Wisdom of the Guides

Posted by Nick Amato on


A Poaching Client

Q: What's your least favorite kind of client?

LaFontaine: Definitely the hard-driving types who consider the fish as an object is my least favorite client. Let me tell you a quick story. It's fairly well known around West Yellowstone.

I was guiding on the Madison. I guided there for four years. In all my years of guiding I've only had two bad clients. I love to be with people. One of these two bad clients came in, told me his name (let's say his first name was Stephan), and said, "I'm hiring you to be my guide today. I learned to be a world-class snowboarder in one year, and I'm going to be a world-class fisherman in one year." I didn't like that. Then he has to take me out to his van and show me a cooler full of dead fish.

I told him I'd planned to take him to Yellowstone Park because there are plenty of fish, but you can't kill any fish in there and you obviously want to kill fish. Then I tell him that the fish there are in the 20-inch class, we'll have rising fish and it's a great classroom. So he says OK, we'll go to Yellowstone.

When we get to Yellowstone he's mad because I'm switching back and forth between him and his wife, and his wife has caught a 20-inch fish and he hasn't. If it was my wife I'd have been tickled pink, but he was jealous. I keep going back and forth between them and I come back to him and he is gutting a trout.

I say, "What are you doing?" He says, "Oh, I just had to keep one to show people."

"You can't do that," I tell him. He says, "Just one."

"Look, Stephan," I say to him, "it's obvious you want to keep fish so let me take you someplace where you can catch a lot of fish and keep them all. But we have to leave here." He says OK, but asks if he should keep the fish he gutted. I tell him, "Definitely yes, just put it in your cooler." He puts it in his cooler. I'm driving and the cooler's in the back of my truck.

We're driving out and we get to the gate, and I stop. I get out of the truck and walk over to the ranger, point at Stephan and say, "I'm turning that man in. He killed a cutthroat on the Yellowstone River."

Stephan jumps out and he's trying to get to me. Two rangers are holding him back, their feet skidding and he's screaming and yelling. His wife was a nice lady and she was sitting in the truck trying to hold back a laugh. Finally, there was a gap in the screaming and yelling, and I looked at him and said, "Stephan, does this mean I don't get a tip?"

His wife cracks up, she couldn't take it any longer. I don't know if they stayed married after that. But that is the client I dislike the most. I hate that kind of client.

I don't mind someone being intense. I'm intense. I really want to catch fish. But that doesn't mean that I sit here with a clicker saying 28, 29, 30 trout, and measuring every one and quantifying the experience.



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