After getting off the phone with good friend and fellow steelhead guide Marty Sheppard, our conversation continued to ring in my head for hours, even days now so here is a recap.
"How much did you quote these guys for 3 anglers? A $1000 I hope." Marty said not very sarcastically.
"Uh, no $500, I thought that was all you wanted for a trip like this." I was sarcastic.
"I hate doing 3 person trips, runs aren't big enough, there is usually only one bucket in each run and if they need help, I can't give them enough of it in a day." Marty finally calms down and we discuss the finer points of why and why not to do 3 person steelhead trips.
Mostly it comes down to people are trying to keep the cost of a trip down and we can appreciate that. However, in the end, you are spending your money for an experience that is normally based on a 2 clients to 1 guide ratio. When this gets tweaked, so does the experience. Those of us who do this for a living and do it passionately make every effort to provide the most educational, informative, professional and memorable experience possible.
Frustrations with 3 anglers include the following:
Spreading out so far that when you are with the first person in a run you can see the last.
When one person snaps off a fly and you aren't close enough to tell it is missing, they fish for an hour without one.
When one angler isn't moving while the rest are and are too far away to keep them doing so without running a half mile up to them.
All the anglers need work with casting beyond the initial casting lesson done at the beginning of the day.
When someone has questions and you aren't there to answer them, regarding casting, reading water, lunch, life, whatever.
Safety of the anglers.
On some smaller rivers, runs are small enough that only 1, maybe 2 anglers can fish at a time requiring anglers to take turns. You are paying to fish, not to watch so why do this to yourself.
In short, we want to keep trips to a 2:1 ratio for many reasons. We of course undertand that occassionally there is a 3rd wheel wanting to participate but certainly don't think of this as a way to keep the cost of a trip down. After the upcharge for a 3rd person you are only saving a very small amount, typically less than $50 each.
Please think about some of these things before booking a 3 person trip with your favorite guide, you are just cheating yourself out the best service they can give you.
If you do find yourself in the position of having a 3rd angler in a group, consider hunting for a 4th person and get another guide or ask the guide if they have a single regular who would be willing to join the group, and get a second guide. In the end, you will be happy you did.