I am asked quite often about whether anglers should spend the money on hiring a fly fishing guide. While it may not often be necessary, there are certainly some major benefits if you hire the right one.
The Value Of A Fly Fishing Guide
Should you hire a fly fishing guide? Let's take a look at the pros and cons.
The Reasons Why You Should
At least once or on unknown waters, a fishing guide is invaluable
While it is true that the services of a professional fly fishing guide may seem expensive, you have to keep in mind that they also have extraordinary expenses. Not only do they usually have to purchase gear for those that don't own the correct rods and reels for the area they are guiding on, they frequently give away flies, leader material, and have to keep in mind their own travel expenses in getting you to the water.
When all is said and done, most professional fly fishing guides really do not make a lot of money after they deduct their expenses; most have to find ways to supplement their income from their guiding services. As well as paying for liability insurance and keeping up to date with first aid and emergency rescue courses in order to keep you safe, they have to deal with cancellations and other frustrating events that don't guarantee them an income.
However, whether you have been fly angling for a very long time, or if just a novice, hiring a guide is a good idea! Let's take a look at it from some different perspectives:
If You Are A Novice
You really ought to hire a guide
Learning to fly cast is not that difficult. However, to do it well, and to do it efficiently in such a way that your fly is in the water for more time than it is in the air does require some disciplined movements as well as some understanding of the physics that is going on when employing the back and forward cast.
Most competent guides will be able to spend some time with you, improving your casting motion and correcting any issues you have in your casting before they become bad habits! As they say, "Good habits are hard to form but easy to live with. Bad habits are easy to form, but hard to live with," and this applies in the sport of fly fishing as well.
Can you learn to fly fish on your own, perhaps by watching some videos? Yes, you probably can, but there is nothing like having an experienced instructor standing with you, and being able to immediately correct some problem with your casting form that you may not even realize that you are doing.
One of the biggest mistakes novices make is to try to get out on a river and immediately go for 50 foot casts. In doing so, they often will be trying to do the "Brad Pitt" style of fly casting, with their line going back and forth in the air a dozen times, while no real distance is ever achieved. For one thing, casting 50 feet on a river is usually not required; learning to cast 25 or 30 feet efficiently in the first place will more than likely have you into more fish than trying to achieve those beautiful long casts.
Another thing a guide can assist you with is overall efficiency - there are knots that have "short cuts" in how they can be tied, there are things to learn about reading a river, and especially if you will be doing a lot of fishing locally, a guide can help advise you as to what flies you should focus on and what will be most productive for you. It's about learning and having fun doing so, and becoming more confident. Hiring a competent guide that is a good teacher will be of enormous benefit to the beginning fly angler.
You Think You Are A Pro, Eh?
I bet even you could use a fly casting tune up.
So you've been fly fishing for ten, fifteen.. what, twenty years already? I bet we could learn a lot from you! And it's quite likely that many a person has stood on a bridge over a river, and marveled at the graceful style of fly casting you've displayed. You probably don't get skunked often either, and are an expert on the aquatic insects and hatches that occur on your home waters.
But don't kid yourself - there's a good chance you've created some bad habits over the years - it happens, we get out once a week, or maybe not even that often, or get out for three or four days in a row, and then can't for another couple of weeks.
No doubt you are proficient enough that you do have fun, you enjoy fly fishing tremendously, and maybe your skills are good enough. But why not get out for a few hours with someone who is out there everyday and have them critique your casting? Just in case? Maybe you don't need to get an extra 5 or 10 feet in your casts, but maybe there is something else you are doing incorrectly with some minor adjustments might make what you are doing just a bit more comfortable.. and increase your own confidence just that little bit more?
Are you sure you know everything there is to know? Is it possible you are missing fish that you didn't even know were there? The best fly anglers never stop learning!
Why not challenge yourself to learn the principles of spey casting? It may not be what you'll be practicing most of the time, but these principles might make you just that bit more efficient - and with that, having even more fun, on the water.
If You're Travelling To Unknown Waters
You really should hire a guide, at least the first time
One of the most exciting things about the sport of fly fishing is when one has the opportunity to fish rivers, lakes or for species of fish that are not quite like what is available at home.
So you are heading on a trip and you know there is world class fly fishing available; you can study all you want, read all the magazine articles you can get your hands on, research the Internet, and think you've got it all figured out... but the fact is, there is nothing like professional local knowledge, out with you on the water you're on, to help you get into fish.
Indeed, some rivers, if you are fishing them for the first time, can present unexpected dangers that you might not know about. Or, you might know about them - for example, fishing a tailwater below a damn: You might be aware that at any given time, the water flow might increase, but if you're fishing this river for the first time, how would you really know the first signs? When the current might get a bit stronger, you might just think that's just the way it is in that part of the river. A guide who knows the water intimately will be able to instantly recognize these kinds of dangers and be prepared for them.
Often, weather conditions can interfere with good fish catching weather. I once fished the Six Mile Water River in Northern Ireland, and I know if I had not used the guiding services of Stevie Munn who has intimate knowledge of that river, I would have come away very disappointed. It had been a week of temperatures and sunshine without any rain, unlike what is "normal" in N. Ireland and the day we had arranged to head out, with the sun climbing in the sky, the mercury reached over 30C.
With his intimate knowledge of the water, he was able to direct me and guide me into brown trout that otherwise, I would never have had the pleasure of hooking bringing to hand before releasing.
With all of this in mind, it is highly recommended that if you're traveling or will be fishing unfamiliar water, hire a good guide! It just might be the difference between making or breaking your trip.
Internet Fly Fishing Guide Resources
Just a few places to check out
North American Fly Fishing Guide Directory - If you're traveling in N. America, you'll find a huge number of guides and outfitters to help you with your choice of hire.
Stevie Munn, Northern Ireland
An awesome guide and instructor, you won't go wrong if you hire Stevie for a number of fly fishing opportunities in both the North and Republic of Ireland.
Ian Colin James - Southern Ontario
There are some great fly fishing opportunities in Southern Ontario, and Ian James is your man if you're heading that way. He's also got his "forty-five minute casting tune-ups" that will have you casting more efficiently in no time.