How to be guided on the river.
Welcome to southwest Montana, where we have almost as many top-notch fly-fishing guides as we do fish. With this in mind, having a great experience on your first guided trip should be a slam-dunk, right? Not always. In order to set yourself up for a fulfilling trip, follow this recipe for success.
While every shop, outfitter, and lodge has a stable of great fishing guides, booking your first trip can be confusing and intimidating. Good communication and a clear set of goals make the entire process go smoothly.
We operate in one of the most beautiful places in the world, so take some time to actually notice it.
First, ask yourself what you want out of the trip. Are you looking to be a better angler? Would you like to learn dry-fly fishing? Do you just want a fun day on the water with family? All of these are great reasons to take a guided trip. When booking, make sure to talk to the shop manager or outfitter about your goals. Not every guide loves dry-fly fishing, kids in the boat, or instructing beginners. In order to be paired with the best possible guide, state exactly what it is that you’re after. This is also the time to be completely honest about your skill level. There is no shame in being a beginner, so communicate that at booking, not after you get out on the water.
Prior to the trip, when you meet your guide in the shop or lodge, talk again about your skill level, what you want to accomplish, and your timeline for the day. Once the plan for the day is set, free your mind of worry and open up to learning and fun. Remember, it is not the number of fish caught, but the entire experience that makes a day. Success should be determined based on your own standards. Improving your cast, learning about aquatic insects, and understanding fish behavior are all reasons to celebrate, even if you don’t end up netting a fish. Making a bad cast or losing a fish are part of it; don’t let one or the other get you down.
When on the trip, take a few moments to look beyond the fishing. We operate in one of the most beautiful places in the world, so take some time to actually notice it. Spot wildlife or birds along the bank, watch the clouds move across the landscape, or just take a few deep breaths and enjoy the fact that you’re floating down the river. Most guides have great knowledge of local history, biology, and wildlife. Pick their brains. Frequent landscape breaks cultivate a focused mindset and happy attitude, all day long.
Once the trip is over, remember to tip your guide, according to how expectations were met or exceeded. Also, make sure to communicate with the shop or outfitter how the day went. Many providers send an email survey after the trip; giving feedback is greatly appreciated. If the guide exceeded expectations, make sure to give the shop a great Google or Trip Advisor review. These are pure gold for small businesses.
Most importantly, remember that success is different for everyone. Never compare how many fish you caught with the guide at the bar. Define it by the memories made, skills learned, or relaxation achieved.
John way owns the Tackle Shop in Ennis, Montana’s oldest fly shop, established in 1937. John has been guiding in Montana since 1994 and has over 2,000 days of guided trips.