Greetings and happy February from Baymen Land…!
I hope you like today’s blog and my little poke “aka Winter Survival.” In a nutshell, I have been guiding full-time for 29 years and the thick of winter is always my slowest time of year, monetarily speaking. Fly fishing is long over, as is hunting. Gardening and spring fishing are still several months away, and the first striped bass won’t show until mid-April. So, I hunker down, dig in, and began the winter fly tying season and charter bookings, among many, many other things.
I have been booking two years ahead for quite a few years. I have a long waiting list (over 100 clients) that want to fish with me and I with them, but it is just not possible unless they book ahead. This is both a great problem and a great dilemma. About 20 years ago, I branched out and added four new Captains and four new boats to the BAYMEN fleet to try and meet the demand. I was running 300+ fishing charters a season and we were very busy! But a few years into it, I began to realize several things about the guide business that became very clear.
FIRST: guiding involves a ton of very expensive gear and tackle. Rods, reels, lines, lures, flies, safety equipment, communications, insurances… Not to mention boats, trailers and engines among a long list of equipment needs. All of this gear must be maintained and kept in top condition at all times, no exceptions. Going from one boat and one Captain to four boats and four Captains compounded this four-fold. I will add here that there is also a ton of paperwork involved with professional chartering, including state and federal mandates, licensing and reporting, etc. etc. (When I ran a fly and tackle shop for seven years along with the charter business, I had SIXTY-FOUR annual licenses, registrations, and permits required to run my business!). Staying current and keeping my fleet current was a full-time job.
SECOND: going from one Captain to four Captains also means four times the people management. All Captains get colds, flu, and work related injuries. Hooks in the hands, slip and falls, jammed fingers, dislocated shoulders, and bad backs. Just a fact of life in the guide business. Also, instead of one Captain having to get to bed each night around 7:00am and up at 3:30am, now four Captains had to do the same – and they all do not have the same lifestyle discipline!!! Many, many times they go to bed late, get up late and rush off to the bay tired, in a bad mood, and forgetful of their daily prep list of MUST DO before the clients show up to fish. Again, not acceptable.
THIRD: one Captain has daily family issues to deal with just like everybody else. Kids, school, homework, sickness, cars that won’t start, flat tires, boyfriend and girlfriend issues, runaway dogs, leaky pipes, appliance fails, and all the rest of stuff wrapped up in daily life. Four Captains means having these daily issues increase four-fold. And while they are not the boss’s problems, they all spill over into the Boss’s life and become his problems as well. And they all effect daily job performance for all Captains.
FOURTH: Four Captains means four Captains that have to get paid every day or every week. What if we get a nor’easter that blows non-stop for ten days, twenty days… What if a Captain’s truck or boat breaks down and he does not have the cash to get it fixed IMMEDIATELY and needs an advance until he can get back on the water? What if we have a slow month (never happened but always in the back of your mind!) and the Boss needs to take a loan to make payroll to the rest of the Captains? The money, which is the root reason we are all here trying to support our families and pay our bills, is always at the forefront of the needs for the fleet.
I will stop there. The list goes on and on and it takes very dedicated and hardworking people to manage a growing company as many of you know. I will add just one more thing that makes guiding unique, at least for me. A Captain has to know his fishing waters like the back of his hand and this takes YEARS of time spent fishing on the water and learning the life of the fish and how all of nature affects their daily behavior and how that affects how you fish the waters on any given day. I guide twenty-five square miles of water and I am still learning every day, even after 29 years. Today, I am back to the way I started, just one boat and one Captain – me. I am so much happier and enjoy the guiding business so much more. And I get to spend every day with my clients and friends, guiding them on the bay.
In the end, your clients become your friends and you want to fish with them, talk with them, and share a morning on the water with them. Thats what a big part of guiding is all about. Spending time together doing what you both love, and getting away from the other part of “life” for a few hours. Getting refreshed in spirit, thinking through some things, and going back into your life a happier, healthier and wiser person with clear goals, objectives and ambitions. And knowing and realizing deep down in your heart, that time on the water is the best teacher of all.
Capt. David Bitters, BAYMEN, www.baymenlife.com (781) 934-2838 firstname.lastname@example.org