Most fly fishing guides here in Colorado go through a series of transformations throughout their professional fly fishing career. After knowing and working with dozens of great fly fishing guides, and seeing many of them come and go, I think that it only takes a small stretch to compare the “life cycle” of a fly fishing guide with that of an aquatic insect, like a mayfly or stonefly. From egg-like rookie guides to the fluttering, year-round adult guides, the metamorphosis of a fly fishing guide can be completed over the course of several decades. Or just a few years depending on the conditions in which the guide lives.
The Eggs / Guide School
Before anyone can begin their journey through the guide’s life cycle, they have to take a guide training course. This brief, but very critical stage is one thing that every guide experiences, and is the best way for them to develop a base of skills before going out on their own into the world of trout guiding. Learning basic rules like what to wear, how to row, and where to fish during the guide school will better prepare any fishing guide for the many challenges that lie ahead. These two week courses are offered by most fly shops, and are usually the only way to get a job on the water.
The Nymphs / Wade Guiding
After taking the guide training course from their favorite fly shop, many fly fishing guides begin working immediately. For many, the transformation from guide school trainee to professional wade guide is quite sudden. Brand new trout guides are often sent right to the water without any further training. During their first summer or two, the wade guide “nymphs” spend much of their free time practicing float fishing skills and saving their tips to buy a boat.
The Adults / Float Guides
Most Rocky Mountain trout guides eventually trade in their boots and waders for a drift boat or raft. These river boats allow the anglers to cast flies toward the river’s edge while covering long stretches of water, often with dry flies or streamers. There are numerous advantages to guiding fly fishing from a boat rather than on foot, including more productive fishing and fewer crowds. Which is why most guides transform themselves into float guides as quickly as possible. This stage of a fishing guide’s life is most often the longest and most productive. Adult float guides have one of the best and most coveted jobs in the world.
The Final Stage
No fly fishing guide lives forever. Just like mayflies, caddis, and stoneflies, many fly fishing guides will eventually emerge from the river to mate and reproduce. Most of the time this is the final stage of a fly fishing guide’s existence. Once a fishing guide becomes responsible for another little person and future fly fisherman, their life as a seasonal worker must end. A more permanent, less exciting career usually takes over and the long days on the water are exchanged for eight hour days in an office. Only a tiny percentage of fortunate, hard working fly fishing guides manage to continue their guiding career while raising children.
Visit our Guide Profile page to meet all the guides here at Vail Valley Anglers and to book a trip with your favorite one.
Andy “Otter” Smith, Guide and Content Writer