Over the past couple of decades, the profession of being a fly fishing guide has become increasingly popular within the fly fishing community, and for good reason. Fly fishing guides are considered the number one subject matter experts in the field and are approached for all forms of advice and tutelage in the field of fly fishing from anglers both new and experienced. This is a short synopsis of the best advice I can give quickly on how to get into the game from the area where I’m from (Arkansas).
The two principles of being a good guide is having the knowledge and experience to put clients on fish day in and day out and then being able to connect with your clients to make an enjoyable day out of the experience. But, it is important in all conditions that can be thrown at us through different seasons and weather extremes to be prepared. This does not come from Googling or asking questions on local message boards, (although these resources can be beneficial) it comes from hard-earned days on the water and tough lessons learned. This one is the easiest to explain and the hardest to execute. Get out on the water, grind, and learn through every month of the year and every weather condition. Figure out what the fish like and don’t like on the waters you intend to guide on depending on these variables and you’re on your way to building your base as a solid guide.
Meet the right people
As a new guide you can go two ways to establish yourself in the industry: get on with an already existing outfitter, or start your own service. Both of these options have their challenges, starting your own guide service means obtaining the necessary business licenses and insurance while growing your own clientele and presence by yourself. If you have the business savvy and ability this can be a good route as you will pocket all of your revenue for yourself and be able to add a self-run business to your resume. However, getting on board with an already established and reputable guide service will get you more business and experience in a shorter period of time, making you a better guide in a quick fashion.
Build a reputation for yourself
Once you’ve either set up your self-run guide service or gotten on with an already established guide service it’s time to make a name for yourself. This again relates back to the first step: grind. You make a name for yourself, build clientele, and establish your reputation by nothing other than hard work and satisfied clients. To be blunt, you can have all of the Instagram followers in the world, but if you suck with your basic skills as a guide it will quickly become obvious and you will fail.
The life of a guide is incredibly rewarding, but make no mistake, it is rarely an easy one. The hours are long, the conditions are tough, and the fish are… well, fish. Do not get into this profession solely for the money, you will be disappointed. You will go home at the end of a long day of guiding tired, smelly, and sore, but incredibly satisfied. Being a guide is not for everyone, but for those of us that have a true passion for this way of life and sharing it with others, there is nothing that comes close to the satisfaction of putting a client on fish and seeing them share your same love for the journey. If you choose to pursue this path I wish you heartfelt good luck and good wishes, I’ll see you out on the water.
Article by Matt Fulenwider who is part of Fly Lord’s content team be sure to check him out on Instagram.