Should You Hire a Professional Fishing Guide?

Flyfisherman with fishing guide in river

No matter what an angler’s experience level, there can be many benefits from hiring a fishing guide.

This is especially true if you’re traveling and fishing new waters. Every body of water can come with a learning curve.

Before you can consistently catch fish, you must learn how the fish act. Fish in different watersheds will behave differently toward lures, techniques and environmental factors.

Flyfisherman with fishing guide in river

Hiring a guide with local knowledge will greatly increase your success rate and minimize the amount of time needed for learning the area.

A good guide will be up-to-date on the locations and habits of different fish species: what the fish are targeting, how they react to weather changes, and other behaviors.

But a guide can only increase the chances of you catching your target fish species. They can’t make the casts for you or control the fish’s behavior based on conditions.

They’ll also have a backup plan. When the body of water you’re fishing is unproductive, the guide usually has a small list of fishing spots in their head that they know will produce fish.

These secret “honey holes” can all by themselves make having a guide worth the price.

Hiring a guide that provides equipment can save you a lot of money if you’re targeting a species that you don’t fish for frequently.

It’s easy to spend hundreds of dollars on specialty rods, reels and lures that, once the trip is over, may never be used again. Instead of buying the gear, rent the guide who’ll provide the gear, along with his or her invaluable knowledge.

Every guide has their own tips, tricks and little fishing nuances that make them successful anglers. No matter how experienced you are, there’s always something more you can learn.

Having a knowledgeable guide for a day can give you insight into new techniques and ways to refine old techniques you already use.

A guide gives you the ability to relax and focus all of your efforts on fishing. This is especially true when taking a trip with less experienced anglers or children.

Having a guide to take care of the details will provide you and your angling partners with a better, more memorable experience.

If you’re on an extended trip and are thinking about hiring a guide to fish new waters, it’s wise to hire them at the beginning of your trip. This will allow you to learn about the local fish population and increase your odds of success on your own during the rest of your stay.

Think of it this way: a guide for a day is not just a guide for that day. As the old adage goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

However, if a guide does take you to a secret location, do not return there on your own the following day. Be respectful and apply the techniques you learned on the guided trip to finding your own waters.

Closeup of fly-fisherman holding brown trout in river

You can also take what you learn from guides and apply it to future fishing situations when you’re on your own in different waters. Fish species in different areas can often have similar—if not exactly the same—behavior.

Use your time with an experienced guide as a reference. You’ll find yourself reading water and deciphering fish behavior faster and easier.

In the interest of full disclosure…

Hiring a professional guide can have some negatives too, but most of them can be avoided with communication between you and the guide.

The first and most obvious negative for a guide is the cost. Hiring a guide is not cheap, and from strictly a cost-per hour-standpoint it can look pretty unappealing.

But what you must also consider is how productive you’ll be during those hours. Your day of fishing with a guide may provide as much enjoyment as a week fishing alone.

Nevertheless, you are less independent when using a guide, because his or her foremost job is to get you and the fish together. This means you may not be fishing your favorite lures or techniques.

Communication with your guide about what you expect from the trip is key to having a positive experience.

If your main goal is to catch fish by any method, let your guide know. If you want to learn particular techniques or perfect others, that should be expressed, as well.

If you don’t communicate, your guide will be left guessing at what you want. To ensure your happiness and satisfaction, be sure to tell the guide what your successful day looks like.