OUTDOORS: Guide on – Professional assistance can open new avenues, adventures

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

When it comes to outdoor experiences and getting into position for a successful day, nothing beats most recent information, boots-on-the-ground knowledge of what’s happening and where, and no one’s more likely to be better prepared with that than an area’s professional guides.
Beyond the idea of a charter fishing trip on vacation or a dream hunt far away, many outdoor enthusiasts rarely think of guided excursions as something they’d like to do, but it’s a great chance to learn new ways to explore familiar places. From a price standpoint, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to funds already invested in gear, and from an time concern, there may be no more productive hours afield than those spent listening and learning.
Roger Stegall, of Iuka, has been making his living on the water for the past three dozen years. After his success on the tournament trail led a steady stream of prospective clients to ask him to take them fishing, he added guiding to his resume.
Listening, learning
It wasn’t long before his primary focus moved from one to the other and, 26 years later, it’s a business plan that’s worked out well for professional and clients alike. Though he still fishes tournaments on occasion, roughly 200 days per year spent guiding keep him busy most of the time.
“For me, the ideal client is one who wants to learn,” Stegall said. “They may want to learn new techniques or learn new ways to catch fish on Pickwick. There are lots of techniques I take for granted that other people may not know about, or may not know how to actually use. The Carolina rig, for example – everyone’s heard of it, but it’s not uncommon for me to have someone say they’ve never caught a fish on it and would like to learn how to.
“My favorite day on the water is one that ends with a client who says they can’t believe how much they learned.”
Steven Morris, a life-long fly fisherman and guide in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, says his interest and enthusiasm is tied directly to that of the client.
“When I’m with someone who’s willing to listen and eager to learn, it makes all the difference in the world,” he said.