I have been wanting to write about fly fishing guides (particularly in Arkansas) for many years. We at The Ozark Angler are very blessed to employ the best guides the state has to offer. You do not stay in business for 25 years without doing things the right way. Have we made mistakes in the past? HECK YES. We have learned and have moved forward. Many many current guides in and around Arkansas learned through us and have either gone on their own or have gone to other companies. It happens. I have lost some great guides but I wish them nothing but the best. I obviously have not fished with every guide in the world but I have fished with over 60-70 over my years fly fishing. I have a check list of things I would like to share that every ETHICAL and RESPECTED guide should follow. In many states there are tests, boating safety etc for guides to pass before becoming a professional guide. A problem in the state of Arkansas as well as places around the world is here to be a guide you simply pay $25 and boom you are a guide.
Ok enough rambling here is my list of characteristics a good, responsible ethical guide should follow.
1) A guide should be a teacher. On every trip even the most experienced fly fisherman wants to learn something or better their art on a trip they are paying for. If it is an instructional trip for a new angler they should be given knowledge and the chance to be successful on their next trip with or without a guide. Guides should share fly assortments and explain why certain flies are working during this time of year. They should also share what they prefer depths if nymphing, why certain streamers are working. Hatches if any should be shared too. You are paying for their expertise. A good guide will not hide their "secret spots" from you. A good company wants you to have the trip of a lifetime and come back and see us as often as possible.
2) A guide should be completely honest with you!!!! That's a very novel idea isn't it. I have witnessed companies in Arkansas putting their clients in very dangerous positions. When water conditions are not safe I make sure the clients under stand and most of the time we re schedule our trips. We cannot control weather, flooding, unsafe water conditions. I continually shake my head at respected companies who put their clients in unsafe water conditions. First fishing is most likely going to be very poor. Second the customer will think this is how are river always fishes and will never return. Finally, and most importantly, your fun and safety are our highest concern. Our guides will never do this!!!! I personally make sure of it!!! Please understand some "guides" only income is from guiding and they are doing this to pay the rent.
(On a side note if the fishing has been tough they should tell you before the trip) I've had several instances where "guides" say about half way through the trip yeah fishing has been really bad lately. Wish I would have known that before hand. Instead of doing a full day trip I would have saved money and part of my day and choosing a half day trip.
3) I will say that most "guides" in Arkansas and around the world are not insured. It makes me sick to my stomach. Go with a reputable company that cares about your safety. I don't know what percent do not have insurance. It would be a frightening statistic!!!! Ask the service. Have them prove it. Insurance for guiding is not cheap. Most will not have it. I think closer to 90% of guides in Arkansas do not have it if not more. Guide insurance is several thousands of dollars and most cannot afford that.
4) Guides should not fish!!!! The definition of a guide: A fishing guide that has taken it upon him or herself to cater to the
people who enjoy fly fishing should be an expert in this very
complicated trade. They have plenty of time to fish on their own time. What usually happens is they catch a fish and show you how easy it is and make you feel bad. It has happened to me and friends I have been with!!!! It's very tacky of them.
5) An expert guide should provide everything for your trip!!!! Guides, especially salt water guides ask you to provide your lunch and sometimes theirs too. Shake my head. I have paid $800 before to a guide and he asked me to buy his lunch!!!!! UM NO!!! If you are paying good money for their service you should be catered to. Not the other way around.
This can go on and on. I will tell you one thing. Even if you do not pick to go on a trip with The Ozark Angler I know or know of most guides in this state. I know guides around the world I have fished with too. If you want an honest opinion of someone I have fished with or know about I will give it to you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be truthful. I am so glad I wrote this!!!! Most independent guides will be angry if they read this but every word is true!!!!
Tight lines and best fishes.