The purpose of this column is to highlight some of the guides we have here in the Pacific Northwest for our readers to aid in the selection of a guide who fits your needs. We are hoping that this helps to outline some of the things that make guides successful, fun to fish with and for other guides, tips on how to become a better guide, both on the water and as a business owner.
Left: Big Dave. Right: Nick Popov holding a big broodstock winter steelhead from the Oregon Coast.
I have been fishing my entire life, but even today, try to fish with at least two to three different guides a year to learn new techniques and methods. Outside of time on the water, fishing with a guide is the single greatest way to become a better fisherman. Even the most experienced fisherman can learn new things.
What amazes is how much methods can change from one place to the next and even within a specific system, such as the Columbia River. I am also surprised how confident guides are in their techniques and how much those techniques may differ from other guides fishing the same system. As a client, I receive a constant barrage of feedback on what I am doing correctly or all wrong and why. It seems that one guide tells me to fish a certain way and when I replicate this fishing technique with a different guide, I am re-educated. As hard as this is, it does build perspective and allows us to become better overall fishermen.
Something that stands out to me from fishing with many guides is how different their client approaches can be. I have categorized guides into three categories, the great, the effective and the no thanks.
The first guide type is without question my favorite. Though they might want to put you on fish, their goal is to provide an experience and make sure that their clients have a great time. This is the approach that makes fishing fun and the type of guide to fish with, regardless of how “fishy” they might be. I highly recommend that you seek this type of guide to fish with as I guarantee that you will fish with them again and again and laugh every time. They tend to be a lot of fun, laid back, funny, and are willing to teach you little things that allow you to become a better fisherman.
The second type of guide is generally very intense and competitive, but also willing to put in a long day to create opportunities. A fisherman can learn much from this guide, but often the experience is intense, and the fisherman might leave feeling inadequate and exhausted. This is a tough one because you do leave better than you arrived, and often have dinner in the bag. I have not entirely determined the approach to use with this type of a guide, but I feel like you should give them feedback on their approach and define limits of your expectations. It is a toss-up whether I fish with this type of guide more than once, but again, they tend to be very good fishermen, and much can be learned while fishing with them.
The Addicted Crew while fishing at Big Dave’s Lodge in Alaska.
The third is the guide who wants to put you on fish and get you back to the launch or dock as quickly as possible. I tend to avoid these types. As an example, I recently had a guide in Alaska who asked us to be at the ramp at 3:45 a.m. No big deal for me, but a bit tough for my 17-year-old son. I inquired about going an hour later and the guide responded by telling me that he had six fish in the freezer and would be happy to give them to us if we wanted to sleep in. Really? Did he think that we were only going out to fill the freezer? Needless to say, I will not be fishing with this guide ever again.
The purpose of this column is to highlight some of the guides we have here in the Pacific Northwest for our readers to aid in the selection of a guide who fits your needs. We are hoping that this helps to outline some of the things that make guides successful, fun to fish with and for other guides, tips on how to become a better guide, both on the water and as a business owner. If you are a guide and would like to be interviewed, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The same goes if you are a fisherman/client and you would like to recommend your favorite guide.
With social media prevalent, it is much easier to find a guide to-day who meets your requirements and expectations. It is also much easier to determine client approval ratings before you spend money fishing with someone you will never fish with again. This makes things better, but it also does not tell the story of who the person is. Getting to know the guides that I fish with and building a lifelong relationship is not something that can be done on social media.
As we highlight guides in STS, there will be some who have had wonderful experiences and others who have had dreadful experiences with the same guide. This is normal and fishermen and women need to understand that they play a role in their success and the experience itself. The guide can only do so much; you need to meet them in the middle, listen to what they tell you and engage with them. Don’t be afraid to tell them what you want and how they are doing. If they exceed your expectations, tip them well as they work hard for a meager income. A decent tip is around $100 per person, per trip.
I love to meet new guides and would love to fish with many of you and interview you for future Guide Spotlights. Just email me and we will set something up.
Finally, this column will be a great resource for guides to learn new things about how to create happy clients. Fishing techniques are often highly guarded and that is fine, but real success lies in the feeling that your client has as they leave the ramp and head home. Hopefully they are thinking about the next trip with you and not the research that they will do when they get home to find a new guide who better meets their expectations.
Customer service 101 says, ask your clients if they are happy with their experience and what would have made it better. If you don’t ask, you will not know and you will not grow.
Enjoy this column and become a part of it. I look forward to the journey ahead and all the great guides and people that I will meet along the way.
Nick Popov—Peel the Reel Guide Service
Many of you probably recognize Nick Popov, a well-known Pacific Northwest fishing guide and a member of the Addicted team. Nick is the owner/operator of Peel the Reel Guide Service. Born and raised in Aloha, Oregon, Nick was brought up in a family who loved to hunt and fish. As a kid, his mom would often take him to the lake, pop open a lawn chair and Nick would fish. As a child, Nick chased everything that swam including bluegill, catfish, salmon, and trout. You name it, Nick caught it.
Son Austin, Nick and daughter Ava holding a spring Chinook from the Willamette River.
As far back as Nick can remember, he had a fishing pole in his hand. His dad also loved to fish but mostly for trout at Detroit Lake. Nick has many fond memories sitting on the bank with his dad and brother, pulling trout from Detroit Lake. Over time and as a matter of natural progression, Nick began to search for bigger fish. At about 12 or 13 and once his older brother got his driver’s license, Nick got hooked on salmon fishing.
There is one day that stands out to Nick that he will never forget, the day that hooked him forever. Nick and his brother took a trip to fish for salmon. When they arrived at their destination, they walked a mile into tidewater on the river and began casting spinners for Chinook. After hours of hiking in swampy marsh and thousands of casts his brother finally hooked one and the fight ensued. After wrestling this monster to the bank, they looked at each other in amazement. Both were hooked at that point and could not wait to do it again. That was the fish that started Nick’s addiction to salmon and steelhead fishing for-ever. For the next 10 years, Nick spent all his free time chasing salmon and steelhead.
As a teen, Nick spent countless days on the river with his brother learning the art of salmon and steelhead fishing. It was all that really grabbed his attention in life and something he was extremely passionate about. There was nothing that Nick enjoyed more, which got him thinking about his future and the idea of working in the fishing industry. As a young adult it’s hard to take the leap and it is expensive to get started. Over the years, many people would encourage Nick to become a fishing guide, but it just seemed unrealistic. Eventually, Nick bought a drift boat license and began guiding trips here and there but could never get the courage to go full time. Then in the summer of 2006, Nick had a friend who owned a charter company in Alaska who offered him the opportunity to come up to work as a deck hand for a couple weeks on his boat. Well, a couple weeks turned into the remainder of the season. This would be the beginning of four years guiding in Gustavus, Alaska where Nick ran a 30-foot North River offshore boat and guided for halibut, salmon, salmon sharks, and bottom fish. At this point, Nick truly found his place and realized that guiding was in his blood.
Per Nick, “I honestly thought I would just guide in Alaska for 4 or 5 months and do part time here in Oregon forever but, as the years drew on, the regulations in Southeast Alaska would create challenges that nearly put many companies out of business.” So, for Nick, back to square one.
In 2011, Nick returned to Oregon and took a job working in sales. It was not what he wanted, but he had a knack for sales, and it paid his bills. He worked for Sprint as a sales rep and assistant manager for the next four years.
Nick’s father and best friend, Mo Popov, was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2015. This was the moment that changed everything for Nick. His father really wanted to see Nick follow his heart and his passion and wanted to see Nick start work-ing as a full-time fishing guide. Mo always pushed Nick to make the leap, stating that he was made for it. When Mo fell ill, Nick decided it was time to hang up the sales uniform and go for it. In November 2015, Nick began working full time as a fishing guide, with nothing to fall back on. Mo passed away in 2016 but he got to see Nick pursue his passion and for that, Nick will always be proud and thankful for such a great influence in his life.
Nick is a self-proclaimed “Addict” to all salmon and steelhead fishing. It does not matter where or when, as long as he is targeting them. I have a feeling that most of us can relate!
Nick’s favorite fishery is coastal steelhead. Nick feels like steelhead are the backbone of our fisheries in the Pacific Northwest. They are aggressive, acrobatic and each one is so different and unique. He loves targeting steelhead because you don’t need perfect conditions to get them to bite. You can catch them in high off-colored water or in a creek that is gin clear. He loves fishing the Oregon Coast because the fish are fresh and aggressive and at every tide change you get a push of fresh fish coming in.
Nick’s favorite method of fishing or style of fishing is floating down the river in his drift boat. Per Nick, “there is something special about knowing a river so well you can say cast over by that rock and pull it this way two feet and there should be a fish there and bam fish on. I love all types of fishing but putting a rod in my hand and having to present the bait or lure properly is something special. Knowing there are fish there and we just gotta make em bite.” If Nick had to choose a single method to fish, he would grab his spoon rod and a section of water with current and some boulders. He loves to pick a section of water apart and the bite when an ocean fresh steelhead grabs a spoon in three feet of water! Hang on!!!
Nick Popov and Glenda with a big Buoy 10 fall Chinook.
Nick is probably best known for being a hard worker. He prides himself in preparing, focusing on the fine details and working hard to make his clients happy. To Nick, “it’s not all about the fish you catch, some days it’s about just grinding out a bite or two and having a day on the water my clients will never forget.”
When Nick decided to start guiding full time, it was his goal to get his name out into the industry through hard work, building great relationships and developing a loyal clientele. Nick holds himself to this standard every day. It is his belief that his success in the guiding industry has come through dedication to his clients and hard work on and off the water. Nick prides himself on being prepared, honest and ready to have fun, every day. Per Nick, “I think people forget to have fun some days and that’s why we all started guiding, our love for fishing and the outdoors. I believe these things are my foundation for being a great guide.”
Nick Popov and long time client Corey with ocean Chinook.
In the Pacific Northwest there are many different guides and many fisheries from which to choose. Nick feels that this is what makes the industry so hard to penetrate and to get your name out there. He believes that over the years he was able to break out of the pack for a few reasons. Per Nick, “I would say first my hard work and determination to put fish on the boat every day is what helped in the beginning, but my optimism and positive attitude have likely set me apart from other guides. It is not always about the fish! These people are booking trips to escape the daily grind and get out and enjoy mother nature and spend time with their buddies. Catching fish is my goal every day but the trip is not about me it’s about the people in the seats in front of me. I am a people person and just love meeting new people and spending time with my clients and I think my clients know that. Last my willingness to teach people has really helped set me apart. When people book with me, I’m there to help them become a better angler, whether that’s teaching them to cast or teaching them the proper way to setup that’s what this is all about.” Since joining up with Addicted Fishing five years ago this has been a huge focus for Nick. “It’s all about getting more people involved in our sport so we have a voice.” With Addicted Fishing and their YouTube channel, Nick and the Addicted team are dedicated to educating, entertaining and inspiring people to get outdoors. “The more kids we get involved the more it protects out fisheries for years to come.”
In life, Nick is a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. He has no regrets and wouldn’t do anything different if he started over again. He did confirm, like many have, that he would do a better job of managing his time. You can’t get time back and spending time with your kids and family is so important. Nick could not have done it without the sacrifices that his wife and kids have made along the way. Nick is really happy with where things are and is excited to see what the future holds for Peel The Reel Guide Service and Addicted Fishing. To book a day on the water with Nick, you can call him at (503) 484-4860 or visit his website at www.peelthereelguideservice.com. You can also email Nick at peelthereel.com or visit him on Facebook @ Peel the Reel Guide Service or on Instagram @peelthereel.