Fishing Guides/Instructors... Thoughts on choosing one

andygrey

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Hi All,
I'd be interested to hear peoples thoughts and experiences on how and why they might (and might not!) decide on employing a guide/instructor here in the UK. Cost? Experience? Word-of-mouth recommendation? Learning a new water and/or new techniques? Good website? Anything really...
Also what are the big turn-ons and offs when fishing with a guide and any particularly good or bad experiences?
This is partly a bit of consumer research but mainly just sheer idle curiosity!
 

BobP

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I'll try to answer some of this from the guide's perspective, that being what I do during the summer. I won't try to answer about the cost as that is set by the people I work for. All I would say on that front is that I know it is relatively expensive so I do my utmost to give the clients a good experience and value for money.

From experience over the last 6 seasons I would say that the clients are looking for someone who knows the water they are going to be fishing on. I am employed to guide on 6 different chalkstreams in Hampshire, Wiltshire, Berkshire and Dorset though I am principally working in Hants, Wilts and Berks. Across those three areas there are 5 rivers and about a dozen different beats that I could find myself guiding on.

There is frequently a lot of work that goes on before I even meet the client on the river bank. If I haven't been to a specific beat for some time, I will endeavour to do a recce trip the day before. If this is not possible, then I will ensure I am at the river at least 45 minutes before the client(s) are due to arrive so I can have a look round and see what is going on. I'll look in the fishing record book to get an idea of what, where, when and how.

I have 4 complete sets of "company" kit, but this needs to be maintained and prepared so that it is ready to go. These days that includes sanitising both before and after. Leaders need to be prepared. Flies need to be tied and carried so that all eventualities are covered. Clients can be a bit less than precise with casting at times and fly losses can be quite heavy on occasion. I also carry sets of polaroid glasses and also hats so if anyone doesn't have these I can provide.

I think the clients have a right to expect me to know what I am doing, ie to be experienced in the typical chalkstream methods of dry fly and nymph and to be able to spot feeding fish and to know how best to approach them. Many rods, even quite experienced ones, are not good at seeing fish in the water and due to long experience I am quite good at this.

They are entitled to receive my best endeavours to enable them to catch fish. They are entitled to expect me to be patient and encouraging even when with the most ham-handed client who has just lost the 10th fly in a bush, or smacked the line down on a big brown and spooked it for the rest of the day. I am conscious that the day might be one they have saved for or been treated to in order to celebrate a special event and it is up to me to make it a memorable one.

That is a small part of what a guide should do. Other things include cleaning the fish and packing them neatly so the clients doesn't have to drive home with fishy smells in his car. Sometimes I am required to pick up from hotel or train & ferry them to and from the river, or to & from the local pub for lunch. Do I accept invitations to join them? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. A chap on his own and I often will accept an invitation. Two or three together and usually I politely decline on the basis that they are friends or business colleagues and want to have a chat over lunch.

If guiding two or more I endeavour to split my time as evenly as I can so they all get the benefit of my presence. Not easy this as they might have wandered some distance apart so it often means a lot of walking.
 

tangled

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This is quite a wide question. If you're talking about people who use these boards you're only seeing a very small part of the potential market for guiding. People who are here will more than likely simply ask for a recommendation for wherever they are thinking of fishing. After being given a few names they'll almost certainly then google away and a good web site will have some influence.

More generally, people will just google, read the web site send a couple of emails then take a punt so those points of contact are critical. I look for clear, up-front pricing, full personal details, clear instructions of what to expect, testimonials etc. The more the better.

So, when I had a couple of spare days in the Lake District I googled 'fly fishing guide lake district uk' and Geoff Johnson 'the Eden Angler' was first up so I had a look. He's got a good website, good blog (though he doesn't keep it as up to date as he should if he was really desperate for business - he's not) some nice video etc. He's local - that's very important as there's lots of drive in guides these days - he's fished those waters since he was a child, and he's a qualified casting instructor.

For me, this last important because I can't pick the best days to fish, I just have to get lucky which often means that I do it when the chances of catching are often quite low - heat waves in August etc. So at least I get a whole day's casting instruction out of it which is good value in itself.

I suppose that if you're on holiday somewhere you might pop into the nearest tackle shop and ask for a recommendation too. So having a card to hand out in there would help.

As for on the day, well that's all personal relationship stuff - how you get on. Because I also travel abroad a lot for fishing I've used a lot of guides that I didn't personally choose - probably about 30 now. So I can at least compare a few styles.

The ones I prefer take their cues from the customer. They establish what experience and casting competence you have and what sort of a day you'd like then do their best to make you have a good time.

Personally - and this IS personal because I know some people get offended by it - I want him to intervene and correct my casting errors. I can take criticism and I want to improve but I can see it's a delicate area. I want my guide to be active, changing things, moving, looking for fish, looking for chances and generally getting on with it. I've only had one guy put me in a river and just watch, I can do that without a guide.

The good ones lend you their flies, not just pick a few of yours that are near enough. They also check your gear and if you're a real beginner will lend you theirs, teach you how to set it up and get you out of tangles and trees.

They'll teach you water craft and not just where to find fish but also why they're there.

The best ones are natural with you, you want to feel that you're fishing with a friend that'll chat to you about tackle and put the world right as well as put you on the fish. Or stfu if you're not in the mood.

I think a day's guided fishing is the best money you can spend on this hobby of ours.
 

mrnotherone

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Monmouthshire
Hi All,
I'd be interested to hear peoples thoughts and experiences on how and why they might (and might not!) decide on employing a guide/instructor here in the UK. Cost? Experience? Word-of-mouth recommendation? Learning a new water and/or new techniques? Good website? Anything really...
Also what are the big turn-ons and offs when fishing with a guide and any particularly good or bad experiences?
This is partly a bit of consumer research but mainly just sheer idle curiosity!

Andy, I think a lot depends on someone's experience. Part of my personal enjoyment is discovering a new river for myself, so I'd be unlikely to hire a guide where the type of fishing required was obvious or familiar to me.

I could imagine hiring a guide if I decided to try reservoir boat fishing (for example) as I would be a complete novice, but I'd probably prefer to try it with an experienced friend. I'd also probably seek help if there was a technique I particularly wanted to improve.

As for choosing a guide/instructor I'd probably tap my friends/friends of friends for a recommendation.
 

Rob Edmunds

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Midlands Reservoirs
I think it really depends on what you want to learn or achieve..

When my wife started fly fishing 5 years ago, I got her casting lessons from a local instructor, who I rate.

He taught her to cast faster than I could, and the basics of casting in a few lessons so she could keep improving herself...

I taught her how to read the water, about her tackle and most importantly methods and how to catch fish...

My son started at 5 and just watched me cast.....he could just cast well naturally
 

JayP

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May 17, 2006
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St Neots, Cambs
I've never had a day's guided fishing but have been guided in other sports, first and foremost I would want the best location for the day which would come with local knowledge and then it would be tweaking my technique to suit the conditions, I also want to come away having learnt something new. If I was using supplied kit I'd expect it to be mid to top end, in good working condition and suitable for my ability and the location/ conditions on the day.

There would also need to be a plan b and c in place for any unforeseen circumstances

BTW I enjoyed the Rob Snowhite podcast (y)
 

benisa

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surrey
when fishing here I find i fish the river from word mouth with out an instructor

my son wants to try fly fishing and we will get him lessons as none of my bad habits are passed on to him

When I Went To Croatia /Bosnia first time out got a Guide has was well out of our depth over there for where the best place and way to the fishing as silly going to some place a long way away and not knowing where to fish

now know most of the places so ok next time out
 

JohnH

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As mrnotherone says, I think there is more of a tradition of finding things out for yourself in the UK, certainly among older anglers. However I do take the points made about inexperienced anglers who want help, or who want to get the best out of what can be quite an expensive day on a prime chalkstream beat as described by Bob.

Even an experienced angler will benefit from being guided the first few times he/she tries a branch of the sport that's totally new to them. I did that when I tried sea trout fishing on the fly at night for the first time, on the Teign in Devon. I reasoned that I would be well out of my comfort zone, and that trying to wing it solo would likely be ineffective, and possibly even dangerous. I chose Richard Jackson aka Devon Flyfisher simply because he had answered some questions I posted on here about fishing in Devon and after that I'd enjoyed a day on Kennick reservoir with him and Daveb from on here. I added a daytime river session to the sea trout fishing, that was worth doing because wading a rain fed west country river for the first time was interesting, shall we say.

It all went very well. Richard knew his stuff and his river and was great company. He also included the hire of studded boots and chesties in the fee. In my daytime session I caught a nice mix of wild and stocked browns on dry fly and duo. In the night sea trout session I caught one of the fish of my life, a 4-10 sea trout ! What more could I ask ? I am tempted to give my reservoir boat fishing skills a refresh with a guide next year, as well.
 

eddleston123

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Nov 3, 2012
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Peebles, Scottish Borders
I'm sure guides/instructors will give you a massive head start as opposed to self learning.

However, there does seem to be an abundance of them. Every other person I seem to speak to on the upper tweed, tells me that they are a guide.

There will soon be more guides than anglers!



Douglas
 

micka

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Apr 12, 2010
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Anglers generally will prefer to spend money on kit, even duplicating kit they might already have or don't really need. It's about owning or possessing something tangible. A form of materialism if you like. However, I've learnt so much from casting sessions and guided sessions that I've never resented the money I have spent (most of it in later years when I had the cash). Indeed, I would go even further and say I wish there had been affordable "fishing schools" where over a week or so on the river and off it, for beginners and later for improvers, advice and instruction (on casting, river craft, fly choice and tying, entomology, tactics, etc. etc. etc.) could really be properly consolidated and permanently absorbed into the angler's armoury for the future. But of course the cost of setting up such weekly schools with accommodation, tuition, fishing costs and so on to be covered, would make them prohibitive for most. Certainly it would have been prohibitive all those years ago for me as a young teacher with a new family. But, for sure, it would have prepared me much better for my fishing forays.

Mick
 
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andygrey

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Thanks for all those who replied. Some entrusting and constructive points. It can be a funny old job being a guide and all too easy to loose track of some basic points.
 

easker1

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I was working as a gillie and I went on the SANA instructors courses , I have taught a lot of relatives and friends, most of whom still fish, I worked between gillying and guiding for a couple of years, I retired mainly but kept it up on a bespoke basis, still doing it if asked, but only local stuff now, I enjoyed it but you had to work at it, easker1
 

dave b

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Andy

I think that this the forum is a great angling community which offers a great wealth of learning opportunities for those willing to reach out and socialise with other anglers.

My first experiences of guided days fishing go back quite a few years to when I started experimenting with nymphing and took Danny, (Rough Diamond), who had received a little bit of skepticism on his reports relating to his nymphing exploits up on an offer of a days coaching on his local river.

Although not a qualified guide I've fished with and against enough top level anglers to know a good angler when I see one and what I learned from Danny in a day would have taken months if not much longer to work out on my own. Move on a good few years I have still yet to fish with anybody who covered water so quickly, catching as many fish as Danny did and it's a shame he no longer posts on the forum.

My next exploits were through the Monnow River Auctions where I won a days guided fishing with Photographer Peter Dawson, Welsh International Terry Bromwell and Liam Welsh both masters of the dark art of nymphing but no slouches when it comes to presenting a dry fly.

When you fish with anglers of this calibre, with the guidance offered you learn and pick up things very quickly. You know your set up is right, you have the right flies and guidance on how to present them and if you have any obvious flaws or difficulties they are addressed and corrected very quickly with a few kind words and friendly advice. If you're lucky you'll also come away with a few extra flies in your fly box and providing you've paid attention a great foundation to build on.

If I was struggling with any element of my fly fishing I'd have no hesitation in contacting a guide to help me out. Ok it can be expensive however the benefits and knowledge you come away with would take a competent angler weeks if not months to work out and a beginner an awful long time.

Add to the above, days out with other forum members such as John H, Mr Northerone, CT, Bongoch, Rob Denny, Devon Dabbler and Iain Mortimer, some of whom I've fished with a number of times, the amount of knowledge you can gain fishing with other members is immense.

From a forum perspective, those who I've fished with as friends and guides have been great company.

Next year I'm hoping to have 10-14 days in USA fly fishing, with Montana being the likely destination. Guides there charge $450- $700 for a days guiding with wading being the bottom end of the scale and a day in a boat at the top end of the price range. Because of the weakness of the GBP against the USD and the amount of info on Youtube and in books, the chances of my friend and I hiring a guide are slim particularly when a lot of the fishing will be indicator fly and nymph, dry fly and nymphing with a bit of streamer fishing thrown in. That said, never say never because on our last day we may very well decide to have a few beers and have a relaxing day in a boat, letting somebody do the rowing just to add the icing to the cake on what should hopefully be a great trip, providing we don't have to cancel like we did this year.
 
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petevicar

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Most of my fishing has been warm saltwater fishing where a guide and a boat is essential. I have also done as reasonable amount of salmon fishing, in Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Canada and Iceland. The guides and gillies in the different countries are all very different. I will try to explain.

Warm saltwater fishing.
I have fished all over the Florida Keys, The Bahamas, Mexico, Cuba, Los Roques and the Seychelles. The fishing and guides are different in all the different locations.

In the Keys and the Bahamas most of the fishing is done from a skiff because the areas fished have very soft bottoms where you can sink up to your waist. It is very important that you get on with your guide as you are together for 8 hours or so. I have learned a great deal from many guides from casting, including backhand casting into a 25mph wind to spotting fish from a small movement in the water. In this situation I feel that you are a team and if I screw up then I can feel that I have let the side down. This is a self imposed from of pressure and not necessarilly one that comes from a good guide. I have developed very good relationships with some guides and I would still call some of them good friends.
There are also guides who are total prats who can discourage you. If you get one try to put up with it and at the end of the day if he asks for a tip tell him to be more polite and helpful.

In Los Roques and the Seychelles most of the fishing is done by wading. The guide will take you to a flat and generally stay with you or your fishing partner pointing out fish. I can now find fish as well if not better than most guides so I generally invite them to pick up a rod a fish.
In my experience fishing in Cuba and Mexico is a mixture of skiff and wading. I have had some good guides and some bad.

Salmon fishing.
In Ireland I have fished loughs, drifting in a boat, where the boatman/gillie does a lot of work. On a lot of rivers the gillies often tell you to fish a particular pool and then go off fishing themselves. The are then quite surprised when you have a fish on the bank.
Scottish gillies I have generally found to be more courteous and polite and can sometimes have great sense of humour as do the Irish.
In Norway I have found that a gillie will generally just show you where the pools are and leave you to it.
In Iceland I have had some great characters as guides. It seems that many Icelanders stop working in summer and become fishing guides. I had one guide who was a record producer and song writer and on another occasion I had the ex butler of the Icelandic President. Great personalities with a lot of stories to tell.

I have learned a lot from guides generally. My casting techniques have improved greatly from saltwater fishing with guides who are helpful. I can now show some inexperienced guides where fish are likely to be.

I have learned to Spey cast from gillies in Scotland. I have learned how to fish a dry fly for salmon in Canada. I have learned to hitch from guides in Iceland.

I have also had lessons. My first from Paul Arden (Mr. Sexyloops). I have attended quite a few gatherings where some very accomplished anglers and guides have taken part and have learned a lot.

There is something to learn from every situation.
 

boisker

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I’d consider a guide if I had only a day or so either in a completely new branch of fishing in another area of the country... say salmon in Scotland, or to access very local knowledge... I’m from the north west originally and remember the rivers of Bolton / Manchester as being polluted industrial sewers, I have toyed with getting someone like J Tyzack for a days fishing ‘in Manchester’, conversely if I was heading to say the Eden or Derbyshire Wye it wouldn’t enter my head to engage a guide.
if I decided to take up salmon fishing and was getting into 2 handed rods I would definitely get some instruction before I started.... and perhaps save developing all the bad habits that took hours of work to remove in my single handed.
In both instances some video footage of them would help make a decision as to whether I thought I’d get on with them... I’d want them to be experienced, with very good local knowledge / a number of years teaching experience... definitely if it wasn’t a booking through recommendation I would certainly be looking for a good website with plenty of info to convince me to commit to a booking.
 

JohnH

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Dave;

A few years back Martin Cairncross (who I have met ! Friendly guy and fine fisherman) and John Dawson penned their book "Trout Fly Fishing: an expert approach". Available new or second hand on Amazon. They shared experiences of river and lake fishing in the UK and destination trips to the American west and NZ. They suggested that if travelling far and only able to afford one day's guiding, you should take it early in the trip on a water you intend to fish again, and seek to gain as much information as you can from the guide, while steering a careful course of avoiding not ripping off all his trade secrets. Just a thought.
 

dave b

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John.

I don't think there are any trade secrets, just different approaches and variations on well documented existing methods. It's a bit like the secret fly analogy, when in reality if size and profile are right and it sits correctly in the water, chances are if you are confident in it, you will catch on it.

In the USA there's lots of info plus the American Fly Forum which has a wealth of info and people who are quite helpful if you go about it the right way. For Colorado there's also Bob Dyes, Guides Advice book which has a wealth of info. With the fish densities out there if you know what you are doing and do your research you can quickly find access maps, entrance points and where to go.

NZ is a different kettle of fish and if I was going out there I wouldn't hesitate to get a guide on my first day.

One of the things I do enjoy about fly fishing is learning new rivers for yourself, it can be one of the best parts of fishing and discovering new waters and should never be over looked as it's an essential part of the learning curve, however in many cases if you want to fine tune your approach a good guide can quickly hone most anglers skills and often give a new insight to certain methods so should never be over looked
 
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Hi Andy,

Whilst I don't currently live or guide in the U.K., I was once a trout fishing guide over there, guiding around 120 days a year. I guided on a Chalkstream system that had a real mixed client pool. Not so many local anglers, with most traveling 2-3 hours. As a result, most anglers wanted to maximize their days and a guide was the way forward. I found the majority of bookings came from word of mouth as I didn't do much advertising.

Guiding is a tough gig as I am sure you are aware. There is a lot of behind the scenes work and (if done correctly) a lot of the subtle nuances of guiding during a day will often go unnoticed by the client. The trouble with us lot is we don't have a really guiding culture when compared with other countries. This is partly because of our lack of available water and partly a mentality thing. I did find however that you tend to hold on to clients more than in the guiding I do now.

I now live in Chetumal, Mexico and run a fly shop and guiding business down here. With our client basis being mostly American and Canadian anglers, they are far more open to booking guides and it is a cultural norm. I think the understand the value add a little more than us Brits.
 
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