29 Sep 2020

Fishing guides enter season with next to no clients

6:59 am on 29 September 2020

The fishing season kicks off this week and some professional guides who would normally be turning clients away have no bookings due to the border closure.

Martin Langland.

Martin Langland. Photo: Supplied

Martin Langland has been a fishing guide for 30 years taking people out to high country lakes and to the braided rivers of Canterbury.

His business, Troutlands, has a few bookings for this season but is only running at about 5 percent.

"It's pretty grim to be honest, a little bit heartbreaking for myself and others in my industry, obviously with the borders closed there's not a lot of business around so it's frightening.

"It's just one of those life situations, there's not a lot we can do so we just need to go into survival mode a little bit," Langland said.

His season usually consists of tours five days a week and is busy until it ends in April.

"This season I've only got about 5 percent of what I would normally do, I mean I just have to adjust I'm marketing towards Kiwi's a bit more, which I've always done, but I need to push it a bit more now.

"I'm lucky that I do other things and that I've been in the business a while, I make fishing flys which I sell in the New Zealand market and overseas so they've been doing well," he said.

Serge Bonnafoux, a fishing guide out of Hanmer and the president of The Fishing Guides' Association, said at this time of the year he would be turning customers away because he was so busy - but not this year.

"I have zero days booked for this season."

A survey of guides in May found that 93 percent of business comes from overseas he said.

"The percentage of clients we will get from the domestic market will be about 2 to 3 percent, we are advertising a lot but it is typical for Kiwi anglers to do it themselves."

"It's really tough going at the moment, lots of our guides have young families to support."

Bonnafoux said many guides tried to get jobs for The Department of Conservation when they were launched to create opportunities for those out of work.

He even wrote to the minister but was told that they were all already taken - so guides have had to look elsewhere.

"Some of them are working in their local Mitre-10, some of them are driving tractors, some have gone back to their previous careers. I was talking to one the other day who has gone back to marketing."

In the North Island things were a little more positive.

Johnny Gummer, who runs Altitude Fly Fishing in Palmerston North, said in a typical season he works 80 to 100 days and is hopeful to get around half that this season.

"I've got a good domestic client base and I specialise in instruction and specialist techniques so I'm doing more coaching now rather than guided fishing tours."

Gummer said he's had a lot of sleepless nights but has been lucky he can work as a builder and painter on the side.

But with Kiwis unable to travel overseas he's hopeful more will look at exploring their own backyard and going fishing.

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