For conservation-minded fly fishing guides, sharing is caring. Guides showcase special places for people from all over the world, and since it’s such an immersive practice we preach, the sharing is deep. It’s not just showing guests a fish, but literally connecting them to one. It’s not simply telling visitors about adventure, it’s wrapping them in it. It’s not merely describing some aspirational rapture, it’s cooperating with nature to administer it. With a guide’s assistance, anglers’ senses are awakened, their thoughtfulness is provoked, and the good times roll. Then, quite casually, along comes the caring part.
After such an envelopment in a specific piece of public land or water, I’ve found it’s rare that a guest leaves that zone without caring about it. Once they’ve so closely witnessed the water’s power and peace, the plants and animals thriving there, how the resource strengthens communities and what fun is to be had, they can’t forget it. They realize the place belongs to them as public land owners, and they are compelled to protect it, especially if they sense it’s in danger.
Guides don’t have to row on a soapbox. It’s our example that influences the captive audience in the bow and stern. Whether it’s the commitment to reusable water bottles, minimal fish handling or reaching out to our elected leadership, guides all across the country are among the most credible stewards. To me, the best example a guide can set in strengthening conservation practices is that of true respect for the resource.
The reason I still love to jump off high rocks into the glacial runoff is to remind myself through immersion that I am part of the river and it’s a part of me. We need each other, and I’m honored to join fellow guides in fighting for our viability with accurate, science-based information that turns our sharing to caring.
Hilary Hutcheson is a fly fishing guide and public lands activist from Montana. You can check out her adventures on Instagram @outsidehilary! Be sure to check out her other work with these pages, @americanrivers, @backcountryhunters, @protectourwinters, and Glacier Anglers!