Fishing guide

Why and how much to tip your fishing guide | Outbreak Magazine


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What’s the biggest misconception about the life of a fishing guide? This is a question that I have been asked, and that I have heard asked, countless times. If I had to provide an answer, it would be easy. That it’s as easy and stress-free as just taking someone out fishing. Let the day begin and end at the boat launch.

Behind the sail of a full day guided excursion there are countless hours of fishing knowledge and local knowledge; years of locating fish and studying their behavior and patterns to determine how to get a hook to eat a hook; hours spent raising flies, building groundbaits and maintaining equipment; maintenance of vehicles and boats; time spent preparing food for lunches; driving time; hours spent going up to a desk making travel and reservation suggestions; keep insurance, advertising and other business operational mechanisms tuned; water instruction; and the immeasurable multitude of decisions that must be made well to keep anglers and have the most enjoyable experience possible. It is, after all, the service sector.

And because it’s the service industry, tipping is usual. However, there is still a lot of confusion among fishermen as to how, when and why guides should be tipped. These days, it’s generally accepted that an appropriate tip is around 20% of the cost of your trip. For a full day float (with one or two anglers in the boat), this usually comes out to around $ 100. For offshore or more expensive charters it may be more, while for a day of walking and walking on a small trout stream it may be a little less.

But, instead of leaving you with my one-sided perspective, I recruited input from a diverse assemblage of some of the country’s most respected guides and asked them to share their thoughts on why, when, and how much you should give. tip your fishing guide.


Brian Pitser — The Fisherman of the North

“One of my most memorable tips dates back to the start of my guide career. I took a dad and son fishing and could tell right away that they had really saved up for the trip, and we had a spectacular time. We made some great memories to share between these two, and at the end of the day the seller asked if he would like to tip for the guide service. It caught them completely off guard, and it was seemingly unforeseen and probably out of their budget. The guy put his hand in his pocket and gave me $ 17 for a full day trip. He shook my hand and thanked me with a sincere smile, and assured me that they had had a wonderful day and that it was an experience they will both remember forever. I sincerely thanked him for the tip, and with a lump in my throat, I slipped his hard-earned money into my pocket. I’m pretty sure it was their money for gas or food for the ride home. To this day it is still one of the most generous tips I have ever received.

As a general rule, your tip for a fishing guide should be based on the total experience of the trip. There are days when the fish just keep biting and days when you work as hard as you can and catch nothing for the effort. The amount of the bonus should be based on how well the guide controls all variables, not the number of fish caught. I believe most guides worth their salt would agree. As a guide, I have the privilege of sharing very special moments with clients. My clients work hard to make money and I work hard to give them the best overall experience in return. A typical guide tip for our outfitting service is 15-20%. This, more or less, has become a standard in the industry. Regardless of the tip amount, the effort is the same on my part, and I’m incredibly grateful for any tip on a day tour.

Patrick Fulkrod — South Holston River Company

“Whenever I travel to fish, I hire guides. I think my expectations of the guide may be higher than most. However, being a guide myself, I always tip. I’m not saying a tip is mandatory, but it’s an easy way to recognize a job well done. I have the same philosophy with the waitress in the restaurant and the guy who drives the Uber. The tip amount can greatly contribute to customer satisfaction. I think the guide must feel like he earned the tip. When a guest asks me about tip protocol, my motto is, “A tip is never expected, but always appreciated.” The guides are full of cheesy one-liners, so there’s one more to add to the list.

Brian Porter — Fly Fishing in the Distance

“Having worked in a number of bars and restaurants over the years, I try to watch tips as you wouldn’t expect, but always appreciated. Having said that, I need pretty poor service to tip less than 20% on food or drink.

Guided fishing trips are a little different, however, and due to the unpredictable nature of the sport, it can be easy for people to assess the trip, and therefore the tip, based on the “success” of the day. . Most people who hire a guide hope to have a great day capturing, and therefore often a good tip is given when this happens. What many of them may not realize, however, is that the guide’s job is much more difficult when conditions are less than ideal. This is when you really earn your tips. Succeeding on a tough day usually means having to dig deep and work hard to overcome high water, bad weather, uncooperative fish, or one of the myriad other factors that make the game of fishing what it is. For me, being able to keep clients engaged, have fun and learn when the fishing is slow is a crucial skill set for a fishing guide. Getting some really great tips for working your ass on a tough day is always a great feeling. Any guide worth hiring will want their clients to catch as much, if not more, than clients.

Early in my guiding career I had a really tough Steelhead trip where my guy got blanked and I felt awful about it. When I got home, I realized he had left me the biggest tip I had ever received at that time, and I was pretty sure he had counted wrong. Already disappointed with the day, I became very worried that I took too much money from this guy, so after stressing about it for about an hour, I decided to call him and make sure. What started out as an incredibly awkward phone call ended with him telling me that he really enjoyed the day, learned a lot, and that I earned the tip. Needless to say, I went from disappointed to delighted in less than a minute, and on top of a nice tip, this gentleman left me a lesson I’ll never forget.

It’s easy for a guide to be the hero when the fishing is easy, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with leaving a great tip on these days to show that you enjoyed it. No one wants to fight high winds, high water or other harsh conditions, but it is the exact situations that make guiding a skilled labor occupation, as well as a service worthy of gratification.

Brian Shumaker — Susquehanna River Guides

“You should never expect a tip, nor dictate the quality of service provided by the guide during a trip. I have clients who have not tipped or very little, but have been fishing with me for years and they are great clients, and I have clients who tip beyond that. I think it really depends on the background of the customers, as far as or how much they tip.

The reason for tips to guides: you may have bad weather, fish don’t want to cooperate etc but if the guide is doing all they can to provide a great experience then yes I think they deserve a tip. If you catch an exceptional fish or fish, learn something new, or come out of it a better angler (improve your casting or technique), it’s worth tipping.

Jason Shepard — Fly Times Charters

“I never mention tips, but I appreciate them. Rental fees cover the trip – wear and tear on the boat, gasoline, equipment (your rods, reels and flies), knowledge, license, the convenience of fishing in a new area, and having someone stand on a boat and push or you row all day.

The tips, in my opinion, relate to the performance of the guide. Was he on time? Was he professional? Did you catch any fish or did they at least put fish on you for shooting opportunities? Did you learn anything new that day?

I get the feeling that people who bait, switch to fly fishing, and go on trips often don’t understand how more important our side of the sport is. It’s a lot harder than sitting in a hole for hours, dropping bait, waiting for a bite, and then coming home. We push or row boats, fight currents or tides, hunt and identify fish, and put the customer there to get their shot.

Now, as to the amount of a tip, it’s in the air. Most of the time, for a good trip, it will be $ 100. It’s kind of the norm. Tarpon trips can be more numerous with several connections. There are days when it’s $ 0 to $ 50, even though they’ve caught multiple fish with a ton of work from you. However, there are days when everything does not work well: no fish, bad weather, bad area, etc. If I haven’t done my job or performed as a professional guide, I decline the tip. That said, it’s important not to punish the guide with no tips or bad reviews for not catching fish when he’s been putting on you all day. It is our job to give you the opportunity to catch the species you are hunting.

The bottom line is this: If you enjoyed your day and had opportunities to fish, whether you caught something or not, your guide should probably be rewarded for a job well done.


Consider these perspectives the next time you plan to take a guided trip, anywhere. Guiding fishing trips is no easy task, and chances are, if you hire a guide, you will appreciate their time and energy. It’s important to realize that at the end of the day you are supporting a person just like you are when spending money with any other small business. So if you enjoy the experience you have – or even dislike it, but understand that the negatives were beyond anyone’s control – advice to support the guide as an individual, to keep her lights on and keep them in business and on the water for the next time.

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