Spending a day with a fly fishing guide: How to maximize your experience

Every day of the year, all around the world, anglers of all ability levels head out on the water with a professional fly fishing guide. One thing that remains true, no matter where you are in the world, is that nothing beats local knowledge!

The basics of fly fishing are pretty much the same wherever you are:

  • casting
  • mending
  • getting a drag free drift
  • setting the hook
  • etc.

I am not downplaying the importance of the basics, as they are critical to your success, and you should not hesitate to ask your guide for advice whenever you are not sure if you are doing the correct thing. However, your guide brings an essential element to the game that only a fool would overlook.

Allow me to share a personal experience that will help me make my point…

Early in my guiding career, I was fortunate enough to participate in a charity fly fishing tournament in Colorado that brought fly fishing celebrities from around the country to our neck of the woods.

The celebrities were paired up with folks who made donations to the charity. In my case, I desperately wanted to be paired up with a celebrity from Central PA who I worshipped from a young age (I am a PA native). By the way, I basically taught myself fly fishing by wearing the cover off one of the celebrities books on fly fishing.

Our client was a beginner fly fishermen from Miami, not exactly trout central. For reasons unknown to me, I had the confidence in my young abilities to suggest that I should be the one to guide our client, and the celebrity reluctantly agreed. At first, the celebrity looked at my rig and made a couple of questioning comments about the size and pattern of flies that I was using.

After the first couple hours of the first day, our beginner client was outfishing the celebrity by about 10 fish to one! Much to the celebrity’s credit, he pretty quickly realized that the river we were fishing was finicky, and the methods he was using were not likely to produce a lot of fish to the net. So, he quietly pulled me aside and said something to effect of, “you have any more of those da*% little flies? I should know better than to question a man on his home river.”

Of course I had more of those little flies, which I gave him (I should say traded him for some of his flies that are prized possessions of mine to this day), and over the course of the next couple days, we proceeded to have a wonderful time. We all became friends, and the celebrity never questioned my knowledge again.

His comment about not questioning a man on his home river has rung loud and true to me ever since, and I hear him saying it in my mind whenever I am on a new piece of water.

So, what does this mean to folks who are paying for a guide?

I truly believe that it means you should trust your guide no matter how unorthodox or odd a particular rig, method or location may seem to you. Your guide wants you to catch fish and have a great day… trust me on this. Any true professional guide should be able and willing to teach the basics of fly fishing. What you are really and truly paying for, is the guides local knowledge of his home rivers, flats, lakes, streams or ocean.

If you want to maximize your day fishing with a guide, always have faith that they know the water they are guiding on and use the tactics, methods and flies that they suggest without hesitation. You may have some hesitation at times, but why not let the fish decide if you are doing the right thing!

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