On the Fly: A Great Guide Makes It Simple

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Photo of guide Beck Brooks and client Carol Wagner.
Courtesy of Shannon Outing Photography

Whether you’ve never hired a guide or have used them for years, you’ll find marked differences in styles, attitudes and experience levels. Many anglers can’t appreciate great fishing guides until they fish with one that isn’t so great. Pairing a client with the right guide is akin to matchmaking, although any guide worth its salt should be able to instruct any type of angler.

A great guide makes things simple, even when they aren’t. Simple truths are distilled into easy-to-digest bites with a guide who’s been at it for some time. Great guides remember your experience level and abilities and can pick up where they left off with you last week (or last year, for that matter). A great guide is unflappable, knows when to take charge of a situation that’s headed in the wrong direction, and knows that ultimately it’s your day and hiring them doesn’t come cheap.

Terrific guides know how to fish in low, low and middle water years. They have backup plans if their spot is taken and backups on their saves for busy river days. A great float guide actually controls your flies drifting on the water more than you do. Great guides follow their clients and rarely fish with strangers. An excellent guide solves problems and finds solutions; whether it’s type A personalities, drought, flood, fire or pandemic.



If you’ve had the chance to fish with some of the near-famous guides in the Roaring Fork Valley, I might preach to the choir. Spending a few days with them is a feat in itself, as most are booked months in advance. Try a few different guides, find someone you click with, and forge a relationship that can last for many years. Even though money changes hands, many guides and clients have personal connections that transcend fly fishing.

As I have already said, things are said on the shore, on a skiff or a drifting boat that are not said in a confessional. I hope you meet your match and make a lifelong friend (and fishing coach) in the process.



This report is provided weekly by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or TaylorCreek.com.

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