I guess the expertise comes from having been a lifelong angler, mixed with a decade of teaching experience and a very useful game angling course.
My older brother used to drag me along with him to go fishing from when I was around three years old. My parents were very relaxed about letting us go off to fish the river or lochs on our own.
Before getting into guiding I worked as an English teacher for 10 years culminating in working for a Spanish University. It was while working for the university that I met my wife and decided to come back to Scotland.
How did you make the transition to becoming a tour guide?
My transition from teaching to guiding was quite gradual. I was lucky to be able to reduce my teaching hours little by little and take on more and more guiding work.
The English school I worked for when we return to Edinburgh was very flexible, and also provided me with some clients who were keen to learn about Scotland and go fishing.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day for me starts the night before with me preparing lunch for the following day, checking the equipment over, changing lines, flies, reels or anything that’s not tip top, and packing the necessary equipment.
I get up quite early, recheck all the equipment and food, pack the car and set off to pick up my guests.
Then it’s off to the fishing venue, telling some stories about Scottish history and culture or talking about Scotland’s wilds, nature and idiosyncrasies. I find lots of my guests like to learn about what we do differently here.
In fact I have something of a formula and then lots of flexibility within. Different individuals are interested in different things so I try to be flexible and adapt to the interests of the guests that I’ve got. For some people it’s all about the fishing, and that’s okay by me! Others are much more interested in learning about Scotland in general and seeing some beautiful wild places. I am rewarded by seeing visitors to Scotland appreciating the country, and showing an interest in learning about it.
I believe good guiding blends a mixture of a structured day and flexibility. You have to have a plan and something of a timetable but a good guide should be fairly flexible to accommodate his guests’ wishes.
What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is being able to spend time in the wild countryside that I love. Other huge benefits include meeting lots of interesting people from different backgrounds, perspectives and cultures; seeing other people appreciate Scotland’s wilds in the same way I do; watching the joy on the face of someone who is catching their first or has, with my help, achieved a difficult goal.
Are there any aspects of your job that you don’t like?
The part of my job that I like the least is all the driving.
The benefit of hiring a guide to go fishing in Scotland is that you’ve got someone who knows how the fish of Scotland can be caught, and is willing to show you. Also the waters they will choose for you to fish in will be selected from decades of fishing experience and an understanding of the area. Not having that knowledge would make it much more difficult to have a satisfying fishing experience.
Guides are also a great source of information about other things, not just fishing. They tend to know about beautiful places you could visit off the beaten track, and can often answer your questions, what ever they may be, about Scotland.
Tell us something about Argyll that only a guide would know.
Argyll has hundreds of hidden gems. There are places I could take you where you’d be likely to see eagles, otters, beaver, basking shark, great Northern divers, or just views that you would never see on a normal sightseeing trip.
Then there’s the fishing! My area has more coastline than France. 20,000 lochs and numerous rivers holding salmon, trout, grayling, pike, and even char.
In your view, what makes a good tour guide?
A good guide will make you feel comfortable, is friendly, patient and competent, will provide a hassle free service, is flexible and well-informed and will share your enthusiasm.
And finally, have you got any tips for people who are interested in booking a guide like yourself, but aren’t too sure what to look for?
When it comes to looking for a guide you should try to choose one who has some certification, is demonstrably interested in your safety, will answer all your questions clearly, and somebody that you think you will feel comfortable with.