Unfortunately, I only started fly fishing in my 30's. I tried to fish when I was a kid, but my father hates it. All of my buddies are climbers or other non-anglers.
I've never really wanted a 'real job', but I would love a 'reel job'. The longer I am in grad school, the more I know I would rather work outside for the rest of my life, instead of inside a stupid cubicle. I fish almost every day; rain, snow, sleet, or hail (and sun too!) I have taken a few beginners out, and they have even had a few bites. I love teaching and being outside sharing nature with others. I have many years of customer service work, and I have a feeling it would help with guiding.
So, what is your story of becoming a fly fishing guide?
What were the necessary steps?
Has it been worth your time and energy?
As an 'advanced novice' or 'groveling intermediate', what should I be focused on if I would like to guide some day?
What sort of outfit could a 'entry level' guide get hired on with?
Thank you for your input, I look forward to reading your stories.
I went to Hubbards Guide Academy in MT. It was a good course got to fish great waters in the Park, got to row the Yellowstone and spend a day on DePuy's and got good inside info on how to deal with clients and tip on finding fish yadda yadda. I had a few job prospects and one lined up but then I thought of the years I spent a mate on party and charter boats and watching other people catch the fish and the differnt personalities you encouter. Believe it or not those two things are huge speed bumps, for me anyway. I know it and openly admit I'm selfish! I can only take so much of watching someone else catch all the fish. Then there are the finacial issues to consider will you need a drif tboat, do you have a drift boat, can you row a drift boat, if you go it on your own that means alot of rods, reels, lines and flys. You have to be a part time teacher you have to know the lay of the land well and have a good general knowledge of the local fauna and bugs and a smattering of the history. Then after you consider that there are state guide licenses, CPR certification, some waters considered navigable require a Coast Gaurd OUPV license, insurance and other things I'm sure to be leaving out. Were you to hook up with a lodge or an outfitter/shop alot of the "business" end is taken care of but its still rough. It can either be the most rewarding way to make a living or give you the biggest headaches!
I can't comment on the guide work and I know that is what you are specifically after, but I can certainly comment on working outside for a minimum of 8 hours each day and every day for the past 28 or so years in every kind of weather imaginable. I know the thought of the sun shinning on your face in the great outdoors sounds great but when it's 100+* or -1* it really is no fun at all and your body will break down earlier in age, just trust me on this one.
After I retired from the Navy, I started working behind the counter at a fly shop in Evergreen, CO. I got to know the South Platte, Colorado at Parshall, the Blue river and the Williams Fork well. After a year the owner asked me if I felt comfortable guiding. I said yes, and started guiding part time.
You don't have to be an expert fisherman to be a good guide. You do have to be competent in short line nymphing, and be able to toss a dry fly 30 feet. You do want to work hard developing the ability to see fish in three feet of water. Having a vocabulary beyond "Dude" and "Awesome" will help a lot also.
Unlike the guy above, I had as much fun having a client catch a fish as doing it myself. You tie on the fly, tell the guy where to toss it, yell "Set" when the strike indicator moves, and net the fish for the client. For me, that was as much fun as doing it myself.
After my second year, we moved to the Vail, CO area and I went to work for another shop. We did lots of corporate trips with rank beginners, and I liked those a lot as the tip was built into the booking, and the clients had absolutely no expectation of catching anything. I, on the other hand, learned to expect a beginner to hook seven fish and put five in the net on a half day trip.
We were expected to work every day from June first to late September. I had no problem with that, as I did not find guiding to be "work" at all. I did only walk- wade trips, other guides preferred to float, which paid better (bigger tips) but made for a longer day.
Once you start getting out on the river every day, you really get dialed in, plus the guides at the shop compare notes daily, so your confidence level goes way up.
I guided full time for eight years and taught skiing for twelve. I would have guided longer but I stumbled into long distance biking, and shifted interests. Now I'm fully retired and fish all over Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana.
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Well, I started hanging around tackle/fly shops when I was a kid. I helped out for no pay ( and was thrilled to do so ), learned the inventory backwards and forwards. Learned everything I could from rigging to repairs. Listened intently to every word my mentors passed on, be it about fishing or running a shop. I took every opportunity to learn from and fish around the grown ups.
By the time I was in my teens I was one of regulars on our salt flats, coastal beaches and steelhead streams and was sharing the basics of casting and tying with any one who showed an interest.
New guys would ask if I could show them how to get started, so I'd take them along with me. Do that a couple of hundred times and you'll figure out what works for most guys and if they happen to get their first steelhead on the swing, even better.
I announced my intentions of fishing as a carrier goal to my father when I was in my middle teens and...that didn't go well.
So for a few years ( it seemed like an eternity at the time ) I followed the path most of us do, education, corporate employment, marriage and fishing whenever, wherever the opportunity arouse. All the time I knew what path I'd eventually take, I just had to find the trail head again.
During those years a couple on new fly shops opened their doors. I didn't know it at the time, but the old customers that I'd waited on and fished with as a youngster and who I would occasionally run into as a young adult were pitching my name to those new shops owners, as the guy to get on board in some capacity.
The knock on the door came from an old and trusted mentor from my youth, who was our regional S.A. rep. One of the shop owners had the where with all to go the distance, but was hemorrhaging money and needed someone with a business background and knowledge of fly fishing to come on board. So he'd asked my old mentor to come talk about it with me, to gauge my interest.
The next day at work I dialed up two of my closets friends and fishing partners and set up a lunch. I explained the proposition to them and they both told me the same thing. Your mind is here, but your hearts there.
So I took the plunge, left a rock solid gig with that HMO and started down the path that would dominate the rest of my working life.
Being granted my guides license was one more next step in the process. In order to be able to take anglers from the classroom to the practical application a stream. I've got to tell you, I still get a lump in my throat thinking about where it all started for me and that at one point in my life, the state that I love so much, granted me the privilege of being a licensed guide.
What I didn’t know then was where that would lead, the doors it would open and places it would take me and the great people I'd get meet and call my friends. There's no way to put a value on those experiences.
Of course, sometime later on I left that gig and moved on to other fly fishing related positions.
In all honesty, I'd been sunk if I didn't have the education and business skills in hand before that knock at the door came. Whatever you're considering, keep that in mind….and keep the desire in your heart.
Madjoni, that is what I am talking about! What if some of us were just 'born' to do something, yet found it kind of late in life (relatively).
Yea,one doesnt become poet or fisherman ...one must be born for that.
Nothing is too late if there is some fire in heart
I am self thought tier and fly fisher and loved fishing and browns since I can remember anything.I always was good in school and studied mechanics on University...but never could imagine my self being prisoner from 9 till 5 every day in some cubicle like you said....
I dont know how is that in States but here that job can provide me only to survive...
It's not a profession I've looked at because of many reasons,as Madjoni has said you have to be born to it,some of the Guides I know & know of say the hardest thing is tolerating certain people which would be hard to take at the best of times from the stories I & I expect many others know some people are really impossible to get the message across to.
I remember a guy in Montana,a former Guide who worked for probably one of the foremost Guide Services in The Northwest whom I bought a Reel off a few years ago saying he had given up Guiding,with the exception of longtime Clients/Friends & had now returned to a Real Job.
So I imagine it's a hard game & all The Guides I've been associated with have been as we say "Good Blokes",good luck & all the Best to all the Guides as it's a "Speciallised Profession".
I thought that I might want to be a fishing guide after seeing dudes with drift boats driving by every day and thought man what a job. To become a guide in MT you have to be endorsed by an outfitter, so you take an outfitter fishing, show him you know the hatches, the floats, how to row a boat, how to deal with clients, how to teach casting.
I was bartending and didn't know how to row a boat very well and failed my 1st test float with a well established fly fishing outfitter miserably, I knocked him out of my boat by rowing under a tree in an extremely fast river that I didn't know well.
After that I started fishing/floating with guides and tried to learn everything I could. In Missoula we have 4 rivers and to guide here you need to know all the take outs and put ins, and how long they took to float down. I started having my wife drop me off in my raft and I floated the floats and logged how long it took, trying to find rising fish/ staying observant, maybe fishing a little as I went along.
I would also always stop in the fly shops and let them know that I was on the water and catching fish, but the shops can spot a newby a mile away and have seen it all, but I know it helped being on the water and showing up with the right people who knew what was going on.
Eventually I met an outfitter who liked me and signed my guide license. I worked real hard, stayed out as late as my clients wanted, did everything I could to find fish and learn and get better. You have to be a people person and listen and have fun but also teach all aspects of the day, have a good attitude, make a great lunch, and hopefully put more and more trout in the boat.
I improved and over time a lot of clients liked and requested me and eventually I worked for every shop in Missoula as an independent contractor fishing guide. One outfitter eventually offered me a lot of days and also taught me a ton on sneaky flies, floats, drifts etc and now I am guiding 150- 170 days a year and have done so now for the last 5 years of my 12 year guiding career.
I hope this helps you