The question Hamlet rises in William Shakespeare's play Hamlet is about the question why people stay alive - he comes to the conclusions that people are afraid of the alternative / death and thus prefer to stay alive. This can be transferred to the question fly fishing folks have to answer when going to foreign destinations: afraid of not being guided?
Some of us have had many fishing guides, some none, some very few, some are even by themselves guides at home and book guides when they go abroad. For my more than twenty years of fly fishing I had my first guides years ago in Scotland fishing for trout in a lake, pretty much the classic style: ghillie rowing the boat and keeping the drift. I enjoyed that as waters became available and a way of fishing I would have not had on that young age. Then many years of unguided fishing.
Years later during the first more structured approach to saltwater fly fishing for Bonefish Ines and I had a guide. By luck we got one of the very best local guides at that spot in the Caribbean. He made me to catch my first and up to now last Permit of very decent size (+30lbs) – I did not ever try again seriously to fish for Permit after that first encounter (but it was not that I was spoiled, it just did not happen). Three years later we came back there it was again terrific as we had the guide familiar to us. At that destination we always only booked around 6-7 days of guided bonefishing but we had two to three weeks on site. Thus providing the one or other half-day session of DIY bonefishing.
Back then I started to evaluate and appreciate an unguided caught Bonefish much more than one caught with a guide. Still this destination pretty much calls for a mandatory guide or at least for a good boatman as otherwise the flats cannot be reached.
Now let’s jump to NZ. There was absolutely no discussion to book a guide during our very first days on our first trip to NZ. In fact we booked three guides and went with each for something between 2 and 4 days scattered over four weeks of traveling. The guides provided us with a jump-start and made us to catch fish immediately without weeks of try and error. They all were very good in their specific way of doing the business and most important we enjoyed fishing and company with of all of them very much. Some we rebooked and kept in touch over the years. For a first or second time visitor to NZ I would consider a few days (2-5) of guided fishing without any discussion or hesitation. You will learn so much and most likely will catch your first +5lbs brown trout and you can expect to catch anything between 1-8 fish a day with a good guide on a good water (good - not excellent). And you learn a lot that can be utilized at home - you might fish differently after a visit to NZ. A guide takes care of the river choice, makes some calls to take care of fresh water, knows the best access, does the spotting (which is the key asset at the beginning), sets up the camp for you in the bush, provides bush-craft and thus security – he pretty much has the key to success, your satisfaction and fun. You would be foolish to travel all the way to NZ without taking care of booking a guide (as I just yesterday heard even fishing guides from Sweden can have a hard time over here sometimes…). For some frequent NZ visitors with some extra cash on hand a guide is the best way to get the most out of 7 days in NZ. But they have the chopper on stand by and frequently stay in lodges with more or less good food.
But – now I come to the point – for me the real fly fishing, exploring, challenge and satisfaction starts where you try to find a recently not-fished river, build on own, learned or word of mouth river specific knowledge, spot fish well enough, make the right decisions in terms of fly, approach, casting and finally seduce the +7lbs trout in this remote gin clear river. That provides real satisfaction. You managed to find the solution for the challenge.
We were pleased to have the time and opportunity to spend more than 7 days here in NZ (the last time 4 to 5 weeks this time 100+ days) and the trout do not stop to rise or the earth to turn if there is a blank day (still it is not always fun) once in a while. But thinking about some future trips to NZ – close to the end of this trip that comes by nature – I hesitate to think about projects that come together with booked guides here in NZ. Unguided fishing provides me with a level of satisfaction guided fishing might possibly only reach with ten fish over +7lbs per day or a couple of double digit fish in a week or a +30lbs Permit. That is a high hurdle to take. And to be honest, I cannot even keep record of one days catch and fish sizes till the evening.
I am writing about that kind of fishing where a guide is not mandatory to fish, in some locations it is not possible, feasible or not very smart to go without a guide. E.g. the terrific Dorado fishery deep in the Bolivian jungle – Tsimane (In case you are interested in that please contact me directly via Mail. I can provide some first hand information you wont find in the net, help you with your personal booking and arrangements - this location is a real cracking blast!).
Tight Lines to you whether guided or unguided!