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A Guide’s Life: A Look Into The Life of a Vanuatu Fishing Guide

If you are reading this, you must be keen to be a fishing guide or even are a guide already. You may have reached the point in life where you just want to spend the rest of your life on or near water. And most likely, recreational fishing has taken a huge amount of time from your friends and family, and they almost always ask you the same set of questions, “How are you doing?”, “What do you do for work?”, “Do you actually make money doing that?”, “How do you start fishing?”, “How much money have you spent on fishing gear and trips?”. You dread the occasional family gathering as you know that you must answer those same questions over and over again, trying to explain why you are or why you want to be in this business of catching and releasing fish, albeit getting the point through unsuccessfully. If you get this, then you are not alone, buddy.

Why Do We Do It?

Years spent on the water trying to perfect our craft, trying to find ways to coexist with Mother Nature on a daily basis, learning new things daily then sharing the knowledge gained through our experience to other fishos we meet and fish with is quite eccentric to some but is normal and fun for us. We leave our families behind and travel to the remote and unknown parts of the globe, attempting to catch specific species endemic to said remote areas– even spending ridiculous amounts of money to do so. We leave our families behind more than we want to, spending time on the water rather than raising our kids or keeping the missus happy, but we keep doing it season after season. Why? Maybe it’s because we just love doing it. We also get to meet people from all walks of life, from bricklayers from the Northern Territory, to high voltage linemen from Michigan even business moguls from Melbourne. We love sharing knowledge and teaching our guests, like those who go fishing in Vanuatu,  how to land a specific species they are targeting efficiently and consistently.  We love seeing the smiles on their faces when they finally land their fish of a lifetime and in return, we also get taught how to build up our investment portfolio, or how to manage our finances and cash flow efficiently by our guests who own and run successful businesses, we get free medical consultations from the doctors that fish with us, we hear awesome stories from policemen from New York, then you find yourself getting flown into Malaysia for a wedding that I swear came from a scene in the movie “Crazy Rich Asians”, and that’s just the entrees. It is an amazing display of camaraderie that work more often than not. True friendships have been built with guests throughout the years, and they aren’t the cordial “friends” but “true friends” who actually give a f*ck about what is happening in your life, and actually make an effort to help out one way or the other. Not necessarily the main reason why we love our jobs but making new awesome friendships is a very close second.

It is not how abundant nor how considerable our catch be, but rather to the sport, and manner in which our quarry, the noble trout is angled.
J.B. Martin

How to Do it

Obviously, you need to love the “game” in order to make it in the fishing guiding world, but love and passion can only take you so far. You don’t need an MBA or a university degree, but it helps if you have a background of the following:

1 Guide skills
This is a very wide area but the most important skill set that you need. It includes knot tying, rigging, live bait care, fish gutting, fish prep, fish sighting, tackle use and maintenance, boat handling and maneuvering, boat care and maintenance and lots more. Then comes the soft skills, which I believe are more important. It includes building rapport with the guests, finding out what the guests want and providing them with the services they need, figuring out how to match guests’ skills to the targeted species they desire, fishing music and playlist selection (very important!) and managing guests expectations. The first set of skills can be learned through various channels and even online through Youtube and online courses. Boating courses will most likely be available at your local marina, yacht club, or boating clubs. Also contact your local Department of Transport officers for more details on how to acquire skippers’ tickets. These courses are important as they teach you the basics of boating and will serve you well when you have paying customers on your boat. The latter set of soft skills can’t be learned through courses or online, as a great personality develops only through daily life. A great personable character can make a fishing trip extra special for both guests and crew. Of course, the most important skill is your fish finding and catching ability! Only experience and time out on the water can build your confidence and skill set to a level where you can confidently charge people money to take them out fishing.

2 Safety
Always a priority and it should be. Fishing is indeed a recreational and leisure sport but there have been sketchy situations that have cost a life or two. These sad instances could have been avoided if the guide or skipper is mindful of safety. Boat checks, equipment checks, safety equipment, first aid, weather forecasts are very important to ensure everyone’s safety. Safety courses for boating are widely available so check your local department of transport or boating clubs for more information. Definitely a must for guides.

3 Conservation
A heart for fish conservation can take your guiding to the next level. A love for the environment will be great for future generations and you can make an impact to your guests and potentially spread the word further in worldwide conservation efforts. It doesn’t seem much but each day of fishing with conservation in mind and practice can lead to bigger and better results in the future so let’s play our part and be mindful of the environment every time we are out on the water.

4 Guiding Ethics
There are a lot of unspoken rules about guiding and is important to learn and be familiar with them even before you become a guide. Similar to our everyday fishing ethics, we appreciate them being observed. From small things like not casting over our lines, to not smashing the spots that we are fishing at makes a huge difference in how we respect each other out on the water. Always be mindful of other boats and try to keep a safe and comfortable distance away from them. Fish handling is also a part of guiding ethics and how you treat your catch will leave a lasting impression on your guests. If you appreciate each fish caught by handling them carefully, unhooking and releasing in great form, the fish and your guests will definitely appreciate this.

Fishing Guide Opportunities

Once you feel that you are ready or if you are keen to learn on the job, try to do some local guiding from where you are. This will allow you to build confidence and provide you with experience in getting along with people from all walks of life. Not much fishing opportunities where you live? The internet is your best friend. With the advent of social media, guiding opportunities can be seen when you follow your favorite fishing charter companies. Offers to deckie for a tournament will always be available in your local fishing clubs, charter companies are always on the lookout for some guide trainees and deckies so keep your eyes open for these opportunities. Don’t be shy and send them an email or a direct message through their social media accounts.

Here at Ocean Blue Fishing, we are always on the lookout for new talent that may bring us to the next level of service, so hit us up and send us an email if you are keen to do some guiding here in Vanuatu. Hope you guys enjoyed this brief look into what a fishing guide’s life looks like. Who knows, maybe we’ll meet each other out on the water somewhere. Don’t forget to say hi!

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A Guide’s Life: A Look Into The Life of a Vanuatu Fishing Guide

John is originally from the Philippines. John has extensive guiding experience throughout Asia and...Learn more

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