“I said, mend your line!”
There was no mistaking the intended correction in my guide’s rather loud exclamation. He had indeed told me to mend my line. In fact, he had given me that direction several times that morning. But evidently I wasn’t making the correction he needed me to make in my fly line’s drift and was letting me know it.
Some may have found his gruff manner a little offensive, but I was new to fly-fishing from a drift boat on a large river and willing to learn.
He was the one who knew the stretch of the Missouri River that we were fishing. He was on it with clients every day. And he was the one working the oars against the pull of the river’s current, doing his best to provide me and my partner the best fishing experience possible. Several times during the day he even jumped out of the boat and pushed it back upriver so we could fish a particular stretch a second time.
“I am mending my line,” I responded. “Show me what you need me to do!”
Leaving his rowing position in the boat, the guide took my fishing rod and surprised me by making a wide sweeping motion that moved my fly as far as 8 to 10 feet across the water.
“You have a 9-foot lever in your hand,” he said. “I want you to use it to move that fly. By moving that fly 10 feet, you get another 100 feet of drift in that hole.”
When we left the ramp that morning, I told the guide I was new to this type of fishing and willing to learn. Moreover, I told him not to be afraid to correct or coach me. And he wasn’t.
Mending that fly, or moving it upstream 10 feet or so, made our fishing efforts more effective. But it also reduced wear and tear on the guide.
Under his tutelage, my day began with a 20-inch brown trout, ended with one that measured 16 inches and included several nice rainbows in between. I also received hours of training from a guide who works on one of the West’s premier fly-fishing rivers. It was like going to fly-fishing school.
Through the years, however, I have discovered that much of what the guide taught me that day on the Missouri also applies to the other types of fishing on other waters. For instance, every cast has the potential to catch a fish — so long as it lands in the water — and it’s OK to move your bait out of its normal pattern.
The next question was, “How much do I tip this guy?” After all, he had provided me with a quality fishing experience and gave my fishing database a boost. I wanted to properly show my appreciation but also wanted to have enough money to pay for my trip home.
We are used to tipping servers, skycaps, taxi drivers and others who work in the service industry, but what about guides? In the coming months, many anglers and hunters are going to ask themselves the same question.
Keep in mind your guide has been working on the water or in the field all day and doing so in your behalf. He’s been rowing your drift boat, changing your baits or flies, cutting firewood, tending the riding stock, hiking the hills and helping you get where you need to go.
Something else to keep in mind is your location. The economy in more affluent locations will demand a larger tip than might be appropriate in others. According to Orvis.com, a good place to start is 10 percent, but if you are quite happy with your guide, you might want to consider 20 percent.
The bottom line is the amount you tip depends on how satisfied you are with your guide. And don’t forget the others in camp who cater to your needs.
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the department. Any opinions are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at email@example.com.