Postfly ambassador and fly fishing guide Stephanie Winter grew up spending her summers in southwestern Montana. She now guides for the Big Hole Lodge in Montana during the summer and teaches snowboarding in Killington, VT in the winter. Check out her instagram @stephanierwinter or the lodge @bigholelodge and read her suggestions on getting more from your fly guide below:
For those of you that have used a guide in the past, you may know they are a wealth of knowledge about fly fishing techniques and local fishing areas. You may even get an unsolicited story or twelve about any number of subjects. Even if you have used a guide, you may have not gleaned the most information you can about fishing in the area and general fishing tips.
Guides should be your go to resource when learning how to fish a new body of water or even learning how to fish your favorite hole better. Here are some questions that you should be asking your guide every time you go fishing.
Question 1: What flies are we using?
This might seem like an obvious question, but surprisingly, many of my clients don’t ever ask which flies I’m tying on for them. Asking which fly your guide ties on is important not only because you need to know if the fly should be floating on top of the water (dry), floating just under the water (wet), or at the bottom (nymph/streamer); but also, when you’re fishing this water by yourself, you want to know which flies to put on. And don’t just ask for the name of the fly, many of which can have multiple names and nicknames, actually ask to see the fly itself or even take a picture of it if it’s a really dynamite pattern.
Question 2: What time of day is best on this body of water?
Frequently, when you’re fishing with a guide, you’ll hit either the morning hatch or the evening hatch, but not both. The morning hatch can be as early as 5am and the evening hatch as late as 10pm. There’s no way you can possibly squeeze that 17 hours into one guided trip.
Asking your guide when the best time to fish is will allow you to come back on your own time and fish that hatch yourself. (guide tip: a lot of guides will go night fishing, chucking huge streamers or mouse patterns from the bank from about 11pm to 2am. Most guides won’t be allowed to take clients that time of night due to safety and liability, but if you ask they should give you some tips on how to fish for the big boys after dark)
Question 3: How should I fish this piece of water?
While you may know how to fish with dries, nymphs and streamers proficiently, you might not know the specific techniques the guides use to be more successful on the waters they guide on.
Maybe you need to skate your caddis across the water, maybe slowly retrieve your nymph to mimic an emerger, maybe stand upstream from this eddy and cast into it. Each body of water has its quirks and it’s your guide’s job to know how to use them to give you an advantage.
Question 4: How do I access this water?
This is probably the most important question, because if you can’t access it, you can’t fish it. Maybe it’s only accessible by boat, or the guide or fly shop has a special permit to access the land you’re fishing on. If you’re fishing in a spot where you’re unfamiliar with the laws and regulations, ask the guide to explain them to you.
Also, ask your guide where the public access points are and how to get to some holes on your own. While they may not give up all their personal favorites, they’ll give you a jumping off point to start from.
Question 5: Literally any other question you can think of
It’s our job as guides to answer your questions and explain what we’re doing and why. Take advantage of your time with your guide to get even the most basic or ridiculous questions answered.
If you think your question is silly or stupid, we’ve heard worse so ask it anyway. And remember, when you’re out with even the most experienced guide, we all had to start somewhere.
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