Fly Fishing Guides: Why and How to Hire a Guide

Fly Fishing Guides: Why and How to Hire a Guide


There’s nothing like a day spent fishing. A beautiful river, a perfect cast and hook set just right can make for a perfect day. On the other hand, lack of skill can turn into a frustration and lack of familiarity with the waters might even make it dangerous. Whether    missoula montana fly fishing guides   you are planning an “angler’s only” trip or a family vacation, hiring a professional fly fishing guide might be a good idea for you to consider.

Good and Bad Reasons to Hire a Guide

Anglers hire guides for many reasons. Some are admirable while others are not. Here are a few of the better reasons to hire a guide:

As a guide to the best waters. A good guide will know the best waters to fish for your purposes. He will be able to get your there safely and with a minimum of fuss.

As a teacher. Your guide should be able to teach you something you can take home and use on your next day of fishing. He can teach you about the local ecosystem and the best spots away from the crowds.

As a coach. Your guide can help improve your casting form. Good form will save your joints and muscles a lot of wear and tear.

As a source of equipment. You probably can’t travel with all your gear. A guide can fill in the holes or outfit you from hat to waders.

As a timesaver. Anglers spend their lives learning their local waters and the fish in them. Hiring a guide will shorten you learning curve in a new place. This is important when you have limited time in a certain place.

Sometimes guides are hired for less noble reasons. If any of the following reasons describe why you are considering hiring a fly fishing guide, you may want to reconsider your options.

As a luggage carrier. A guide can help provide and tote some of your gear but a good angler pulls his own weight. Your guide isn’t your personal bellboy. If you physically can’t carry any gear, let the guide know well ahead of time so he can adjust his plans.

As a drinking buddy. While many guides have clients that turn into good friends, he is still a professional. Expect to share your love of fishing, not the beer in your cooler.

As a fish-catching guarantee. Regardless of the guide’s skill and knowledge, hiring him is never a guarantee of a catch. Your hire him to teach you how to fish, not to assure a number of fish or a size. If you just want dinner, a local fish market can get you just what you want every time.

Planning your Fishing Trip

It’s a good idea to speak personally with your guide well before your trip and to check in with him again a few days prior. Make sure he’s clear on what you want from your trip. Be honest about your goals. Do you want to hook lots of fish, no matter the size or are you willing to give up quantity for a trophy-size fish? Most guides practice catch and release, so if you want to bag a keeper, tell your guide so he can come prepared.

Tell him about your skills as well and don’t try to sugar-coat them. If you’ve never picked up a fly rod, admit it. It’s the only way you’ll be able to learn.

Talk equipment with your guide as well. You need to know what he will be providing and what you need to bring on your own. Take his advice on gear set ups. Discuss physical limitation if you have any and be sure you can handle the activity. Arrange the number of anglers in your party and don’t show up with surprise guests on the day of your trip.

Arrange the price ahead of time and confirm it on the second call. Most professional fly fishing guides are very honest and careful about customer service. Their business depends on customer referrals and word-of-mouth advertising. Find out what payment form he can take and be sure to reward his efforts with an appropriate tip. If you guide provided your lunch, all the equipment, the flies, your permits, etc. then be sure the tip reflects this extra effort. Your guide may have to pay a booking fee to a shop or outfitter so up to 50% or more of your payment may not go into his pocket. A rock-bottom tip is at least 15% to 20% of the guide’s day rate or at least $20 per angler.

Choosing your Guide

Referrals are the best way to find a guide. Satisfied customers make great advertising. Ask around and see if anyone you know his fished where you plan to go. Ask your hotel for the names of a few outfitters or gear shops and then start making calls. The time spent in this research will pay off when you find a quality fly fishing guide.

Once you find a solid candidate or two, give them a call to chat and ask some questions. You’ll likely be spending the whole day with this person so it’s good to see if you get along on the phone first. Here are a few questions you might ask:

How long have you been living and fishing in the area?

How many years have you been a fishing guide?

How much of your business if fly fishing?

Are you affiliated with a particular outfitter for bookings?

How long is a typical fishing trip?

What is the price per day?

What is included in that price?

An old adage says that a bad day of fishing is still better than a good day of working. Finding a knowledgeable, professional fishing guide improves your chances of having a great day of fishing.

We at Cakebread ranch [] are a family-owned operation, and we’re passionate about keeping it just that way. It allows us the freedom and the privilege to be stewards of the land, river, and wildlife habitat, to make environmentally responsible decisions, and to enjoy the bounty of the valley we love every day.


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