What should you expect from a guide when booking a trip?
What should you expect from a guide when booking a trip? A simple question, but one with many different opinions and answers. As a guide, I take my job very seriously and strive to deliver a level of professionalism and quality across all my guided trips and client interactions by default. I feel like this approach tees up each trip with a level of success before a cast is even made. This can be as simple as a client feeling comfortable in a new situation or avoiding the awkward "ice-breaker" moment when greeting clients for the first time. Invariably, in a relaxed setting, clients will succeed more with their aims for the day when compared with an uncomfortableness or feeling of being on edge.
So with all that being said, if I am confident that I deliver a professional and quality experience for my clients, what is the purpose of writing a blog on what you (the client) should expect when booking a guided trip with me. This should have all been covered in our initial emails or on the phone prior to booking a trip, right? Well, this blog in question has nothing really to do with myself, or the guiding services I offer.
In fact, this is more of a helpful guide for anglers looking to book a guided trip with any guide, be it here on the flats of Mexico or swinging flies on freestone rivers in British Columbia, Canada.
I will prefix this by saying that some regions or countries will have their own local laws or rules that can skew or nullify the information below. However, the information is a good starter for ten to help you identify a good guide and quality experience, from one that may not live up to expectations, or worse, be unsafe or illegal.
If you have read some of my previous blogs, you will be aware that this isn't my usual writing topic. I generally tend to stick to strictly fishing related matters if possible. The idea that inspired this slight direction change was brought about via a recent conversation with a client booking some dates for 2022.
After the usual fishing conversation and getting to know the client a little more, he recounted a story of a not so great trip he made to Mexico a few years ago. Unfortunately, it appeared he had fallen victim to some unscrupulous characters posing as fishing guides and lost out on his deposit, among other things. As a result, he is now extra careful when it comes to booking a trip, especially with guides in foreign countries, and quite rightly so.
This unfortunate story got me thinking a little more about my experiences on both sides of the coin, with booking guides and clients booking me. After a long think and careful consideration, I believe there are a few key questions you should be asking any guide before you book a trip and hand over your hard-earned deposit.
Depending on how the guide responds and his openness to answer each question, you should start to build up a picture of the trip you are potentially booking and the person you are entrusting to carry out that trip safely and successfully.
It's worth noting that the vast majority of guides are very professional and carry out great trips every day of the year; however, the point of this blog is to help steer you clear of any potentially lousy experience and save you any headaches in the future. So, moving on to the important part of this blog, the questions. Let's start with No. 1;
No. 1 - Are you licensed? If so, can you provide me with proof before paying my deposit?
This is a relatively normal question and one that I feel most potential clients will ask as a precaution before booking a trip. A licensed guide, aside from the legal aspect, proves the guide is professional, experienced, and has led successful trips before. The last thing you want to be is the Guinea Pig on the front of a Cowboys drift boat as you hit the first set of rapids.
No.2 - Do you have insurance? Who is your insurance provider, and what type of coverage do you have?
A fairly common question and one that most guides would be happy to answer. Being covered in the event of an accident is a basic requirement and one that any quality guide wouldn't scrimp on.
No. 3 - Do you have a charter captains license?
Again, another standard question and yet one that is rarely asked. Most countries will require the operator of a charter vessel to have some form of certification. This qualification varies from country to country, but most cover similar aspects, such as signage, vessel operation, first aid, VHF radio operation, etc. All these aspects are essential and play a huge role when it comes to safety. A qualified captain will be far more adept at handling any potential incident compared with your fly-by-night weekend warrior. An example of this is the OUPV 6-Pack qualification for U.S. charter captains or Patron Marinero qualification for Mexican captains.
No. 4 - Are you (your company) legal?
A question that comes up occasionally, especially for guides in foreign countries, like myself. Booking a local guide, or one that has gone through the lengthy process of gaining a work permit or residency, makes a big difference compared with a person who comes down to escape the colder winters up north and takes out a few trips to pay their expenses.
Booking a 'guide' that doesn't know the area or speak the local language means you miss out on a great deal of local knowledge and cultural aspects that all come together to make a rounded trip. Aside from this, if you run into any issue whilst out on the water, not knowing the area or being unable to speak the local language can turn a slight inconvenience into a potentially dangerous situation very quickly.
No. 5 - What is your cancellation policy/do you offer refunds?
This can vary between guides and operators as to the specifics; however, most legitimate guiding businesses will be familiar with changes in circumstance, weather, mechanical failures, etc. More so when considering everything going on in the world right now. It's all part of the logistics that go together with running a tourism-based business that is more often than not based in remote areas.
When you book a guided trip, you are effectively signing a contract with the guide/company until the trip is complete. Being aware of the company's rules and commitments prior to booking is important in the event of a cancellation, weather event, or other reasons. It can mean the difference between losing your deposit, getting a full refund or working with the guide/company to move your dates to a more convenient time.
Most guiding businesses (including my own) will have some form of booking/cancellation policy available for potential clients to read before booking a trip. For the perennial chancer, this is often out of the question.
No. 6 Does the guide speak English?
An important question for two reasons. Firstly, communicating with your guide effectively will result in a more successful day, be it catching more fish, learning about the area or learning a new technique. It can be very frustrating at times when dealing with language barriers, especially when you see a school of tailing Permit 100ft away, and in the panic, the communication between you and the guide falls apart.
Aside from this, the safety aspect comes into play in the event of an accident or a potentially dangerous situation. Communication is key and not being able to communicate very well isn't good for either party.
With local laws and the type of trip you plan on doing, some of these questions may not be necessary, e.g. not needing a charter captains license to run a float trip in Colorado. This aside, following these guidelines and not being afraid to ask the nitty-gritty questions to ensure you are booking a safe and quality experience will only serve to benefit you in the future.
Most reputable operations will be perfectly happy to answer your questions and be transparent with their information. The ones that try and avoid answering maybe ones to steer clear from moving forward.
I hope this blog serves as beneficial for the next time you plan on booking a guided trip anywhere in the world. If you have any questions about the points raised in the blog or would like to know more about our own policies and protocols, please feel free to get in touch or drop us a line. We are more than happy to answer.