Behind every angler’s great day floating the river is a fishing guide who worked his or her tail off to put those anglers on fish.
At the start of 2018, I was between jobs, still in school (because any fly fisher must be a procrastinator, and fishing got in the way of education for more years than I’ll admit), and almost upside down on the loan for my truck.
I was whining about my problems to a buddy while out fishing one evening, and he asked me why I didn’t just go be a fishing guide.
Well, first off, there’s no such thing as just “going and being a fishing guide.” Sure, you can go row a boat down the South Fork of the Snake River all summer and if you don’t spend all your tip money on beer, you might come out ahead. But if you want to be a successful guide, you have to work at it harder than most people realize.
As Nick DelVecchio, a guide from Pennsylvania, wrote in a recent column for MidCurrent, “Duty (as a fishing guide) demands that what the brain concocts never passes the lips. Does it mean I have to keep a straight face when someone asks, ‘Hey are there hooks on these flies?’ Well yes, yes it does.”
I’m lucky enough to know a handful of guides quite well, and a few of them I can even call close friends. DelVecchio’s not exaggerating the self-restraint guides have to employ at times; I’ve seen it firsthand.
Most anglers, I think, understand that guides work a lot harder than they appear to. But how many of us realize what that really means?
I didn’t; not for a long time. Over the years, though, I’ve come to appreciate the good – and great – guides with whom I’ve fished. While their locations and tactics may change, a day in the life of a fishing guide doesn’t change much from Alaska to South America. In fact, it looks a little something like this.
Familiarity with local waters is one of the biggest advantages of hiring a professional fishing guide. You’ll learn more in a few hours on the guide’s home water than you will in a month spent watching YouTube videos.
The Night Before – 8:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
The Day Of – 6:00 a.m. – 8:00 a.m.
Guides – the ones worth the money – are teachers. They’re educators, stewards of the rivers and the fish, enthusiastic no matter the weather or circumstances.
The Day Of – 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
The Day Of – 1:00 p.m – 5:00 p.m.
Professional guides are dedicated to putting their clients on fish. One way they do this is by teaching anglers crucial skills like reading water, properly handling fish, and understanding behavior.
Tongue-in-cheek comments aside, this is a fairly comprehensive overview of what a guide does every day. There’s so much more to the job than rowing a boat, netting fish, and taking pictures.
Guides – the ones worth the money – are teachers. They’re educators, stewards of the rivers and the fish, enthusiastic even when it’s snowing in July. They don’t make a big deal out of a client losing the fish of the season – “It wasn’t as big as it looked,” is a common refrain from guide to client after a trophy outwits the angler – and they’re genuinely stoked for each fish their client catches.
Remember that old saying, “behind every man is a good woman?” Well, in fly fishing, it’s not a stretch to say that behind every angler’s great day of floating the Henry’s or the Madison or the Green is a guide who worked his or her tail off to put those anglers on fish.
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