When we last connected with Chandler Williams (@chandler_williams_fishing on Instagram), we told you about his grit: Working for a neighbor to earn his first fly rod; teaching himself how to fly cast; sleeping all night on a dock as a young teenager in order to hitch his first ride with a sport fisher. You get the idea.
In light of the way Chandler went from mulching lawns to get a fly rod to guiding 250 days a year at such a young age, we thought he might have some tips to offer reelers who might be interested in becoming guides.
It starts with a passion for fishing.
“Ever since I was at a young age, I’ve been super passionate about it,” he says. “I always used to watch Jose Wejebe, even when I was a little kid, and some of these other big names, like Chris Owens, Brian Jill, and Carter Andrews. Seeing what their lifestyles were [traveling and fishing], I thought, ‘I want my lifestyle to be that way.’ There’s just something about watching the sun on the water, that fish kick his tail, and the drag screaming. That’s something I just can’t get enough of. It’s like I’m hungry for it.”
Sustainability is also a big part of being a steward of the sport for Chandler.
“I hate killing fish so they can be mounted on the wall,” he says. “We need to practice better conservation now so that more young people will practice it, and get the message out across the world. That will make a big difference for future generations who want to work in this industry.”
“There’s so many young people these days who want to become a guide or live this lifestyle on the water,” Chandler says. “And if we don’t protect the fisheries, they won’t be able to do that.”
And you have to be willing to put in the work and pay your dues along the way.
“You’ve got to step on some toes,” Chandler says. “And go where the anglers go. I went to iCast the first time when I was fourteen. No one really showed or taught me anything up until now. I’ve learned a lot from others, but I basically taught myself. Do your research and study a lot — figure it out. Figure out how to be a good fisherman at the level you want to be at. Get on the Internet before you go on these boats and show them what you’ve already figured out and learned on your own.”
“Step on toes. Aggravate the shit out of people, you know?” Chandler says. “Demonstrate that you have the drive for it, and show them that you’re going to be at the dock at 5:30 in the morning and ready to go. If no one hires you, go to the dock every day at 6:00 in the morning when they go out, and be there when they get back, if you can. Over time, somebody’s going to eventually pick you up because they see you’re dedicated. There’s a lot of people who go out and drink at night and don’t show up for the boat the next day. So, your opportunity will surely come.”
Hitting the docks and industry shows is a great way to network, which is key to breaking into the industry.
“Make as many connections as you can,” Chandler says. “And if you burn bridges, mend them as quick as you can.”
For most folks who want to get into guiding, there are no short cuts.
“It’s not about the sponsorships or getting free stuff,” Chandler says. “It’s about having a dedication for it. Work hard and build your name, and over time, those things will come.
And if you want it, you have to go for it.
“For the younger kids coming up,” Chandler says. “This isn’t the easiest path in life, but it’s the most rewarding. And one thing I can say is never give up — no matter what.”