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Hiring a professional flyfishing guide and/or instructor is not a complicated matter. Quite simply, the flyfishing guide you choose should accommodate your specific desires and skill level. The best way for this to occur is through honest and open communication…from the start, prior to your guide date.
Ideally the dialogue goes both ways, you want to know what services are provided and the guide needs to know what you want to accomplish during your time together. With the information provided, the guide will formulate a “game plan”, based on what you’ve discussed. When it comes to stating your particular skill level in flyfishing, I can’t say enough, how important your truthfulness will be. If you have overstated it, a veteran guide will adjust almost seamlessly but inexperienced guides will be less agile.
As for your expectations, if your requests are not “doable”, a reputable professional will advise you of such. As in any industry, unfulfilled expectations result in dissatisfied clients. Both you and the guide want to avoid such a scenario. The guide’s focus is to make your outdoor venture gratifying and fun; resulting in goodwill and repeat business.
Of course you want to catch fish…that is a given. But is it a reasonable expectation, relative to existing conditions or your existing skill level? Conditions may not be optimum, such as the water is too high, too cold or warm, or there is a lot of wind – a few things that can affect the angling. Your skills may not be up to the task at hand or you are a complete beginner. In any of the aforementioned, the guide has no control; he/she must adjust and attempt on making the outing as beneficial, memorable and enjoyable as possible. That is why having a discussion in advance of the trip is very important.
Hiring a professional flyfishing guide can satisfy different needs. An experienced fly angler can eliminate countless days of “prospecting” by receiving a valuable orientation to the idiosyncrasies of the local waters and their wild trout. One is briefed about effective techniques, best times, “hatches” and their corresponding, productive fly patterns. For the complete novice, your and the guide’s primary focus should be learning and teaching, respectively, the basic skills of flyfishing. Catching a wild, mountain trout is secondary and would be an absolute bonus. You want to be introduced to the fundamentals; knots, casting, aquatic entomology, trout behavior and tactics to dupe them to eat your fly. Notice that I said, “introduced”. Do not expect to be proficient initially, that will come with time. The intent of the instruction is to create a solid foundation so that you can pursue and apply the concepts of the sport at your leisure. Now you can be more confident when venturing out on your own.
What should you expect? The guide should have his/her “paperwork” in order – license, bond and liability insurance. Your guide should not fish, the exception being when demonstrating and/or teaching a technique or tactic. You are paying money for their services; expect your hire to be courteous, well groomed, on time and solicitous (within reason!) of what you want done.
The experienced fly fisher can anticipate being ”put over fish”, informed as to what they are eating and advised of productive flies and techniques. The beginner to intermediate should expect to learn and improve on their existing skills and be introduced to new concepts, which will enhance their effectiveness as a fly angler.
What questions should you ask? Some things should not be taken for granted. Is a streamside lunch part of the fee? If not, what is the additional cost? Can the lunches be made to your dietary requirements or preferences? If you need equipment, such as rods, reels, waders and wading shoes, is it available for rent or gratis? Does the guide fee include the necessary flies and leaders? How about transportation? Is special clothing required? What is the guide’s honest assessment of the prevailing flyfishing conditions, probability of catching trout, in what size and numbers?
In turn, these are questions your prospective guide may have. Do you prefer fishing lakes or streams? Do you want to catch trout with dry flies or wet flies? Are their any physical conditions that may inhibit aggressive wading or long walks? (the intent is to customize your outing.)
Whether you consider the services of an independent guide or one through an outfitter and/or shop owner should be adept at matching their guide with the needs of the specific client. Each guide may have a specific area of expertise. Some are patient and competent teachers. Others are naturalists, philosophers, historians, therapists or brilliant conversationalists. You have to decide which traits fit your personality or needs. An independent guide has to be multi-dimensional or they will fade from the scene quickly. Given the options, ask, if hiring through an outfitter or shop. The veteran guides, whether independent or not, will be in demand. They will get booked in advance because of repeat clientele and/or referrals; their reputations usually precede them.
In conclusion, a superlative flyfishing guide or instructor needs technical and people skills, and the ability to clearly and comfortably convey both. When you find such an individual and let them know what your desires and skills are…you are apt to have a memorable outdoor experience. You might even encounter a mountain trout or two!
Frank Pisciotta offers clinics and private lessons through his Reel School of Flyfishing. For more information on that as well as area guiding in the Northern California region, you can call him at (530) 587-7333 or visit his website at CyberFly.com.