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.
Rain, snow or sun, Toby is ready to fish.
Reel Time Fishing I recently watched an episode of Northwest Fishing Reports where the film crew were fishing with Toby Wyatt on the famed Clearwater River in Idaho. I always like watching shows when Toby is the featured guide. He has a demeanor that makes you want to fish with him and then take him out for dinner and a beer.
Toby is a very well-known guide on both the Columbia and the Snake/Clear-water systems. He has been highlighted and showcased many times and has hosted outdoor shows for years. Toby was born and raised in Clarkston, WA where he lives with his wife and two kids. He has always been obsessed with fishing. His grandfather and father are/were both fishing guides which got Toby interested at a very young age. As a child, anytime Toby passed a body of water he asked, “what kind of fish are in there? Can we go fish for them? How will we catch them?” Basically, twenty questions assessing the possible fishing adventure.
In addition to the time that Toby spends on the Snake and Clearwater rivers along with their tributaries, Toby loves to fish the Hanford Reach for fall kings.
When Toby was in 7th grade, his dad dropped him off at the river one day with a john boat with a 10hp Honda and his two buddies. They doubled up right away on smallmouth bass and his buddies told him that he should be a fishing guide someday! Then and there, Toby made up his mind that he was going to follow in the footsteps of his dad and granddad.
Dating back to 1991 when he was in high school, Toby has always guided, at least part time. As a kid, he worked as a deckhand for his father “Snake River Jake.” Prior to becoming a full-time fishing guide, Toby worked several “weekday” jobs in the 1990s included boat sales for companies including Wyattwater boats, Sprint Sport Boats and American Turbine (boat jet pumps). Eventually, Toby gave up the day job to spend all his time guiding on the water.
Toby and a client with a trophy sturgeon.
Toby told me that the Nez Perce tribe, along with IDFG brought the salmon fishery back on the Clearwater and the rivers reopened in 1999 to Chinook fishing after being closed for 30-40 years. Toby caught his first Clearwater spring Chinook in 1999. It was a moment that he will never forget. At the time, Toby was only licensed in Washington, so he began the lengthy process of finding a Clearwater River permitted business for sale. By 2000, he had the permit, and the runs of spring Chinook began to grow. He took a leap of faith, quit his day job, and started guiding full time, spending as much time as he could fishing in Idaho.
In addition to the time that Toby spends on the Snake and Clearwater Rivers along with their tributaries, Toby loves to fish the Hanford Reach for fall kings. In the 1990s and early 2000s Toby said that you could catch good numbers of big Chinook salmon. It seemed at times that he caught 40-pound kings daily. The Hanford Reach is the only remaining free-flowing section of river on the Columbia making it very special. As with all salmon and steelhead fishing, he witnessed the quantity and size of the fish diminish and angler activity shoot through the roof. With that decline he found himself lean-ing towards fisheries that are more stable and sustainable, and not overrun with people. As a result, his favorite fishery has become a scenic float down the Grande Ronde for smallmouth bass. The reason, “you rarely see other people and we catch huge numbers of ever increasing invasive smallmouth bass”.
Of all the fishing methods and techniques that Toby implores, he prefers to flatline plugs. As many of us know, there is really nothing like the takedown on a plug. It can be downright vicious, but in a really good way. This technique works great for salmon and for steelhead on almost any river. I like the plug bite, especially on a slow day when you start dosing off in your seat. Suddenly, all hell breaks loose and an angry fish peels off hundreds of feet of line. There really isn’t any feeling quite like it, but many guides don’t fish plugs much today. Toby is not one of those guides!
Toby told me that when he started out in the fishing industry, he was a taker. He did not participate in advocacy groups, attend meetings or take action to help preserve or grow the industry. Over time, he realized the importance of do-ing so and his thought process changed. As a result, Toby got very involved and made the decision to help young, up and coming guides, serving as a role model and mentor. Not many guides do this as they might look at it as a threat to their business. Toby is confident in his client base and his abilities and realizes the importance of mentoring guides to be both successful and respectful within the industry. In the end, they all complement one another and service a client base that is too much for any one of them to handle. Building a relationship with the younger guides will help the industry and set them on the right path.
Happy client with a Snake-Clearwater steelhead.
Toby may be best known for his demeanor. He is quietly intense but is always joking around and making things fun for those on his boat. He feels that he is best known as a guide who discovers new holes and teaches new techniques to fishermen on the East side of WA and ID. When I asked Toby what makes a great fishing guide, he did not hesitate to tell me that it comes down to his or her ability to teach people how to fish and provide the most enjoyable experience possible while following the rules and setting an example for other boaters. River etiquette is a really big deal to Toby and he teaches and emu-lates it all the time. This is a great point that is overlooked by many guides I have fished with personally. I try to fish with 3 to 7 different guides each year and prefer the guide that Toby is referring to. We fish for the experience, not just to fill the freezer as quickly as possible.
Another point that Toby made which I touched on above. He said, “most guides view the day as a race to see which guide can be the first back to the dock and then post their catch on social media. I view it differently as my clients have taken time off work and planned all year for this day on the water and the experience ahead. I’m not going to rush them to finish their well-deserved vacation. We will fish as long as it takes and make sure that they are smiling when they head to the car.”
The fishery in Idaho is well regulated and the hatchery programs are healthy. The Chinook, coho and steelhead fisheries are working thanks to the State of Idaho and the Tribes. Toby has travelled to Washington DC to advocate for healthy fisheries and provide sustainability and continuity for generations to come. He has also participated in several studies on catch and release mortality in partnership with the University of Idaho. These studies have shown a mortality rate of 3.8% on catch and release, which might be attributed to the heartiness of the species that originate in Idaho.
You can find Toby down at the mouth of the Columbia fishing Buoy 10 in August. He usually works his way up the Columbia River in late August and September and likes to spend a month in the Hanford Reach before returning to the Clearwater in early October to target summer steel-head, fall Chinook and coho salmon. If you have never fished the Clearwater River in the fall or even for winter steelhead, you are missing out. Call Toby, make the drive and experience all that Lewiston/Clarkston has to offer. It is worth the drive and the beauty is indescribable.
Toby with a Dworshak smallmouth.
If Toby started over again, he said that he would have purchased more Idaho permits. Rivers and lakes in Idaho are divided into sections to branch out into various waters. You must buy out current permit holders to secure a permit as no new permits are being issued. Toby passed up on some great sections of river in Idaho. Since there is limited entry, permits in Idaho become more valuable and when retirement comes you have a nest egg very similar to a Washington ocean charter license. Toby continues to guide and loves to spend his days on the water. As he gets older, he prefers the warmer weather and likes to spend time guiding in Cabo San Lucas in the winter.
Finally, Toby believes that God put fishing guides on this planet to teach people how fish and show them the beauty of his creation. Toby is committed to doing just that.
If you would like to connect with Toby, you can call him at (208) 790-2128 or visit his website at www.reeltimefishing.com.
To nominate your favorite guide or to request an interview, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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