Guides: Gatekeepers or Profiteers?

Okay, that’s a loaded headline, and I put it there to grab attention (not my first online “rodeo”).  But I think it cuts to an important issue on the minds of many TU members, as well as would-be TU members.  That is, “What role does the fishing guide play in ‘fostering’ the future of this sport?”

Those of you who know me and have read what I’ve written on this topic know where I stand.  For those of you who do not, I’ll be perfectly blunt:  I think that the world of fly fishing, and fishing for trout, rests in the hands of guides. 

I think the sun rises and sets on the fly fishing world where guides collectively say it does.  I’m a part-time guide myself, and all the best substance I have ever gleaned that makes its way into the stories I write about trout fishing inevitably comes through guides. 

When all is said and done, it’s the guide who often dictates the quality of the experience, and influences whether or not that “dabbler” client becomes a lifelong aficianado of trout fishing, or a one-shot wonder.  Guides are gatekeepers.  They are stewards of their rivers.  They are the innovators, and the teachers.  And a good guide is, for fly fishing and trout conservation, worth his or her weight in gold.

But those who fall short of this ideal… those who merely scoop fish with a net, maybe take pictures, and interject commentary no more than “nice fish, dude,” are not what this sport needs.  Dare I say, the “profiteer” guide is more a detrement to this sport than an asset.

In my book, a guide’s ultimate purpose is to make another angler smarter.  If you go out with a guide and learn 10 great lessons, but catch few fish, that’s a fantastic day.  If, on the other hand, you go out and land 30 trout, but leave that river with no more insights than what you showed up with… the guide has failed.

One of my missions with TROUT magazine is to involve great guides more–to help make you a better angler, and to inspire guides with the core goal of protecting and preserving the resources that make great trout fishing happen.  The truly great guides already get that, in spades.

We, as anglers, should do more to help and respect guides, and in turn, guides need to understand and deliver on things that can make trout fishing even better in the future.  And TU needs to play the pivotal role in making that connection.  I can promise you now that TROUT magazine is going to do its best to make that happen.

-K. Deeter


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