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Tales of the retired trout-fishing guide
I LOST MYSELF along the way guiding, reports Len Harris. These days, Im content on the streams of my homewaters.

Len Harris is a resident of Richland County, Wisconsin. He is an award-winning columnist for the Crawford County Independent newspaper in Gays Mills, Wisconsin.

I quit guiding nine years ago. I did it for five years and met quite a few characters and curmudgeons during those guiding dazes.

Typically I would ask clients prior to taking them out their skill level. Most under reported their casting prowess, but quite a few exaggerated.

I would also ask them their personal best brook and brown trout. I also got a handle on what their best numbers day was. My goal was to put them on more trout and bigger trout than they had ever caught. I would say 70 percent of the time they caught more than had ever caught and 60 percent of the time they would leave with their personal best as far as size.

I have a fond memory of a father-son tandem. It was the son's first exposure to trout fishing. It was a golden trip. This new to trout fishing beginner was hooked for life on trout fishing. His dad was as proud as a peacock of his son. He told me that his son was hooked for life and profusely thanked me for the outstanding outing.

The father-and-son team are still chasing trout to this day together. They have expanded their horizons and fish in other places. At least once a year, I get a postcard from some exotic location. Their streams are in Germany and Italy and as far away as New Zealand, The postcard has a trout or a stream on the front. The only thing on the message part of the post card each time are two words. Thank you

I one time had a guy catch his personal best brook and brown, but he told me at the end of the outing that he was disappointed and was not tipping me and would give me a bad review if I didn't give him another FREE outing because he had not caught a giant. He told me my website was false advertising because he had not caught a 23-inch plus brown. A long story short...I never took him again and no tip.

I had a well-known angler once refuse to ride in my vehicle because I had the wrong presidential candidate bumper sticker.

Once I had a guy contact me. He told me he had a disabled son and he wanted some easy places to take him. Me being gullible I gave him a couple good places. I later found out this guy was a guide and he lied to me and was looking for easy places to take clients.

I believed in showing clients a good time. I was new to guiding and really humped to turn clients on to good fish and numbers. My success made the long time established guides in the area look lazy and inept. I had two of them say I was padding my numbers and lengths of trout.

One time, a client liked the stretch so well that we fished he went back the next day and tried to buy the land from the owner. I knew the owner well and he was thinking about selling, but the guy wanted to post the land and especially not let me back on there. The landowner declined to sell.

Once a fly shop owner told me I was going to do a FREE presentation at his shop. He didn't ask. He told me I would do it or he was going to spread lies about me and ruin my guide reputation. I didn't do the presentation.

I had a client that would only use crawlers and he didn't ever keep any trout but refused to go barbless and to set the hook on the first bite. He typically waited for the second or third nibble.

One season I was hired to be a longtime retired Green Bay Packer's exclusive guide for the year trout fishing. He matched my year prior's total. He only went out with me 10 times that year. I got to wear his Super Bowl One and Two ring at the same time.

During my five years of guiding, I donated over 40 guided outings to charity and non-profits.

I once had a contract from Field and Stream to do a 12-photo layout and feature story for them on a famous angler/hunter I took out regularly. I told the guy a couple weeks prior to our outing and he okayed it.

He showed up on the day of the trip at 10:45 a.m. and we fished for an hour and he then went turkey hunting. He didn't like any of the photos and refused to let me use them. The story and photos were to get me a $2,000 payday and notoriety. I took the guy for FREE each time to say I guided him and to use photos in articles.

I also had him ask me when I was going to pay him for fishing with me. He typically got $80,000 an hour for speaking. The same guy let out seven different swear words in one sentence, when I failed to clear his back cast for him and he caught a tree.

He also had an aversion to losing flies. He would go underwater and crawl out in tree limbs to retrieve flies. This angler grew to be too high maintenance for me and I handed him off to a friend to entertain.

I once had a client do so well, he didn't have enough money with him to tip me adequately and he was a former employee of Gerber Knife company and he gave me eight high-end knives he had new in their boxes as a tip.

I once had three rich guys fish with me all at once. They were talking about buying a medical supply company. The company was on the market for $750,000. They split the price in threes. Four years later, they fished with me again and bragged they had just sold the company for 23 million.

The majority of anglers I guided were excellent anglers and standup good citizens. No one ever got skunked when they went with me.

I have had my glasses and cap ripped off by numerous times by clients in a hurry. I have been hooked in the hand, arm, ear, face and head.

When you guide you must watch and not fish yourself. It felt like going to a gold mine without a shovel. I guided from 2003 through 2008 season.

I do not miss guiding.

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