On the Fly: Finding the right guide can take you to the next level

Scott Spooner
On the Fly
Local guide Christian Hill and Adam Knickerbocker (with a Roaring Fork River brown trout).
Scott Spooner photo

To the uninitiated, there’s a certain mystique and romance surrounding those fortunate enough to make a living as a fishing guide. Guide life can range from living high on the hog to barely scraping by, depending on variables like seniority, fishing conditions, experience, and so on. If you hire guides once in a while, you’ve probably met a few with vastly different approaches and personalities. Finding someone who matches well with you (and what you’re trying to accomplish) doesn’t have to be a challenge, especially if you ask questions.

Some guides are brutally honest. They’ll tell you when you’re messing up or not listening to specific instructions they’ve distilled into bite size chunks over the years. If you really are trying to push yourself and become a better angler, this type of guide might be right for you. Some guides are completely the opposite, and candy coat everything all day long. Killing your sport with kindness can go a long way, and works in most situations. Until it doesn’t.

Some guides are Instagram sensations with thousands of followers all over the world, but others have a flip phone and need assistance responding to an email. Some guides are requested by regular clients every day they work, others can’t see past the end of their nose, and don’t remember who they fished with yesterday. Some are very patient teachers that can interpret or turn around any situation, less-experienced guides let the client take over the trip and get ran over, essentially.

Plenty of guides are year-rounders, others only work in the summers and resort to ski tuning or hanging Christmas lights in the winter months. Some host trips all over the world, others have never left the state of Colorado. If you plan to find a guide that can take you to the next level, ask the right questions and be realistic with your expectations. If you just want to have fun, let them know that as well.

A good piece of advice is to not “guide the guide.” In other words, they probably know a piece of water or a particular hatch that would be perfect for you versus where you think you should go. I hope you find a guide you mesh with this year, and that it’s a love match!

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

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