Hurricane Katrina Central), in a beautiful environment called the Biloxi Marsh. Damn was this a setting. It didn’t take long to find out that Master Yoder knew this area like the back of his hand. Once in Yoder’s Flat’s boat each morning, it took us anywhere between 30 and 45 minutes to get to our first fishing location for the day. Master Yoder called these spots “Ponds” which were areas of the marsh surrounded by grass. Ideal holding water for Red Fish cruising to eat Mullet. The strategy was simple, Master Yoder “poled” us through each “Pond” while looking for what he called “Pumpkins”. As Master Yoder explained it, Big Red’s look like “Pumpkins” in brackish water. Throw to the “Pumpkins” was Master Yoder’s instructions. When I successfully did that,” BAM”, I got a quality Red “eat”. When I didn’t put my bug on the money, I could hear a sigh of disappointment coming from the “Guide Tower” in back. In other words, Master Yoder was there to get it on as a Guide. This wasn’t a pleasure cruise. It was a hunt. A delivery of the fly, and then “GET IN MY BELLY” to quote Master Yoder. When my wife asked if Master Yoder would head to a grassy island so the lady could um, use the “potty”, Master Yoder casually asked, “Can’t you just go over the side of the boat? We are all adults here”. There wasn’t a lot of small talk during these trips with Master Yoder. If it didn’t involve Red Fish or strategy, it seemed better to keep the chatter to a minimum. After all, we weren’t there to be friends. We were there to fulfill a mission. If you get the opportunity to someday fish with Master Yoder, your mission will be successful or your day was doomed from the start due to bad weather. Those are your only two options.
There is nothing like a watching a Big Red turn, and come back to eat your Fly. Followed by the surge. The stop. Then the headshake. Then another surge. Holy Shit! I am going to relive those moments for the rest of my life. That experience and those special moments were the result of a Guide and his game. Though I fished ok to decent during those three days, it was really Master Yoder and his ability and experience that got me on those fish. While approaching premium water, Master Yoder would calmly say, “OK. Everybody quiet. Let’s concentrate”. That was Master Yoder code which meant, “Be ready. You are one cast away from making our day. Don’t Fuck it up”.
On my last day Guided day with Master Yoder which was my most difficult angling day due to weather. We had gone into the lunch hour without having seen a single fish. No matter how good the guide is, if you can’t see Red’s, you can’t fish for them. Finally, we spooked a Red that proceeded to make a wake left of the boat. After a quick instruction from Master Yoder and an adequately accurate cast on my part, we finally caught our only Red of the day and we avoided the “skunk”. After finishing our lunch consisting of a delicious Po’ Boy shrimp sandwich, Master Yoder looked at me and said, “You made that happen”. For all the difficulty we had that day, Master Yoder’s simple praise taught me that if you hang in there and keep working, success and a good feeling can still come out of a tough Guided day.
A Guide taught me that.
Whether it’s your local area river or while you are on vacation somewhere, seek out a Guide and live a little. You never know, you might just have one of those angling experiences that could change your life forever.
I think Buddah said it best; “The trouble is, you think you have time”.
-The Foul Hooked Whitey
- Foul Hooked Whitey