The life of an Ontario fishing guide isn't for the faint-hearted. 120 days on the water working twelve hour days can seem like a daunting task for many. But for others, embracing the guiding lifestyle can be a reward in itself.
Ben Beattie, a fishing guide in Sioux Lookout, said he fell in love with northwestern Ontario on a fishing trip to Lac Seul 12 years ago.
"I had a regular job in southern Ontario," Beattie said,"but I was never passionate about the the work."
"A friend of mine was guiding on Lac Seul, and I came up fishing for a week," he said, "I thought that was it. His job was a lot better than mine."
Beattie settled in Sioux Lookout, met his future wife, and hasn't looked back.
His clients vary between expert anglers and neophytes, between Americans and Canadians.
He said the key is to be personable and to remember that guiding is a service industry, and since there's no guarantee clients will actually catch fish, the personal rapport a guide forges goes a long way in providing value.
"For some people, this is the only four or five days a year they get to fish," Beattie said.
"It's about ensuring they have great trip."
Beattie has made lifelong friends as a guide, with social networks and smart phones making it easy to stay in touch with past clients.
But the lifestyle doesn't come without its challenges. There are few breaks during guiding season, Beattie says, and twelve-hour days are the norm.
"Pretty early mornings," Beattie said, "off the dock at 7:00 a.m., then a shore launch at noon."
"Then we fish until five. Come back and I clean fish for the guys," he said, "then home by six or seven. It's an honest twelve hours every day."
And there's no guarantees the economy will co-operate. When the American dollar plunged there was a noticeable decrease in the amount of tourists visiting. Fortunately for Beattie, as well as the other guides in northwestern Ontario, the dollar bounced back, and the lodges are filling up again.
"It's going to be a very busy summer across northwestern Ontario," Beattie said, "everybody's busy and the camps are back with high occupancy rates."
As for guiding, even with Beattie's 12 years of experience, he still gets a thrill knowing there is much more water to learn.
"I feel like I know a good chunk of Lac Seul," he said, "but there's more water up here than you could learn in a lifetime."