So You Think You Want to Catch Fish More than Me?

A glimpse into the dark mind and motivations of a saltwater fishing guide.

written by Hayden Harsch, aka ‘Halibut Cheeks’

For the vast majority of anglers fishing is a hobby. Its digging the rods out of the attic, shaking the dust off, and making a couple casts – taking in the summer on the lake. Or, for others it is spending hours meticulously planning and preparing to make the most of each second they get on the water. From first-time rookies to the hardest of weekend warriors millions of people get outdoors every year – chasing fish or a feeling. Out of these millions of anglers on the rivers, lakes and oceans, a hardy few turn this hobby into a way of life. These anglers going out into the wettest, windiest and coldest of weather … with smiles on, spending countless hours on the water taking all the ups and downs, all the unpredictability that fishing has to offer. The question is: what makes them tick?


Fishing is rooted in competition. Anglers since the beginning of time have sought after two things: the most, and the biggest – whether it was to feed their villages, or to beat their buddies, the goal was the same. This is not lost on the Haa-Nee-Naa guide crew. We are a team through and through: we share information on and off the water, we give each other encouragement and praise, share tips and tricks we have gained over our short life-times of different angling experiences. That being said – in all successful teams there is a healthy amount of friendly competition happening both on and off the water. There is an unspoken tally amongst the guides (and guests alike!) of most and biggest. We give a nod to the top boat of the day, and the odd friendly razz to the guides that may have had a few fumbles on the water. That little bit of healthy competition pushes me to get out of bed and fish hard day in and day out – even if I’m not guiding! I like to see other boats in the fleet hooking fish, but I LOVE it when it’s my guests.


Getting to spend so much of my life on the water I have been lucky enough to experience some breathtaking moments, humpbacks diving just feet under the boat, school of bait getting smashed by coho on top of the water, and watching a new angler experience the thrill of a monster chinook smoking line off a single action reel for the first time. All of these things have one thing in common: they all happened while I was fishing. Whenever I skip an opportunity to get outdoors I always have the sense that I’m missing out on something – a nagging question of ‘What if?’. Sometimes the bed is a bit too comfy on an early morning, or maybe I convince myself the weather isn’t to my liking. If I decide that today is a day better spent doing anything other than fishing I am plagued by these constant scenarios that pop into my head: today could have been the day I land my personal biggest, I could have had the most productive day I’ve ever had, I could have experienced something magical. A sense of wonder and that question of what if push me to get up on those tough, early mornings, head out to the herring grounds and make sure I don’t miss out on those ‘what if’ moments.


When I started off at Haa-Nee-Naa I wasn’t the most accomplished angler. With only a couple years of ocean experience, and being introduced to a whole new style of fishing, my first season had more then a few stumbles and rookie mistakes. I’m told that what I lacked in experience I made up for in passion. After a few more seasons on the water my confidence in my ability as an angler has increased, and after suffering through the growing pains of being green out there, fishing next to the likes of 198 and Longhorn, I’m keen to show off my ability on the water and prove each day that I deserve to be driving that boat. Being able to make a living while doing what I love everyday is a privilege that I could have only dreamed of, so I feel like I owe it to all of you who fish with me to give it my all every chance I get on the water.

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Photo credit: Jeremy Koreski

For the Love of the Game

written by Clayton Vanier

As they say, time flies, when you’re having fun. Well, I’m in the twilight of my career the memories of the ol’ days haunt me more than ever. While grinding it out in the rain and wind last season for that hard-to-get salmon bite, I couldn’t help but reminisce about the old days. I told story upon story, about the good ol’ days – where the sun was shining, the seas flat and fish jumping in the boat. My stories were met with as much skepticism as ever from my audience. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a bad dream: COVID, dwindling fish stocks, crappy weather, government bureaucracy, lodge fires, blown up engines … what can you hit us with next? What I continue to be proud of though is our resilience, with my 2 fabulous business partners by my side, we have always strived to make the lodge experience better each year. Whether it is finding fantastic staff, improving the facility, or upgrading our gear – this is truly a labour of love for us. 

Photo Credit: Jeremy Koreski

They say: “Become a lodge owner, your life will be easy!”. While I disagree – what I will say is that it has enriched my life beyond measure. The memories, the stories, the people and friends I have met – a lifetime of work has come down to many fabulous and sometimes colourful memories. Although not a traditional life, its one I wouldn’t trade for anything. There is no room for monotony in this vocation. There are always fires to put out – sometimes literally, engines to fix, fish to be caught and smiles to be shared. Forever the optimists, we drag herring along searching for those silver ghosts to make more and more memories … like a junkie looking for his next fix. Every day is different and that’s what I love about it. What does the future hold? I’m not really sure right now, but as long as I’m healthy and happy I’ll be on the north end of Dundas Island, chasing dreams and making memories, just for the love of the game.

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