Updated: Sep 17, 2022
I have had the fortune of exposing fly fishing to so many beginners over the years. For most, this is their first experience going out with a guide, and they don’t exactly know how the day is going to go. Guides are an odd bunch for sure, and we can be a little gruff around the edges, but I assure you that we all want to have fun, enjoy your company, and catch a lot of fish. If you start the day with that in mind, then you are already off to a good start. Also, bring coffee!
Your trip will likely start with your guide trying to size up your experience level and how you might be comfortable spending the day. A good guide service should contact you beforehand and potentially have a few options, but steer you toward a basic day. Casting from boats or fishing a very technical stream for 8 hours can be a very long and trying time for a beginner. You might even consider a service that has an introductory class or half-day option in case you find yourself wary of your first experience.
Your guide will provide all of your equipment necessary for fishing that day. You might have your own rod or flies that you’d like to bring, however, your guide is more likely to have the exact sized rods and flies that are currently catching fish and suitable for that area. You will need to bring any weather-necessary clothing. Try not to wear anything bright as the fish will be able to see you. A hat and sunglasses are absolutely necessary and sunblock and bug spray is never a bad thing to have on hand. Meals and snacks are dependent on the trip, so worth asking about if that is a concern.
Most guides will go over some basic casting instructions before you actually get “on the water”. Expect to spend 15-30 minutes going how to hold the rod, casting a couple ways, how to control your line, and how to set a hook on a fish. It’s totally fine that this will be like drinking from a fire hose and some of it will get by you. Your guide will remind you of the basics throughout the day. Please this is the time to ask questions or work out casting if you still feel uncomfortable. You will likely soon have more trees around and figuring out on the fly is part of the process, but you’d rather have your line in the water than in the bushes.
Once you get the casting and line stuff down you will likely get led to a good hole and you’ll be ready to fish. The guide’s job is to tell you where they are, and your job is to try to get it there as best as possible. There will be early mistakes and casting might not be the best right away. The three bits of advice that I have at this point is to first of all pull really hard if the guide says to, and keep pulling. Most people panic and try to reel and fight fish immediately with a lot of zeal. If you keep pressure on, you will likely have a good chance at landing it. That said, it all happens very fast so listen. Number 2, be patient. You are just starting out and there is a lot to remember. Three, ask a lot of questions. Despite our outward appearance, we usually like to talk. We can tell you all of the local spots to fish, the best local beers, and great restaurants to visit.
As you go on through your day, your guide will move you through a few locations and change flies and the like for you. You will get knots, you will get tangled in trees, you will miss fish and lose flies. It is all part of the day and the guide understands that. If you are patient, however, you will improve and you will feel a lot more comfortable by the end of the day and hopefully have a few nice fish pictures. So at the end of the day there is an expected part of most services of gratuity. To me the deal is like this: If you are going out with Bob’s fly shop and you are fishing with Bob, he has set his rate for the day. Gratuity is nice if you really had a good time, and very appreciated, but Bob is covered. If you go with Tony, a guide that works for Bob, he is an hourly or contract employee and is not getting the full amount of the trip. Gratuity is how these guys and gals pay the bills. It is a service industry for them and should be treated thusly.
Lastly, just a list of things I would look for in a good guide and service:
-Guides should not fish, they are there to help you and assist in your day
-Guides should be prepared for medical mishaps CPR/First Aid Trained
-Guides should be able to teach and instruct, not tell you how good of a fisherman they are
-Communication and timelessness is key
-Guides should give you options. It is your day and your money.
Ultimately guides should be a resource for you to enjoy and learn more about fly fishing and be an ambassador for the region. We want people to visit us, fish with us, and explore the area. We picked these places because we wanted to share them with others. Allow us to do that with you and bring us a donut with that coffee too!