HHI on the Fly Blog

Choosing the right guide for the flats of Hilton Head Island

Andrew Mahoney - Thursday, February 12, 2015

A recent phone call from a potential client really began to make me think of an anglers' chances of  hiring the right guide for fishing the flats of Hilton Head.  It made me realize that nowadays, as fishing inshore has exploded, it has made the choice of which guides to hire much more challenging for clients.  The combination of elaborate web pages, fly shops and 50,000 dollar skiffs can really throw off a clients "guess" of which guides to take.  Even referrals can often times have some under the table advantage to the person giving the referral. 

In this phone call that I previously mentioned, this gentleman explained that he would need a flats guide in 8 days.  As I checked my calendar he told me he already had a guide booked, but the guide cancelled on him because of the weather forecast, over a week away,was not conducive to fly fishing.  At the time it made me anxious as I too had a trip booked for that day and it was the only time my client for that day could go.  As the days got closer I realized that though the winds were forecasted to be high, having local knowledge and living only minutes from the fishing grounds, for my entire life, I knew that I could make it happen for this gentleman... Which we did.

 To make a long story short the guide he hired was what we refer to as a transient guide.  This meant he would drive from town to town taking clients fly fishing.  As there is nothing wrong with attempting to make a living that way, an easy fix for the client to never being bit in the rear by a situation similar to this, is hiring a local guide.  

There are many of us flats guides who grew up fishing the waters of Hilton Head Island, and now as adults making a living in our home waters, the opportunities to have successful trips are much greater than using transient guides from neighboring towns.  We spend many days in our waters searching for our own areas to fish and make our living, and are often "bird dogged" by the transient guides or guides that make their living sitting behind a cash register who don't have time to find spots on their own.   

What that boils down to, is most of the fish you are going to see with these guides have been hit by the local full time guides and the local guides have moved on because the fish smarten up.  When I talk with these guides often times they say, "we saw a lot, but they wouldn't chew?"  Now you've spent your day in the skiff watching fish instead of catching them.   Not really what we're looking for, Right?

Every season a new flock of fly guides show up, which makes it harder for a client to pick the right guide.  Do yourself a favor and choose a local guide to run your next fly fishing adventure in Hilton Head Island.  To the group of us raised here there is nothing worst than a client being turned off by the flats fishing in Hilton Head because he chose the wrong guide. 

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