It all started some years back when a friend told him that he would make a good fishing guide. Like most of us, this friend could see his abilities and assets better than others could, so the idea took awhile to sink in. And so began the 11-year journey of Shaver Lake guide Dick Nichols, which just ended with his final trip and retirement Friday.
I’m not here to tell you about all of Dick’s accomplishments and how he’s become an iconic symbol of what a guide should aspire to be, but rather I decided it would be best for me to try to capture and explain what I think are the real reasons Dick leaves a personal legacy that will transcend his time on the water.
Maybe I should start out by saying that after boiling it down, I have to use words such as committed, intense, passionate and sensitive – along with a strong sense of right and wrong – all while serving others and keeping that the foremost goal! Yes, of course he’s a good fisherman, but great guides transcend the art.
My point: Few understand that, at its core, being a top guide is really all about helping people have a wonderful experience. It’s counterintuitive on the surface, but sometimes catching fish isn’t the bottom line at all – especially for folks wanting a special time that they can share with a loved one or in some other way to create a memory they can take with them.
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As a guide myself, I have found that the “something special” feeling goes way beyond the catching of fish! I believe that Dick understands and has practiced this art as well as anyone, and all of the hundreds of friendships and happy people he’s served prove my point. His guests came back again and again because he gave them what they were each looking for!
Getting to know the many families I took fishing … while being there for them, to help provide the experiences they wanted or needed, was what it was all about!
retiring fishing guide Dick Nichols
It’s hard work to serve others and to try to meet their needs. This ethic has to be followed each and every time, consistently, and that’s why so few are able to do it. “Each outing has to be memorable and unique!” Dick shared with me. Yes, it has to be more than just words; you have to consciously create it for your people.
“Getting to know the many families I took fishing again and again, while being there for them, to help provide the experiences they wanted or needed, was what it was all about! Building long-term trust isn’t always about building clients, it’s usually about building true friendships.
“It was never about the money, for me it was about the good feelings I had after we were through fishing and I could look back and say it was a good day!” he continued. “When I went home, my wife would ask me ‘How did it go?’ and I would say ‘Great!’ The real payoff was that I felt I had done something good and memorable that made a difference.
“One of the greatest things I have ever seen was when I have taken out autistic children. It’s a real challenge to get them fishing in the first place , but the miraculous impact on these children when they catch their first fish is hard to explain! It’s almost as if their handicap falls away for awhile! How do you explain that? It’s a miracle thing! That’s what it’s all about!”
Giving fathers, mothers, children, grandchildren, the disabled, grandparents and friends unique and memorable times is a gift I believe Dick worked hard to share.
Having the opportunity to give fathers, mothers, children, grandchildren, disabled folks, grandparents and friends unique and memorable times is a gift that I believe Dick has worked hard to share. In addition, being humble enough to practice serving others as a lifestyle is an attribute we sorely need in our current culture .
Dick’s last guided trip ended very gently for him, as he told me that it was calm and quiet when he slipped into the dock for the last time as a guide. No one was around, no crowds cheering, no fanfare, just the solitude of a beautiful lake to see him off.
See, being true to yourself and serving others doesn’t need anything more to make it any greater! It gently but forcefully speaks for itself. That’s the way it should end. Thanks, Dick! Never give up!
Roger George is The Bee’s fishing expert. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org,