Volume 4, Number 3                Published Bi-Weekly               Weeks of February 16, 1998 and February 23, 1998

By Sandra Levy

NARROWSBURG - When Anthony Ritter goes out to work you could say that he's just Gone Fishing, which is also the name of his four year old full time guide service business which has him serving as a New York State licensed guide on the Upper Delaware River.


Ritter, a 12 year Narrowsburg resident, was a self-employed graphic designer when he started Gone Fishing Guide Service as a part time guide ten years ago.  Over the last three years, as he began to do more aggressive advertising and attended sport shows to tout his business, Ritter saw his booking increase by 20 to 25 per cent each year and the number of trips he guides rise from 65 to more than 100 trips last year.


"A lot has to do with repeat business or referrals.  In this business if you do it full you're not on the river from April through November.  In the winter you have to go to the trade shows.   These shows are very important for a service business geared to tours.  Forty to fifty per cent of my customers last year were from Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island.   The sports show in Long Island is my target audience.   I had a good show.  I booked four to five trips."




Ritter said that it is at these trade shows in places like Long Island, New Jersey and Suffern, that he displays photos of smiling customers who have caught fish.   He also spends time telling prospective customers that great fishing is just a short trip from the city to the Catskills area.


"People like to see men, women and kids catching fish.   These are people who might go to Colorado.  My sales pitch is that I can give them quality fishing by coming up to the Catskills.   It only takes two and a half to three hours from places like Roslyn, Long Island.    People's time is valuable.   Fishing is incredible up here" said Ritter, referring to the main stem of the Delaware River from Hancock, New York to Port Jervis, New York.


Using a four-year old sturdy fiberglass Mackenzie driftboat which is manufactured in the west for use on rivers, Ritter can accommodate two anglers for half day or full day float trips for fly or spin fishing.   His customers are usually between 30 and 65 years old and Ritter is catering to an increasing number of woman who are interested in fishing - especially fly fishing.


Ritter, who was a graphic designer for 15 years for Conde Nast Publications, said that he always liked the river and working with people.  "Everyone has dreams.  It's a question of, if the phone rings and someone books with you.  I loved to fish when I was young, but I never thought that I'd be doing this as an entrepreneur and that it would become a business."


Now that he is this type of business, Ritter said that he has realized that businesses in Sullivan County need to have an inclusive philosophy.  He claimed that the area's resort hotels had a history of keeping their guests on their property.  In order for businesses to succeed in Sullivan County, Ritter said it is crucial that they help one another and steer customers in each others direction.


"If you come up from Manhattan or Brooklyn you should go to Callicoon or Narrowsburg for dinner, play golf somewhere else and go on the river.  Businesses have to work together or they will all go down.  I like to instill that in my customers.   For example, when someone books or inquires, I say we have a nice bed and breakfast here or there, so that they spend more time and hopefully more money here".


Ritter also maintained that he feels it is important that he promote Sullivan County as well as his own business and he hands out the Sullivan County Travel Guide when he goes to trade shows.


Using a website which he launched two months ago and selective print advertising, Ritter said he informs people that his guide service which starts in April and runs through November is not just a boat trip.  "People who come up here want to get out of the city and want to learn about the river and about fishing.

I give them information about the Upper Delaware River region. 

I turn people on to the sport of fishing and to the area and show them different techniques.   I'm tying knots for 

them and teaching them how to handle the rod and reel.  They

may know saltwater fishing but 


Tony fishing

IN THE RIVER Anthony Ritter casts a line into the Delaware River looking for the "big one"


now they are in a river with plenty of rocks and current.

At the trade shows Ritter gets the best opportunity to attract customers.  "They want to look at you, to talk to you - they want to pick your brain.  They are going to be spending the whole day with you" said Ritter who charges $200 for two for a full day including lunch and $150 for a half day.  If four or more people want to go fishing, Ritter can line up a second (or third) boat and licensed guide.

With competition from four local river guides as well as a total of 50 registered guides on the river from other areas, Ritter is not casual about thanking his customers.  After someone uses Ritter as a guide, he looks back in his date book to see where the people came from and what their interests were.   He sends cards to past customers and the photo isn't of Santa but of the person catching a fish.

When asked whether he faces any regulations, Ritter answers that the river is managed by the National Park Service and they regulate guides.  One thing that they do is provide a decal to affix to a boat so that if someone has a complaint they can identify the boat.   Ritter said that he must carry a minimum of $300,000 liability insurance.   In addition, he is responsible for a park service fee.  He must provide information on the number of trips he takes and the amount of money he earns.   He is also licensed by the New York state DEC in Albany which requires that he know CPR, first aid and lifesaving.

What's the best thing about his line of work?   "I try to give my customer more than just a fishing trip.   I try to make the day on the river as rewarding as I'd want my day to be.   The best part is getting people enthused about the outdoors and the sport - especially people who didn't know that this place existed," he said.


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