Fly fishing guides are always attracted to the job initially from the misconception they will be able to fish the best and most productive waters of the world. Although you may hear about them often from your guests, you will be hard pressed to access them yourself. Although I did once train a guide on the Alagnak in Alaska for a 7 day float trip in which he fished the entire time instead of working. The last day he caught a 28 inch rainbow and quit the next morning claiming he just wanted to come see the river.
Time and time again I see new guides that take every opportunity to get out and fish while guiding, and each time I shake my head in dismay. As a guide you have to look at your job differently than you would going fishing on your own, and this is the biggest and most difficult hurdle for a lot of guides to overcome. A coach does this, a teacher does this, and instructors of every make and model all modify each day to the needs of the team or the student. You have to come up with an approach to the day that works best for your guest - period.
That means if your guide is sitting there watching you try to reach a rock that is 15 feet beyond your casting range, he has probably put you in the wrong spot. If he decides you now need to watch him come behind you and catch one at that rock, you now know you have a very insecure and hopeless guide who may never truly understand what his role is on the river.
For guides that sit in the boat watching there guests fish, grumbling over a smoke thinking they can cast further, present the fly better, fish the correct pattern at the right depth, the job will never last. They have completely missed the point of a day spent on the water with a fishing guide.
If patience really is a virtue in fly fishing, than your top of the line steelhead guide should damn well be a modern day Mahatma Gandhi. With the price of boats, gas, labor, and permits these days, a guided fishing trip has reached new heights in costs. With this comes a responsibility to have a guide that respects the water, the fish and his guests skill level. Of course it is important to present challenges throughout a day which will help improvement, and not every single spot will be picture perfect. Thats where instructing to help gain a few extra feet, or how to slow down a swing can make all the difference. Thats why your guide should be nearby not off fishing on his or her own.
In my opinion if I come through and pick a clients pocket I have failed at my job. Not only will that fish most likely not bite someone else's fly for several days, I also feel I failed my guest. I left a fish on the table and I truly believe I could of done something differently to get my guest into that fish instead of myself.
Of course catching fish is not the end all to a successful day, many more aspects reflect equally. However fishing guides need to remember they are on the river specifically to do a job, and I can guarantee you, not one thing is crossed off the list by catching a fish other than to fulfill selfish needs.
The next time you hear someone wants to become a fishing guide, just direct them to this rant so they can think long and hard before signing up. It’s not a job to self indulge, and spend countless hours fishing on your own. It is about teaching a passion for the outdoors, empowering people in nature, and respecting our wild ecosystems.
It is a job in the service industry where you are there to ensure all the ethics of the sport, and due respect to the river is taught and passed on in an exciting way. In essence, your guest should have fun, catch some fish, and learn something each and every day on the water. Guides can fish on there own time in my opinion.