Thursday, January 10, 2008

Fly Fishing Guide or Fly Fishing Joe?

Have you ever thought in all your fly fishing days " I could be a fly fishing guide! I should make some money fly fishing. I catch lots of fish, know my local water! I have the secret patterns they don't know about!" ?

I have to be honest and say there was a time in my fly fishing years that I thought some of these things. I could hit the Middle Provo or Weber rivers in UT and put on my secret flies (only to find out they were just a knock off from another pattern) and catch fish all day long. It boosted my ego! I counted the number of days I spent on the water and the bigger the number each year the bigger my head grew. I fished nearly 6 days a week for a few years. Taking my lunch breaks up the canyon to huck flies to small skittish fish. After work it was off to the water in hopes of catching an early summer evenings hatch of Caddis. All these memories and experiences led me to believe that I could be a fly fishing guide!

It wasn't to long after, that I decided to offer my services and I spent 3 full days guiding Mark and Tom from Florida. Prior to our day on the Lower section of the Provo river, Mark had invited me to breakfeast. We talked about many things all focusing on their expectations of Utah fly fishing. After a nice brunch and stop to one of the local fly shops we hit the water. I put Mark and Tom in my favorite fishing runs and it wasn't long before they each hooked into fish.

We had a great day of fishing and had some fun getting to know each other through stories and experiences. I continued to guide Mark and Tom for a couple more years as they visited Utah annually. Great experiences; but they taught me some great lessons.

What I had learned from my guiding experience is that I had MUCH to learn! Catching fish was a very small part of the job. Mark was a saltwater guy. He could huck line and make it look so smooth. I watched him throw some mends and catch a nice Brown Trout off a gnarly run. The drift was not easy. It was at that moment that I realized I was learning from Mark! Mark was a better stick and it dawned on me, I should be paying Mark!

Guides are a dime a dozen. With no regulations on guide licensing or certifications, anyone can become a fly fishing guide and claim anything. The term "Fly Fishing Guide" has become cheap! We have people taking fly fishers out on to the water with no formal training let alone some sort of insurance in case of an accident. Forget the fly casting instruction, what about the emergency and CPR training that should be required for anyone taking someone out on water?

What do you think when you hear the term "Fly Fishing Guide"? What are you paying for a day of guided fishing? With the money you are spending you deserve a certain experience and one that is safe from a reputable fly fishing guide.

Next time you decide to hire a guide, do your homework. Find out what you are paying for and let them know your expectations. Are you paying for a guy to take you out and catch some fish or are you willing to spend the money to have a guide endorsed by a legitimate fly fishing shop or company, take you out and show you basic and correct principals! Mark taught me indirectly that I did not know some of the basics of casting. Doing some homework on guides can make your next day on the water a better experience and one that will last a lifetime! You will learn something and because it always looks bad when the client is teaching the guide!

For more information about Fly Fishing Guides or becoming a guide, contact your local fly shop. Check a guide's client testimonials and refrences, ask them if they are certified in CPR and other emergency preparedness courses. Do your homework! It will pay off in the end. There are lots of Fly Fishing Joe's that would be happy to take your money, make sure you are paying for the reel deal! Is it really just about catching fish?



Corey said...

Great post and couldn't agree more. Utah needs to put some regulations on guide licensing or certifications. Another possibility is that by putting some regulations in place it may also help with stream crowding and etiquette.

OzarkAngler said...

Very interesting post, J. Personally, I think WAY too much has been made of the expectations of fly fishing guides. In general, I think hunting and fishing guides are sherpas: take me to the game and carry the heavy stuff...get me back again when it's over. I don't think a guide should be expected to out-cast his clients. I don't think he has to know as much about entomology. I think he needs to know his local fishing environs extremely well and be able to take people safely to and from fish. He should know something about local hatches and what they're biting when/where. He should be proficient in first aid, CPR, and field expedient repairs. If boats are involved, he should be very skilled in their safe use. He/she is like a caddy in golf. Whatever else he brings to the experience beyond that: fishing techniques, strategies, casting tricks, storytelling, impressive culinary skills, and all that jazz is the sizzle. It's not the steak. The fishing is about the client and it is the client's job. The caddy doesn't play golf with or for his client. He carries and maintains the golfer's clubs and gear lets him focus on the game. And he earns bonus points for his detailed knowledge of the course he caddies on. It is the very, very rare caddy who is a better golfer than the golfers he caddies for. Why anyone thinks a fly fishing guide should be a better fly angler than his clients is beyond my comprehension. It is the unbridled and unfounded ego of so-called guides and outfitters that leads to such an expectation. And, frankly, most seasoned fly anglers know it. It's really only the young and inexperienced who fall for the notion that the title "guide" is some sort of merit badge that implies one is a superior fly fisherman. If anything, a full-time pro guide should be so busy running the boat, hauling the equipment, maintaining both plus the vehicle, taking care of meals/refreshments, policing the trash, tying the flies, etc. that he doesn't have time to fish.

I was a professional guide for many years. One of the real down-sides was that it severely limited my own days of hunting/fishing. I had higher quality PLACES to hunt/fish because of it. That's why I did it. But I had fewer free days with which to do it at all. Because a true guide is a sherpa...he doesn't hunt/fish on his clients' time.

Thinking that someone is going to pay you to hunt or fish is just preposterous. That's a myth. I got paid to hunt 7 DAYS in my entire career. One of those days was to shoot a deer for the table for a client. The other 6 were a reward from a client. He took me pheasant hunting in ND with him and paid my normal rates so that I could afford the time away during hunting season. Even then, I had to go a few days early to scout and secure access to private land.

cheech said...

Guiding is for the birds. That said, a good guide is worth his weight in wooly buggers!


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