Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What to look for in a Guide from a Guide's perspective.

This is what your there for.
I constantly hear horror stories from clients about guides they have booked in the past. I have heard about guides that are so intense that they felt like they would never catch a fish unless they were able to mimic the guides every movement, and I have heard stories about a guide that gives no if little instruction. Clients have also told me that they would love to read something that would give them some insight as to how to go about picking a guide. So as I guide, who knows a bunch of guides I thought I would have a pretty good idea on how to hire a guide. So here is a quick list you can use to evaluate whether or not a certain guide is right for you. Outside of visiting your local fly shop (they are a great resource as they are the local fly hub for the area) here are my tips to help you have a great day on the water.  


The first thing you have to ask yourself is what do you want from the trip?

  • Are you looking to just get into fish?
    • There are people who know exactly what they are doing and just hire guides to get them down a particular stretch of river safely. If this is you, you probably don’t need this article as you have been around this stuff for a long time.
  • Are you an accomplished angler who hasn’t fished for a certain species, or hasn’t fished a certain location for that species and are looking to learn something from the guide, but you don’t want to be treated like you have never touched a fly rod before?
    • If this is you, you need to make it clear that you don’t need hours of Technical Instruction, you are more interested in the seeing the river and learning about the fish.
  • Are you a total beginner?  If this is the case ask the guide you have contacted if he teaches people how to fish? This is where I have heard most of the horror stories, beginners telling me that they almost gave up on fly fishing because the guide’s frustration with them made them feel like they would never pick up the sport.

Once you have figured out what you want out of the trip here are a few questions that you can ask the Guide to see if he/she is compatible with your expectations.

  1. The first and most important question might seem obvious, but I rarely get asked and it’s important—do you hold a guide license? Most states require Guides to have a minimum amount of insurance and first aid training. If you want a safe stress free trip insist to know if the guide is licensed and insured. The State of Oregon’s marine board keeps an active list licensed guides and requires the Guide to put a sticker on their boat. Look for that sticker always! If the guide overlooks the sticker what else are they overlooking?
  2. Ask if the guide has a website? Not all good guides do, but you can tell a ton about a guide just by what he puts on his sight. If you don’t see any offering for Fly Fishing Instruction, and you’re a beginner, you might think twice. Look for kids with fish, that’s a good indicator that the guides are familiar with teaching the sport at the hardest level. Look for references, happy clients like to help out the guides that help them have the best trip possible.
  3. Get just a little familiar with the water you’re looking at. Ask the guide what section they fish, and why. Realize that some of the best guides will not fish the same water on any given day as the rest of the guides, but they had better have a good reason as to why. Also ask how much of the water will I see, the last thing you want to do is sit in the only hole the guide knows all day and watch the other clients get the total river experience.    
  4. Ask about the guides gear. You know that you picked the wrong guide when you show up to the launch and everything they own is in pristine condition. Don’t get me wrong, everything should be well maintained, but it should show wear. On our local rivers, if the boat is more than a season old and has a chine that looks like it’s never been off the trailer it’s a telltale sign that the guide is either  1. Brand spanking new (which isn’t all bad, we all have to start somewhere) or 2. Doesn’t do what it takes to get people into fish. The western rivers are hard on guide boats and one that’s on the water a lot will show it.
  5. Ask the guide if he is a local. The best guides live where they guide. A good trip has value beyond just catching fish. A local guide will add to that as they know the ins and outs of their particular waters. There is a trend nowadays for guides to travel and chase the runs. Some will be in Alaska one minute and Montana the next. It’s all bite/run dependent. This is all fine and dandy until they experience a tough day and have to pull out a few tricks. If all they chase is the good fishing they will never have to improvise when the fish don’t cooperate. You want a guide that has been there before and has had to innovate when things get hard, as they will possess some hard learned skills that you can take with you to use on your home stream.  The other reason to look for a local guide is that they probably know all the history and lore of the area! There is nothing better than spending a day on the water with good fishing and conversation.

There are a few questions that will help you find a guide that will meet your needs. I’m sure this list could be as long as there are people who look for guides, but at least this will give you a logical approach for finding a guide.

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