Leafing through an outdoors magazine the other day, I noticed several ads for guide services, and they reminded me of some of my past zany experiences.
The first time I hired a fishing guide was decades ago when I made my first trip to Reelfoot Lake. It’s a tricky lake to navigate, shallow and swampy, full of stumps and logs, and a buddy who’d fished it previously recommended a local guide.
His name was Hiram, He was lean as a bean pole, with an Adams apple that bobbed up and down like a fishing cork. He bragged that he was born in the swamp, and he smelled like it.
Hiram’s boat had odd double-jointed oars, allowing him to row forward. That helped him navigate narrow channels and cypress trees. Another advantage was that the client sitting up front could fend off dangling spiders and cottonmouths.
Hiram was one of those guides who are too helpful. He insisted on baiting my hook, told me how to cast, when to set the hook. He even took the fish off for me. At the end of the day, I expected Hiram to go back to the cabin, cook my fish and eat them for me.
In Hawaii, I fished on a charter boat in which services included a guide. The only guiding he did was himself to the bar. By midday he was as pickled as the mackerel we tried to catch. We thought he might fall overboard and at least provide some chum, but no luck.
My pal, Steve McAdams, who has guided on Kentucky Lake for a half-century, went out one chilly spring morning in pursuit of crappie. Steve leaned over to dip a minnow, braced his hand on the boat seat, and it spun around – pitching him overboard.
He said that’s the first time he had fallen out of a boat in 50 years, and it had to happen in front of an outdoor writer. I promised him I wouldn’t write about it. For awhile.
In Canada we hired an Indian guide who claimed he knew where there were lumberjack’s legs as long as Northern pike.
His name was Charlie, and he led a lonely life in the wilderness. He said his wife ran off with his best friend, and he sure missed him.
It was fun sitting around the campfire, listening to Charlie’s yarns, like the time he was chased by a bear right into his cabin. As he dashed out the back door, Charlie yelled to his stunned cabin-mate, “You skin this one while I go back for another one!”
We didn’t catch a lot of fish with Charlie, but he more than earned his fee.
One summer, I went out with a rockfish guide who guaranteed his clients a fish dinner at the end of every trip. He used rainbow trout to fish for the big rockfish.
If we didn’t catch any rockfish, we got to eat the bait.
Longtime outdoors columnist Larry Woody is a three-time winner of the Tennessee Sports Writer of the Year award and is the author of several books, including “Along for The Ride.” Woody covered NASCAR from the early 1960s until late 2007 in addition to SEC sports, minor league baseball, the Tennessee Titans and the Vanderbilt Commodores.