You have booked a day's fishing on a water that you have never even seen but have heard a lot about from friends, other anglers or have read about in the press and have paid a not immodest amount of money for the privilege. The question is how to get the best from your fishing experience.
Should I contact an instructor?
If your casting and general watercraft is not what you would consider to be up to scratch then almost certainly. Most, if not all, instructors are experienced and very knowledgeable anglers who have passed a rigorous and demanding assessment of both their practical abilities, and their suitability to teach others.
Their ability to improve one's casting and technique are legendary and a few hours instruction can save hours of frustration on the bank. Some, but not all instructors, act as guides also but their main focus is on instruction and coaching and technique development.
What does a ghillie do?
Many salmon beats employ a ghillie of some sort. He may be part- or full-time and on larger beats there may be more than one (with one designated as the head ghillie). On the larger Tweed beats, a ghillie is often referred to as a 'boatman'. The ghillie's job is to show you the water when you arrive, advise you on likely spots where fish may lie and the best tackle to use. They will then visit you from time to time during the day to see how you are getting on.
On some beats, the ghillie may stay with you for some or all of the day and if boats are available he may row you if it will increase your chances of catching a fish. Ghillies are also responsible for making sure that you fish within the law and in compliance with relevant conservation agreements. Most can also assist with some casting tuition, but if this is required, please make sure you have spoken to the ghillie in advance.
It is normally expected that you should tip your ghillie at the end of your fishing.
So why are guides different?
Because a guide's next assignment is largely dependent upon how successful the last one turned out, their business and reputation are solely based on customer success. He is the trouble-shooter who arrives and turns a possible blank day into one filled with fishing memories.
Satisfied customers not only happily repeat their bookings but also tell their fishing pals about the great experience they had and the quality of the service that was provided.
A good fishing guide knows their business inside out. They are experts in their field and have an enviable track record in catching the sort of fish others only dream about.
They will demonstrate the correct techniques, supply correct fly patterns and readily provide advice on tactics ensuring you are in the right spot at the right time and will generally give 110% effort to get you the fish of your dreams.
A typical guide won't be clock watching looking forward to the end of the day and will most likely be offering to go without food and sleep to provide you with a trip to remember. They will earn every penny of the fee - but importantly - for all the right reasons.
It should be noted that guiding is a fact of fishing life all over the rest of the fishing world, especially in the Americas, where no self-respecting angler would travel for fishing without ensuring that a guide was waiting at the end destination.
Guides are not cheap but considering the level of professionalism they offer they are very good value for money. Also a good angling guide will provide you with more knowledge about a water (and where the fish are!) in a day than you could learn yourself in a month. They are there to give you an angling experience that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
For a list of guides across Scotland please click on the link above. This list is curently being expanded and futher contacts will be added in due course.