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DamselFly Fisher: 'If You Enjoyed the Ride, Tip Your Guide!'

The last two years I not only guided fly fishing trips, but also I guided whitewater rafting for Three Rivers Resort in Almont, Colo.  In one of the vans we used for transporting our clients, there hangs a sign that reads, “If you enjoyed your ride, you may tip your guide.”

One of the most disappointing things as a guide is to have a fantastic trip with clients and either get a very small tip or no tip at all. Sometimes the reverse happens and you get an amazing tip when you thought you had an awful trip.

This happened to me the one and only time I flipped a raft on a commercial trip. In my defense, my crew was pretty drunk, which was impressive since it was a 9 a.m. trip. Being “stiffed” happens more often with rafting than fly fishing, especially during camp trips, but in my opinion this should not happen on a guided hunting or fishing trip unless you are dissatisfied with your experience.

My fiancé is the top guide at Willowfly Anglers and is definitely in high demand during the busy season. He has started to keep track of which of his clients are good tippers and which are poor tippers and has started turning away clients who are historically bad tippers when other trips are available. He has one group that comes every year and tips him $25 a day for a two-person, all-day fly fishing float, and they are VERY high-maintenance clients and lose a lot of flies. He will no longer fish with them when other clients are in town. Tips are a large portion of any guide’s pay – just like it is for a waiter or waitress.

Katherine Browne loves to fish and loves fish ... but she loves her sweetie, Eric, more (the guy holding the fish!).

Many guides would not be able to afford to do what they love without the tips they receive. A general rule of thumb is to tip your guide about the same percentage as wait staff, based on your satisfaction. If you had a good trip, tip 20 percent of your trip cost or more. If you had a bad trip, tipping less may send the message . . . but make sure to say something if you feel comfortable. A poor tip is often just a result of ignorance on the part of the client, so telling your guide may help him improve for future clients.

If you can afford a guided trip, you should be able to afford a reasonable tip. Factor in the tip as though it were part of the total cost of the trip when coming up with a budget; this is only fair to your guide.

  • About The WON

    The Women's Outdoor News, aka The WON, features news, reviews and stories about women who are shooting, hunting, fishing and actively engaging in outdoor adventure. This publication is for women, by women.


The Conversation

  • Katherine Browne says: January 4, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Thanks Bill! That last comment was mine. I forgot to change my identity on Kirstie’s computer.

  • kirstie pike says: January 4, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    Thanks Bill, that is great advice! You also made some excellent points and really contributed to the blog.

  • Women's Outdoor News says: December 31, 2010 at 1:29 am

    This is why I like the blog format. Thanks, Holly and Bill, for providing more info.

    Hey Julie, where do you want to go in your new Prois camo? 😉

  • Bill Bowers says: December 31, 2010 at 12:59 am

    Thanks, Katherine, for an excellent article.

    I’ve been blessed to enjoy many guided fly-rod and conventional-gear fishing trips in New England, New York, Florida, Oregon, New Brunswick, Wales, England, Utah, Missouri and elsewhere. Most guides have been good; a few have been outstanding. Only once did I refuse to tip the guide. He was, frankly, a jerk. He’s no longer in the business, so I’m betting I’m not the only one who thought so.

    A guide is a professional consultant like any other. If you have a medical problem, you need a doctor; a legal problem, an attorney. If you have a fishing problem (as in, where the heck are the fish and how do you catch them), you need a guide.

    I allow 20 to 25 percent of the fee for the tip (strictly cash, even if the fee is paid by check or credit card–or by someone else). A good guide is worth every penny. Much as we hate to admit it, if we hook fish the guide deserves most of the credit, especially on water far from home.

    Once I wade-fished the Provo with a guide who was barely 21; the water was unseasonably cold, and the trout had lockjaw. We met several other anglers, all giving up because they hadn’t had a bite. Not one reported a single fish. The young man said we’d have to try midge nymphs he’d tied himself. They were so tiny (#26 hooks) I could barely see the dang things. He patiently hitched them to spider’s-web tippets, and taught me exactly where to stand in each run; how to manage the drifts; how to control the fly line; and how to detect the faint, almost imperceptible strikes. I caught and released six gorgeous browns and made LDRs on as many more. Guess how many I would have caught without him? He got 35 percent of his modest fee, despite his polite protestations.

    The guide’s tip is NEVER based on how many fish you catch or how big they are, but on the effort he or she puts forth on your behalf. The guide can’t control the weather; the water conditions; the fishes’ willingness, or lack thereof; their size, or lack thereof; or your skill level, or lack thereof. The guide can control only his or her own effort and skill and patience, and is tipped accordingly.

    And I’ve yet to meet a guide who made as much money as a doctor or lawyer–this proves that the world’s priorities are out of whack. So don’t forget to bring your sense of humor when you get to fish with a guide.

  • Julie Golob says: December 30, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    I have ALWAYS wondered about this. I haven’t had the opportunity to go on a guided trip but will DEFINITELY keep this in mind. THANKS!

  • Katherine Browne says: December 30, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Good point! I should have mentioned that. Just assume the tip is not included unless someone tells you otherwise.

  • NorCal Cazadora says: December 30, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Totally agreed!

    Another thing to keep in mind is remember to tip your guide when the trip is “free,” such as a trip won (or purchased by auction) at a fund-raising event. While it’s wonderful that the guide has donated the trip, it’s important to remember that his time as value.

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