As we were wrapping up our annual School of Trout course in Idaho last fall, a student brought up the subject of fly fishing guides. He wanted to book a guide for a few days on Henry’s Fork before returning home, and he decided to ask my advice. It’s been a while since I’ve written about fly fishing guides, so it’s probably no surprise that our conversation prompted me to type this particular article.
There are a number of different ways to think about guides. Some people are convinced that a talented guide is a prerequisite for an enjoyable day on the water. Others are just as comfortable straddling the line between using a guide and not. (They are perfectly happy with either choice.) Still others see very little difference between guides and prostitutes, and have absolutely no desire to spend money on either. the other.
As a former fly fishing guide, I can see the pros and cons of all of these viewpoints – and I’ll share an Epicurean analogy that might help you refine your own viewpoints.
Let’s say you love food. You enjoy eating out, cherish good food, and are much more focused on happy taste buds and a full stomach than who cooks your meals.
If you have the financial capacity, you really should consider hiring a guide.
Or let’s say you love good food, but prefer to cook your favorite dishes in your own kitchen, controlling every aspect of the process, seasoning your dishes perfectly and then enjoying your feast in the peace and quiet of your own home. .
My advice is to skip the guide. As the old saying goes, too many cooks can spoil the broth.
Or maybe you enjoy all aspects of fine dining – staying home, eating out, cooking for yourself, sitting at someone else’s table, visiting restaurants – and you’re everything. equally happy to cook your own meals or enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor.
Hire a guide or not, depending on how you feel at the time, your current bank account status and whether or not the spirit moves you. You’ll probably be fine anyway.
The key, in case it’s still not clear, is that you should focus on your happiness. Some of us like to handle everything ourselves, from tying our own flies to building our own leaders to reading the water. Others like to delegate some or all of these individual tasks to another person…and who better for these delegated tasks than a fly fishing guide?
If you see no reason to hire a guide, then you’ve gone as far as you need to with this piece. There’s no point worrying about someone you’ll never employ. But if you’re excited about hiring a guide, or just “curious about a guide”, then there’s another point I should probably mention.
Guides cannot read your mind. Please don’t treat them like they can.
What do I mean? Well, let’s be frank. Far too many guides think they already know what their clients want from a day on the water. In other words, most guides assume that their clients want to catch as many big fish as possible. While this assumption turns out to be correct for many anglers, it certainly isn’t for everyone. Therefore, the best guides invariably start their day with a variation of a simple question:
“What will make you happy today?” »
Guides and outfitters work in the service industry. The best ones already know this and they have long understood that while some customers fall into the “as many big fish as possible” camp, others don’t. The only way they’ll ever be sure, and the only way for a guide to make all of their clients as happy as possible, is to ask.
It’s not rocket science. If I ever decided to start guiding again, the very first question I would ask every client is what they want from their time on the water.
Some people would indeed tell me that they want to catch as many fish as possible, or as large fish as possible, or as large fish as possible on the fly. It is a given. And yet, some will not. Some will want to explore a place they have never fished before. Others will choose solitude or incredible natural beauty. Still others will want to learn a new angling technique, improve their casting, or hone their existing skills.
Back then, I had clients who defined their success by going completely off the beaten path, seeing a moose or a bear, or fishing alongside a herd of bison in Yellowstone National Park. We all view our angling through our own lens and that means there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ lens when deciding to spend a day with a guide. It’s just about doing what is likely to bring us the most happiness.
It is your responsibility as a customer to be very clear about what you expect from your guide. He or she can’t read your mind, so you have to take control. When hiring a new guide – or when spending a day with a guide you’ve fished with in the past – take a few minutes to think about what will make a truly memorable outing, then share that information clearly and concisely. as possible.
Of course, there is no guarantee that even the best fly fishing guide will be able to fulfill all of your angling desires. Still, your chances of success will increase if your guide knows what you really want from your time on the water.