I spend a hefty amount of time trout fishing. I will be on or in trout water any day the water temperature is in the 60s or less. Despite all this experience, I won’t pass up an opportunity to fish with a guide. No matter how much you think you know, you can dependably learn something every outing with an experienced guide.
My favorite guide story was told to me by Howard Guja, fly fisher extraordinaire. Howard regularly fished the Florida Keys tarpon bite in May, a week or more at a time, always using the same guide. That guide had many long-standing customers. One was a Detroit auto executive who also booked a week at a time. One glassy morning, under perfect conditions, the auto magnate allowed his thoughts to wander and said to his guide, “I’d give anything to trade lives with you. The business world is so stressful and this fishing is both so tranquil and exhilarating.” The guide agreed; he too would like to trade places. The car man was astonished and could scarcely believe what the guide was saying. “How so?” he asked. “Well,” the guide replied, “after we traded jobs and places, I’d go back to Detroit and negotiate my golden parachute, next I’d resign my position and liquidate all my holdings. I’d have more money than I could ever spend in three lifetimes. I’d come back here to the Keys and have my businessman turned guide pole me around for the tarpon season.” That guide was no dope.
The Delaware River has an abundance of very able guides. Yes, it costs a few bucks to hire one, but your chances of having a really memorable trip—vanity photos and trophy fish are real possibilities. These professionals will work super hard for you, and you will learn new sections of the river and new techniques.
I usually fish with Bill Fraser, who has been at the guiding game for 30 years. You’ve got Adrian at one end of the river and Joe “D” at the other. In between there are 48 more licensed guides to choose from. You can get a complete list of Upper Delaware Licensed River Guides and their contact information by visiting the website www.nps.gov/upde, click ‘Things to Do,’ ‘Fishing,’ then ‘Fishing Guides’.
You can have a guided day not only on the main stem, but also on the East and West Branches of the Delaware, the Beaverkill, Willowemoc, the Neversink, the Gorge, or the Lackawaxen, which covers just about all of the very best waters anyone could ever want. You can also make contact with a guide at a local fly shop. Beginners and spin fishers are welcome, and their special needs will be accommodated. After your guided trip, the odds of succeeding on your own will be greatly enhanced.
But my favorite guide isn’t a professional, licensed guide at all. He is Don Tracy of Scott Township, PA, not far from Hale Eddy on the Delaware. Don and Marilyn are true river champions—and not because Don is a master angler, although he is that, too. For the past six years, Don and Marilyn have sponsored a “Fishing with the Blind Day.” They generously open their Wayne County property as part of a “Sports for Health” program and will do it again this July. Activities include bicycling, canoeing, hiking and more. The event has grown in popularity every year.
One of the activities is a day of fishing on their private pond. Don lines up a number of “guides” who assist the blind fishers. Lots of fish are caught and released, to the utter joy of the blind fishers. And then everyone is treated to an amazing buffet picnic lunch and socializing, compliments of the Tracys.
Don says, “The only reason this event has been as successful and enjoyable as it has been yearly is because of the guides who volunteer to help with the fishing and the picnic lunch.” I have been fortunate indeed to have “guided” at this event since the beginning, and it is by far my favorite day fishing, even through my catch is always through a blind angler. For this amazing experience, both guides and blind fishers have a river champion to thank, Don Tracy. He is the #1 guide in my book.
Note: Be sure to get your Zane Grey Fishing Derby photo in to firstname.lastname@example.org before July 6. There are lots of great prizes to be won.
[E-mail me at email@example.com for comments and upcoming events.]