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If you are a continuing subscriber to The Angling Report, you know Kalil Boghdan of Downriver Charters (www.downrivercharters.com) has been mentioned many times in these pages, mostly by adoring clients who just can’t say enough good things about the way he conducts striped bass fishing trips near his home in Essex, Massachusetts. Their fondness for the man has been corroborated recently by the Orvis Corporation, which just named him the 2012 Orvis-endorsed fly fishing guide of the year. In the middle of a continuing economic slump that’s forcing some guides to take second jobs, Kalil stays completely booked, day after day. So, what is the man’s secret to success? That question was in the back of my mind as I arranged to fish with him this spring.
The key to Kalil’s success, let me state at the beginning, is not his fancy boat. Though many fly fishing striper guides have bought high-tech flats boats or regional equivalents, Kalil has stayed with a journeyman 20-foot Lund Alaskan center console with no casting platform and no pole or electric motor. It’s comfortable, safe, and adequate for the task, but it is not the most perfect fly fishing boat ever created. As for his fishing strategy, Kalil clearly knows his local water. Because he fishes every day, he knows where the fish are and, from experience, what kind of fly to use and what depth it should be fished. This helps him put his clients on fish. Lots of them, too. You could tell from the moment he left the dock he had a strategy in place for the day. Unlike a lot of guides nowadays, however, Kalil clearly feels no pressure to present himself as a fishing guru. He is not an egotist or fishing technician. He is, in a word, the kind of fishing friend we all wish we had. You know the sort of person I’m talking about: knowledgeable about fishing, yes, and able to put you on fish, but more important, full of good cheer and eager to have you aboard so he can show you his world.
So, is simple enthusiasm his key to success? It gets a bit tricky figuring out how to express this, but enthusiasm is not the full story, either. What Kalil Boghdan has is a genuine fondness for people, an infectious sense of humor, and enormous good will. Call it bonhomie, if you like. He gives you the feeling that he likes you, that you are someone special. His wife, Dolores, is the same way. Not surprisingly, Kalil (Dr. Boghdan, mind you) was a success long before he retired and became a guide. An education professional, he taught for many years and then became a school principal. He is part of what is right about education, just as he is part of what is right about guided fishing.
Kalil won’t tell you this, but he has invited clients he knows well into his home for dinner. He has been known to let anglers cancel at the last minute if they have a good excuse and to delay paying their deposit until the end of a day of fishing. In all sorts of ways, he violates the rules that apply to running a guide service. His lunches, which are provided free with a day of fishing, are so huge and varied you cannot begin to eat your way through them.
During my too-short time with Kalil, my wife and I caught scores of small fish but nothing of any size. He apologized profusely and repeatedly for our failure to connect on larger fish, taking responsibility for it himself. But the truth is, one of the main reasons we didn’t catch any large fish is my wife’s tendency to get seasick. On our first day together, Kalil took my wife and me into Plum Island Sound, where there was significant wave action. It was nothing his boat couldn’t handle, and most anglers would have also tolerated the chop with ease. But not my wife. She began to feel woozy almost immediately, and Kalil promptly cranked up and raced back inside Essex Bay, and that is where we fished for the rest of that day and the next one, too. It was only in retrospect that my wife and I realized we stayed in the bay because of her tendency to get seasick, and Kalil was too much of a gentleman to say anything. A professional guide, he was willing to risk leaving a less than stellar impression of his fishery rather than broach the subject of heading back into the sound, where fewer but assuredly bigger fish could be found. He cared enough about the human dimension of the service he was providing that I’m sure he suffered in silence as the hours passed by and our catch remained limited to small fish. The crowning moment of our time together took place very near the end of the second day. Tired of casting, I handed my rod to Kalil and told him to fish for a while, that I just couldn’t cast anymore. Reluctantly, he took the rod and cast right where I had been casting and immediately connected
with the only large fish of the trip. Kalil was so horrified and shocked by the turn of events that we chased each other around the boat, with me refusing to take the rod and he insisting that I do. The laugh we had at the end of that episode was priceless. “I’m ruined,” he exclaimed. “Guide catches only big fish while client looks on. I can see the headline now.”
You get the picture. Kalil Boghdan is a rare and funny person. He’s a guide’s guide. I think Orvis got it just right, naming him guide of the year. If you are going to be in Massachusetts during striper season, I recommend booking a day with Kalil Boghdan—if he has a date open.— Don Causey