Picking a Fly Fishing Guide
Capt. Jim here, and this month starts "fishing season" April is the first real days of spring weather for many of our states. From Florida to Maine, and From Arizona to Washington. We all begin to notice more consistency in the warmth of days. We all have students locally out for "Spring Break", and just in general fly fisherman everywhere are beginning to plan their summer vacations.
So this month I wanted to share a very near and dear topic to me. Guide choosing and etiquette of using one for a trip. Some of you are more consummate Flyfisherman than others. Some of you may be like myself and even be a guide or in the industry. Yet we will all from time to time use a guide. It's a great way to learn new waters, while using the right flies, and technique for that area. As well not having to drag your own boat lots of places especially if you're just in town on business, or visiting for a short trip.
However how would you pick a guide. How would you know they're good. As well what should you expect from them? What should they expect from you?
For starters picking a guide can be in some cases quite tedious. As many places have more and more to choose from. Seems as if lots of folks are deciding to leave the office desks and try their hand at "fishing for a living". That being said there are many to choose from, from year to year and place to place more so then others.
So how does one pick through all the websites, or even pick one guide from an outfitter with many? My first suggestions are to pick a guide who has a minimum of 2-4 years of experience on the river, lake, body of water. As well if it's an outfitter I'd pick a guide with 2 years of experience with them. That way you should be able to see the reviews left of that guide on their site, or the site of the outfitter. Obviously choosing from a group there are usually bios, and pictures. Use those to pick someone you'll enjoy spending 6-10 hours with. If the guide isn't into the same things as you, or had too big of an age gap, well it could lend for a long ride down river. So use the ratings, and testimonies to pick quality, and the bios or photos of the guide to get a gauge of their character and if it fits you.
Knowing they're good often isn't easy. I recommend asking around at the local fly shops, again reviews such as trip advisor, google etcetera to find out how they're stacking up on the river, and in client happiness. Remember that they can't control, Mother Nature. Meaning, weather, fish, temperatures or river flows. They can control wether or not you are able to enjoy the scenery, your safety, and how good your lunch is.
What to expect from a guide? What should they do for you? It's a given they will drive, anchor, row or just in general put you in good fishing waters. They will know how to fish their waters in every condition as they are there every day of the year and in all climates. They are to provide moderate entertainment in the way of maybe a few big fish stories, or moderate jokes. They might even pick on you a bit through out the day. Don't be so sensitive you forget to laugh with them. There is a huge difference between laughing at you, or with you as you do something funny. Try and know you're fishing their back yard, and that you are there to have fun. Even if sometime it is at your expense to a small bit. They are expected to have the proper flies for you, and of course a lunch. They're there to net your fish, and take your pictures. As well if there is time and/ or a place be a fishing partner if you don't have one. They should tie all your flies, and tippet on, get all your knots out with patience and kindness. That's their job in all to guide you to a successful day. Just remember they are guides, not God they can't guarantee you a fish. I've had days I've personally hooked over a dozen fish and handed them to clients after lunch, and they never did net one. It happens some days your just there to enjoy the day. A picture of a bent rod in a beautiful backdrop is just as good, after all you're just gonna let them go. Enjoy the day and your guide.
Which leads us into what should they expect from you. Number one they should expect you to be honest about your skill level. Never try and be "impressive" to them by acting as if you know it all. In less then 30 minutes the river, the fly rod, and the fish will tell on you. They are there to help. Number two they should expect you to respect them, pro, guide etc.... if you hire them, then concede to their ways and fishing style for the day. It's only fair you wouldn't go into your dentist office and demand a mirror and a root canal tool. So don't try and do their job on the river. I recently had a "guide" show up and fish with me all day. He demanded he land his own fish, literally 15 fish later it was time to go home. He said he had a great day, but wished he'd have landed a fish..... I couldn't even reply to that. That's what I had a net and legs for, oh well. Just let the guide do his job. Finally the most vip thing.
The gratuity. You wouldn't dare go to a restaurant, high end hotel, valet service, or a caddy and not leave a tip. So why not leave one for the guy/service who provided you lunch, shuttle to vehicle, tees you up on the right flies, caries your rods, gear, and ensured your safety. Yes he may have "the dream job" just remember most guides only get 100 days or less due to seasons, weather, economy etc..... to make a small portion usually a guide service pays them 10% of what you paid 500-1000.00 for. That's not a lot of money for the work, and enthusiasm they bring to watch you catch fish all day while they row, or untangle your knots. So 15-20% as a minimum is customary and greatly appreciated.
Last but not least if they do a great job, tell their boss, leave a trip advisor review, and tell a friend.
Hopefully this will help you find the right "fishing buddy" for your next trip. May you, and your family and fishing friends use this to find the right fit for your style, and expectations.
Tight lines, and smiles for miles!!!
Lees Ferry Anglers
Grand Canyon, Arizona