Guided fishing experience makes great gift-giving idea

Ryan Walker demonstrates flawless flycasting for the novices he shared his boat and knowledge with on an early spring day.

As a veteran last-minute shopper, I know there are plenty of people out there who still have someone or 10 others to check off their lists.

I remember my teenage years when Lucky Jim and I scoured the aisles of Kmart on Christmas Eve hoping to find that certain blue-light special for friends, family or acquaintances whose wishes remained unfulfilled.

I attribute my gift wrapping talent to being able to handle packages, paper, scissors, and tape in the front seat of a pick-up truck as my cousin, Bones Malone, drove us over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house on Christmas Day more than once when we were in our 20s.

I still do most of the wrapping, but I haven’t had to fight the crowds for more than 30 years, since the arrival of my own Christmas angel. Kelly considers last-minute shopping to be any date after Thanksgiving. She scouts for thoughtful things all year long and usually has most of “our” gift giving wrapped up before the stores have put away the Halloween decor.

In years past, I have recommended bird feeders and seeds as great gifts for anyone with even a slight connection to the great outdoors. The state Department of Conservation’s Natural Events Calendar gives all year long with its remarkable photography and daily reminders about the world outside the windows here in Missouri.

Those make fine gifts, but this past year I discovered another great idea in a gift to me. For my 60th birthday I received a guided fishing trip with Ryan Walker from OSA Guides and Outfitters. My gift certificate said that the Ozarks Smallmouth Alliance founder would take two anglers—on a mutually agreeable date—for a chance to battle bronzebacks on a southwest Missouri stream.

I have always been a do-it-myself kinda guy, and I certainly didn’t need someone to bait my line or take fish off of my hooks. But I have to admit that’s a pretty nice perk. Ryan said we could bring our own equipment and do all we wanted, or we could just show up at the boat ramp and he would take care of everything else. We chose the latter and had a terrific day.

No one was too disappointed when spring rains in the week before our scheduled trip made the smallmouth streams a little too swift. We called an audible to try our luck at catching walleye in tailwaters below a dam where the current was much more under control.

Walker offers gift certificates for smallmouth or walleye fishing trips on his website osaguidesoutfitters.com, and our experience was much more than fishing. We were able to learn tricks and tips from a true professional, and we collected a few new fish stories along the way.

I took the trip with Lucky Jim, who is an accomplished angler himself, but I realized that a guided trip would be great to share with someone of less experience. Lessons from a patient master of the craft may resonate better than instructions from Dad or a spouse. The together time would be the gift, while the guide did all the work.

Ryan Walker with a smallmouth bass on a southern Missouri Ozarks stream.

I have had the good fortune to take a guided trip or two through the years. I have never had a bad experience, but picking a professional partner may require a more than randomly selecting someone based on a roadside sign or other solicitation. Walker and OSA Guides and Outfitters came recommended by a mutual friend. If you check out osaguidesoutfitters.com you’ll see a website as professional as the angler, and his work is on display on social media too. For more information call 417-366-3617.

If you still need to land a great present for an angler on your list, the memories from an experience gift like a guided fishing trip will outlast most of the other things you could find in the store. I know because I have been in those aisles and the pickings can be pretty slim.

Originally published by Leader Newspapers of Jefferson Vounty on Dec. 23, 2022.

Published by John J. Winkelman

A freelance outdoor writer for more than 30 years

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