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Other - Guidance on Guides

I'm not much of a fisherman today, but I shudder to think about how bad I would really be without the timely advice and mentoring I have had from a few guides.  My inventory of guides is not really long - maybe 6 or 7 different individuals.  All provided me great advice and instruction while consistently showing me plenty of fish - both bass and trout.

So, why use a guide instead of a friend or relative?  The key reason is that when you are on the water, the friend or relative is interested in fishing.  While they may throw you an offhand comment or tidbit, they are not dedicated to watching you screw up and finding the best way to call that to your attention without making you feel like an idiot.  A guide does not have that challenge.  Their job is not to fish, it's to help you catch fish. 

Here's the fine line.  Some clients are just jerks.  These guys know it all, do not want to do anything but hunt meat and expect the guide to behave as a servant.  This is a recipe for a miserable time while providing great fodder for future stories the guide will tell in a bar with his buddies ... "you should have seen this client!  What an ***hole....".  While a real jerk will be instantly recognized as such - first impressions do matter - there may be some of you who have a bit of pride and are reluctant to listen to well intended advice.  It's this middle ground that I believe guides may have a problem with.  The guide does not want to get your back up, but needs to share some pointers to improve your experience.  If your body language or tone of voice changes in response to some helpful advice, you may just cut off this key part of your experience and not get the entire value out of the trip that you are paying for.  After all, the guide will not purposely do things to piss you off.

My solution is to do the following.  You should go through this same list of items both on the phone when you are booking the trip as well as face to face so you can look the guide in the eye and have him know you are serious and sincere.

Ground rules:

  1. Tell the guide that you are interested in catch and release and have no intentions of keeping any fish.  This assures the guide that he can take you to his good spots and that the fish will be there the next day/week/month when he brings the next client back.  Catch and keep clients never get shown the best spots.
  2. Tell the guide that you are a total idiot.  You tell the guide to assume you know nothing and that you want the guide to provide you pointers; that you want to come out of the day a better fisherman than you started.
  3. Tell the guide whether you are looking for a trophy experience or quantity.  A trophy experience could mean you fish all day to catch that one great fish.  Quantity drives a totally different day and set of locations.  If you say trophy, you had better not be disappointed at the end of the day if you don't catch anything.  Trophy fish are hard to find and tough to catch.
  4. Tell the guide that you do not have any preference on where you fish (assuming you are not going on the trip to fish a specific location).  That allows the guide to take you to where the fishing is best on that particular day.
  5. In locations like Maine where you could just as easily fish for greenies, smallies or trout, tell the guide which you are after.  I recommend you just tell the guide you don't care and let him take you to the places where the fish are and the excitement is - independent of the type of fish.
  6. If you expect a significant amount of instruction along with the fishing, be sure you get a guide who has that in his background.  While most guides can identify what you are doing wrong, some may not be able to explain how to fix the issue.


  1. Depending on the deal, lunch may or may not be included.  If it is not, and the guide takes you to the deli enroute to the first spot so you can buy your lunch, offer to buy his as well.  It's a small token of recognition that you value his time and respect his experience.
  2. When the guide tells you to do something, do it.  Give it a real try.  Work to perfect whatever he wants you to do.  If it is not working for you, the guide will see that and change the program.  Put yourself and your day in the hands of the guide.
  3. Ask questions.  If you have had an issue with your cast or whatever, this is your shot to get some guidance.  It's no big deal to spend the first 30 minutes or more of the trip fixing issues - you will have a better day for it.
  4. The typical guide day is about 8 hours - some do long days of up to 10 hours (if they enjoy your company).  You should ask for feedback on your technique at least every 2 hours or so.  This reassures the guide that you really do want to leverage their experience.
  5. Treat the guide as a friend, not a hired hand.  Have a good time, swap lies, converse as equals. 
  6. Tipping is expected.  You should tip 15% - 20% - don't be cheap.

Here's another fact for the bass fishermen.  If you do not have your own boat, think about how many times you can go out with a guide for $300 a day before you would spend the cost of a boat, upkeep, dock, insurance and gas.  I've used this with the Basswife any number of times and she always buys into it.  Of course, if we are after bass, she tags along.  And, you can usually take 2 people for that 300 bucks - so take a buddy and split the cost.

Hope this helps.

Updates from www.WVAngler.com board:


  1. Ask any and all questions about the nature of the fishing/fishery you might have . This will go a long way to helping you decide if the experience is what you are looking for .
  2. Let the guide know your experience level when you are booking the trip . This will help him plan out your day , what section of water and which techniques should be most productive for you .
  3. While following instructions will most certainly be to your benefit I would have to say that above all relax and enjoy your day . A guided trip should be an enjoyable , no pressure situation !

Updates from www.SoutheastFlyfishingForum.com board:


  1. You might add: Come prepared, i.e. if the guide suggested you bring this or that, don't show up without it.
  2. If your casting ability is lacking you should not expect your trip is going to be a "let's see how many fish this guide can put on my fly" - it should be a "let's work on technique" trip with a few fish added as a bonus.


  1. If you are in a guides boat, try to keep it as neat as possible!
  2. Put your tippet clippings in a pocket in your vest, don't drop crap everywhere......don't bring too much gear! One bag is more than enough, try to ask what you'll need to bring fly wise beforehand!


  • Stand in the middle of the boat :-)





Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore

Disclaimer and Warning:  The contents of this site reflect the opinion of the author and you, the reader, must exercise care in the use and interpretation of this information.  Fishing is a dangerous sport.  You can slip and fall on rocks and sustain severe injury.  You can drown.  You can get hooks caught in your skin, face, eyes or other sensitive places.  All sorts of bad things can happen to you when to go into the woods to visit the places documented here.  Forests, streams and lakes are wild areas and any number of bad things can happen.  You must make your own judgment in terms of acceptable behavior and risk and not rely on anything posted here.  I disclaim all liability and responsibility for any actions you take as a result of reading the articles on this site.  If you do not agree with this, you should not read anything posted on this site.

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