So You Want to Be a Fishing Guide?

Becoming a fishing guide

The author guiding in Idaho

Should I Become a Fishing Guide? How to Determine if You Have What it Takes-

There are several personality traits that are required to become an effective fishing guide. I will go over a few of them here for you, along with exactly what the job actually entails. When people are paying big money to be on the river with you, there are certain “qualities” you should possess.   You will need to have the patience of a saint, and prevent yourself from getting frustrated by answering the same questions on a daily basis. On top of that, you should be able to untie knots very quickly and on some days, do it almost non stop. By the middle of August I am untying knots in my dreams and on more nights than not, I am rowing my drift boat in my sleep.

The whole point of being a guide is to live a stress free life while making money doing what you love. Be sure you are getting into it knowing what it entirely involves.

You should be asking yourself these questions in order to determine if being a fishing guide is right for you:

  • Am I capable of rowing 20 yards upstream to get a fly out of a tree, only to have the other fisherman hook the same tree as soon as you pull the boat away. Can you do this without absolutely freaking out? This scenario plays out way too often, if you will loose your cool over something like this, you might save yourself a lot of grey hair by choosing another profession.
  • Can I tolerate being in the same boat a few feet away from someone who might have a bad attitude? Granted most people who come out fishing will be in pretty good spirits, but there are always exceptions. You might encounter 1-2 people per year that are angry at the world, or worse yet- angry about the quality of the fishing that day.
  • Can I show extreme excitement even towards a small fish being caught? When some people come out fishing they have often times never caught a fish in their lives, you will need to be excited for them and keep the spirits high. Make sure they know they have done a good job and even a small trout is a trophy for a first timer.
  • I mentioned this above, but it is the single most important question you should ask yourself: How is my patience level? On a scale of 1/10. #1 being the patience level of the gangster Bugsy Siegel on a bad day and a 10 rating being the patience level of a saint, you should be at least a 7.
  • Am I ready to work like a dog? Not just any dog, but an Alaskan sled dog in January? This job can be very hard; you won’t be just standing there pointing your finger. Be prepared to drag the boat against all odds upriver in a fast current to put people on fish. After all, your job is to get people to hook fish. If you are going to keep your job you will have to accomplish this.

The Benefits of Being a Fishing Guide

There are a lot of perks that come with being a fishing guide. I will now finally list some great things, some of which only fishing guides get to enjoy.

  • The joy of seeing people catch their first trout. It feels a little bit like being a proud parent I would imagine. Teaching someone a new sport and watching their face light up with happiness (sometimes even fear) during the first battle with a trout.
  • Spending all day everyday on the river. Who wouldn’t love that? Just be sure you use sunscreen every day. You don’t need any early wrinkles or worse..
  • Learning about trout and their habits. Sure you already know a lot about trout fishing, but you will be amazed at some of the things you will see. Fishing almost every day all summer long will expose you to every hatch, and every oddity on the stream. You will learn something every single day on the water, or at least see something really crazy that could blow your mind ( a mother deer chasing around a wolf? Yep, saw that!).
  • Making lots of money while having fun. Isn’t that what every person on earth wants?

There are too many benefits to list here, but I think you get the idea.

How should I go about becoming a guide?

First and foremost make sure you know what you are talking about, because people will ask non stop questions all day long. Why do fish like to sit in this spot? What are those little pink flowers on the bank over there? etc. Probably even more important than talking the talk however is walking the walk. You will need to demonstrate a perfect mend and drift, because if you cant pull a fish out of there, how are you going to teach someone how to?

If you are fairly new to flyfishing, perhaps your best chance at becoming a guide eventually is to hire one. They will teach you a lot in one day, you can learn a lot from the internet, but nothing can replace time on the water. There are a lot of guide schools that can teach you quite a bit; but from what I hear, most places prefer you to come as you are. They don’t want a new guide coming on board with preconceived notions about how to do the job. They want to teach you how they do it, because every outfitter is different. A potentially great way to get your foot in the door of guiding is to become an FFF certified casting instructor. These are skills you can always use, because teaching proper casting is a very important part of being a fishing guide.

If you need assistance or more tips, feel free to leave a comment below. I would be happy to help

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7 Comments

  1. Javier

    April 30, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    I wanted to see if you can point me in the right direction or any advice on becoming a spear fishing guide in Hawaii.

    • Dub Paetz

      April 30, 2014 at 11:52 pm

      Javier, I can imagine it probably involves a lot of the same principals as river guiding, but I have never done any spearfishing, I can safely say that if you don’t currently live in Hawaii, moving there would be a good first step. Perhaps calling a spear fishing outfitter there and asking about their hiring process would be a good start as well. If you are good at spearfishing already and do live in the area, you could probably land a job easily by hanging around their shops, or offering to sell equipment etc. There are many outfitters who will not hire a guide unless you have spent some time booking trips and selling gear in their store beforehand.
      That seems like it would be a fun job, I hope you are able to achieve your goal!

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  3. Taryk Meyer

    July 27, 2016 at 10:49 pm

    I want to become a fishing guide for saltwater off of a kayak. I love fishing and now I wanna show people how to have fun catching the fish they have always wanted to catch. Could u lead me in the direction of how to do that please and thank you.

    • Dub Paetz

      July 27, 2016 at 11:58 pm

      Taryk, I would start by finding out what the licensing/permit policies are for your state. Guiding permits in some states can be very expensive (other times they are very cheap and easy to get). otherwise you could always get to know some local captains in your area and guide under their permit. I’m not sure what state you are in and what types of hoops you’ll need to jump through to pull it off. Thanks for stopping by, let me know more info about where you are from and I’ll try to help more. Dub

      • Taryk Meyer

        July 28, 2016 at 9:48 pm

        I live in Florida. Would it be easier to do it with my own permit or find a captain and go off there.

        • Dub Paetz

          August 4, 2016 at 1:10 pm

          Taryk, sorry I’ve been busy for a few days fiming fishing videos. Here’s a link to Florida’s guide license page. It doesn’t say anything about kayaks, I’d give the number on this link a call and see what their process is. http://myfwc.com/license/saltwater/commercial-fishing/charter/ I’d also look into this ” The U.S. Coast Guard (USGC) requires all operators of for-hire vessels to have a Captain license/Merchant Mariner Credential.” This process is significantly different than how it is for freshwater rivers where I guide here in Idaho. I hope this helps. Have a good day, Let me know if you have any more questions. Dub

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