I’ve been fortunate enough to spend more than my fair share of time with fishing outfitters and guides at camps, lodges, and destinations around the world. But, once I'm there, many times I've felt trapped with people I’ve never met before, with whom I have little in common except our choices of hobbies and vacation destinations.
Fortuitously, I’ve made several of my closest friendships out of this semi-randomness, often with people I’d never otherwise encounter, or whom I might find detestable (and vice versa) were we to meet in another context. As far as social lubricants go, fishing is a good one. You’re either a good person on the water or you’re an asshole. For better or for worse, most of the assholes are pretty easy to ID. Ninety-nine percent of anglers are truly good, decent people, and fun to be around. Unfortunately, as with apples, one bad one has the tendency to spoil the whole bunch.
Fortunately, I don’t have to deal with the Bad Tipper (“But I gave the guide a couple of my leftover lures”) or the Reservations Nightmare (“That doesn’t work well for us, so can you rebook someone else?”), but I’ve had to deal with these nine lodge guests over and over again.
The Gear Hound His gear is better than anything else, but it’s all at home. The experience at the lodge in the furthest corners of the Amazon or remote Alaska would be better if he had his brand-new boat, bigger outboard, and space-age electronics. He’s disappointed to not be provided with anything less than the most enthusiast-grade gear, to the point that he’d rather have a better version of the wrong item than a perfectly functional tool suited to the task.
How to identify: He’s constantly scrolling through the photo gallery on his phone (the latest model, natch!) to show the guide, the lodge owner, and other guests his truck, boat, and gear back home.
Something they’ll say: “This is fine, but if I’d just been able to bring my boat here, you’d be seeing a whole different fishery.”
Item they forgot: The one lure or fly that is working the best.
How to defuse: Catch a fish with a rod and reel that requires a staple remover to get it out of the package.
The Mathematician Measures himself against everything. If you catch a 10-pound bass, he’s caught 50 of them. If you catch a 50-inch muskie, he’ll tell you about the 51-incher that he snatched early on. Semi-surprisingly, he either doesn’t have a picture of any of these accomplishments, or in his pictures his “10 pounders” look remarkably similar to the 4 pounders you’ve been catching.
How to identify: Wearing a clicker on his belt to count the fish he catches.
Something they’ll say: “My 11.56-pound bass was a solid fish, but just the third biggest of the day, and one of 112 we caught.”
Item they forgot: Scale and tape measure.
How to defuse: Ask which scale he recommends for weighing fish.
The Governor Talks politics all the time. From the moment you meet, his identity will be obvious by the stickers on his luggage and the hat on his head. They’re not political leanings, but rather full-fledged forms of virtue signaling.
How to identify: He’ll be sure to tell you why you should boycott the beer you’re drinking, the rod you’re using, or even the lodge you’re both staying at due to some perceived political slight.
Something they’ll say: “I read it on the Internet.”
Item they forgot: How to have a polite conversation.
How to defuse: Ask him for his thoughts on the Third Amendment. As a law school graduate, trust me on this one.
The Under-Preparer Why did he even book a fishing trip? Did he know what he was in for? Did he get here by mistake? He’s surprised by every aspect and every charge on the trip, even down to what type of fishing you’ll be doing.
How to identify: Shivering in a rainstorm because he didn’t bring a rainsuit or suffering from frostbite because he didn’t bring gloves. If you meet up at the airport, his tiny backpack will be dwarfed by your voluminous gear bags.
Something they’ll say: “That wasn’t in the brochure.”
Item they forgot: Just about everything—although “forgot” suggests that he once knew about it.
How to defuse: He’s generally harmless as long as he doesn’t complain too much. Try to loan him whatever you can spare, especially if it precludes a truncated trip.
The Name-Dropper He’s fished with Roland Martin and Lee Wulff, ran the bulls with Papa in Pamplona, and dined with Melville. He’ll tell you all about those experiences in graphic and unbelievable detail.
How to identify: Can’t fish worth a damn, doesn’t know the names of any piece of gear, always demands a craft cocktail.
Something they’ll say: “This one time in Bimini/Havana/Seychelles/Au Sable.”
Item they forgot: A camera. On every trip. Not a single picture exists of him with any of his so-called BFFs.
How to defuse: “Who? Never heard of him.”
The Voice It’s a shocker that this guy ever catches any fish at all because his booming baritone rumbles non-stop and its echoes are strong enough to cause avalanches. Never takes a breath, lips never stop moving, just moves from one non-sequitur to the other. Pray you don’t share a boat or room with him because there’s no doubt he talks in his sleep, too.
How to identify: You’ll know him before you see him. You’ll know where he is on the water at all times.
Something they’ll say: Everything you can think of.
Item they forgot: Hopefully lozenges, because by Day Three of yelling at you across the lake he may lose his voice, which would be a godsend.
How to defuse: Pretend to have lost your hearing aids. You can try to give him a beer, but even when chugging the words may continue to flow.
The Picky Eater I understand that people have allergies and religious restrictions and dietary concerns that may prevent them from eating certain items, but most of those folks tend to be respectful, and the lodges and outfitters do their best to accommodate them. This dude is a whole different story. Nothing is prepared to his liking and he’ll let you know about it. His “medium rare” is different than anyone else’s. He doesn’t like sauces and the wine is not at the right temperature.
How to identify: Sending something back to the kitchen or spitting food into a napkin.
Something they’ll say: “At my hedge fund office, when I say jump, everyone asks ‘How high?’”
Item they forgot: Soylent Green.
How to defuse: Ask for a side of ranch with every meal.
The Orvis Catalog Model May also overlap with the L.L. Bean/Filson/Bass Pro Shops model. He has the latest clothing (may not be seasonally appropriate, location-specific, or species-specific), straight from this year’s lineup.
How to identify: May be mistaken for Elmer Fudd or Lefty Kreh.
Something they’ll say: “My credit card is maxed out.”
Item they forgot: Scissors or clippers to cut the tags off his brand-new garb.
How to defuse: Catch a bigger fish in a plain white T-shirt and Wal-Mart jeans.
The Me-Firster There’s no hesitation in his game, no matter who he leaves behind. If one guide is reported to be catching more or better fish, he’ll make sure that’s who he’s fishing with. If there’s a better seat on the plane, a better cut of meat, or a room with a better view, he’ll work his best to make sure that he gets it—and will make a weak case to convince you that you’re better off with the alternative.
How to identify: Pushing women and children aside anywhere he goes.
Something they’ll say: “I really don’t care about catching fish. I enjoy everyone else’s success.”
Item they forgot: He may be heading back to camp while you boat to your first spot because, in his rush to be first to the best area in the best boat with the best guide, he may have forgotten to bring a rod and reel.
How to defuse: A solid campaign of misinformation about what’s working where and with whom.
The vast majority of the men—and pretty much all the women—I’ve met at fishing lodges don’t fall into any of these categories. But the ones that do sure can put a strange spin on the outing. Don’t let them ruin your trip, and definitely don’t be one of them.