How to Book a Guide

Here at home we call this season a ‘tweener.  Our migratory fish have been gone for a few months.  And like most parts of the US, we’ve had tremendously erratic temperatures; there is enough ice on the ponds and lakes that keep us from spin or fly fishing, but it’s too thin for ice fishing.  Up here we have only two fishing options: wait for the weather to get warmer or colder or take our show on the road.

If I go on a short trip to an unfamiliar area I’ll often book a guide.  And to get insight into the question of ‘how to book a guide’ I reached out to my friend Vaughn Cochran from Black Fly Outfitters in Jacksonville, Florida.  Since Vaughn is in a destination fishery, he receives a tremendous number of such inquiries on a daily basis.  Here’s what he had to say.

Call your local fly or fishing shop for referrals.  Shops deal with so many guides that they have a short list of the good ones. Their information is invaluable and since their reputations are at stake they are a great resource for travelling fishermen.

Determine if they do the kind of fishing you like or want to do.  For instance, if you’re looking to sight fish with fly tackle for tailing redfish then you probably want a fly fishing specialist.  If you want to fish live shrimp for permit then you’ll want a bait fishing guide.  It’s critical to match the type of fishing you want to do with the best guide who offers it.

What kind of gear do they have on board?  Does the guide have current models made by a top-notch company?  If not, it can be frustrating to customers who lose fishing time to gear-related issues.  Check to see if the guide is sponsored by any companies for that is a sure sign that they are using quality gear.

Talk with them on the phone, and ask yourself one question: would I enjoy having dinner with this person? There is a relationship between a guide and a client, and they’ll be more successful and have more fun if their attitudes are on the same page.  Everyone has a great time during a hot bite but the rub can come in when the action is slow.

Determine any nuances ahead of time.  Some guides don’t like customers wearing footwear with black soles.  As a former guide I can appreciate that one ‘cause it’d take me an hour after each trip to scrub off the marks caused by the shoes.  Get any of those issues sorted out ahead of time and your trip will come off great.”

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Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at