Guiding Schools to train fly fisherman how to be fly fishing guides have become more and more common as the sport has evolved over the last 25 years. For several decades, it was my pleasure to provide, every spring, several week long fly fishing guiding schools. Taking place in the Colorado high country for aspiring guides, seasonal workers or people who wanted to learn more about fly fishing in general. Upon training hundreds of guides “to be”, some commonalities have developed that may help you decide if a fly fishing guide school may be right for you.
The Best Guides Aren’t Necessarily the Best Anglers
First let’s get over the common misconception that you have to be the son of Lee Wulff or be the world’s greatest fly caster. Or born and raised in the area you plan to be a guide or be the best fly fisherman in the world in order to be a good guide. To have any of these qualities is a bonus, certainly not a requirement for entering a new career field. Were you proficient in your college major before you completed the required classes? Do you have work experience that required you to be a reliable employee?
Most employers of fly fishing guides, outfitters and lodges look for people to hire who are reliable, responsible, eager to learn, mature and enthusiastic. Handling and successfully dealing with people is the most challenging part of guiding. It is difficult to teach these fundamental people skills once you become an adult. Being considerate and polite goes a long way towards meeting the most challenging aspects of guiding. Know that you have arrived as a professional fly fishing guide when you can consistently maintain this positive, encouraging, considerate and polite attitude for eight hours of guiding, when you have challenging clients at hand.
Guiding is a learned experience. No one is born a guide, you need to take the time to learn the skills necessary to become a good guide. A good fly fishing guide school is going to provide you with the tools necessary to succeed in this business. When you complete your training, don’t fret your first trip will most likely be an audit with another fly fishing guide you assist on the trip. On your first few trips, you will most assuredly not be put with clients who have been out with guides before or know how to fly fish. This is a good thing because, as you will learn in guide school, beginners have lower expectations of success. It is much easier for you to set expectations they can reach, like learning how to cast for example.
What to look for in a guide school
A fly fishing guiding school can launch a new career for you but be extremely careful and do your homework before signing up for a fly fishing guide school. My experience tells me to attend a schools provided by an organization that is looking to add a few seasonal guides. This will get your foot in the door, otherwise when you graduate you will be faced with a job hunt.
Look for fly fishing guiding schools that run for five days and focus on training students rather than teaching them how to fly fish. Look for instructors who know what they are doing and have taught before. Our guide school at Vail Valley Anglers is an ideal model for an affordable, worthwhile guide training class.
Find out if rowing is part of the class or if it is needed in the particular location you want to guide. If offered do both right away, this will enable you to ramp up you guide career much faster. The last thing an experienced oarsman wants to do after working all day is row a rookie around (even a rookie who buys beer). Learn how to row and the other guides will want to fish with you and your learning curve will skyrocket.
The sky is the limit
Show up with a willingness to learn and most things will take care of themselves like confidence and your ability to do a good job. Do not let your gender, age or current job stop you if you truly desire to become a professional fly fishing guide. Be aware that the position you may seek can be one of the most difficult jobs in the world but is also one of the most rewarding!
Should you want to attend, Vail Valley Anglers offers a week long fly fishing based rowing certification class and a week-long fly fishing guide school every May. Do not miss out by waiting, we only will accept the first twelve paid applicants and plan to hire guides from the schools. We will also provide letters of recommendation upon request for guides seeking to find work elsewhere.
Bill Perry Guide and Content Blogger