Questions You Should Be Asking Your Fly Guide

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.

Listen To Your Guide To Catch More Fish
If you pay more attention to the things your fly fishing guide says you’ll catch more fish.

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.

Don't Just Go Through The Motion, Start Asking Questions
The more questions you ask an expert the more your skill will increase.

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.

What Should You Ask Your Fly Fishing Guide
There are a few questions to ask your fly guide the next time you head out with one.

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.

A Fly Fishing Guide Releases A Trophy
Is there anything you’ve ever wondered about fly fishing? Ask a guide.


Want to get more out of your fly fishing adventures? Get the best flies and gear sent right to your door and always be ready to hit the water by signing up for Postfly now. 


12 thoughts on “Questions You Should Be Asking Your Fly Guide

  1. Montana guide January 3, 2017 / 9:36 pm

    Guides usually don’t mind lots of questions. Giving the answers to questions helps people become better anglers.

  2. Sauce January 4, 2017 / 8:10 pm

    And please, don’t ask “how deep is the river right here”?

  3. Mike January 13, 2017 / 6:01 pm

    Nice post! As a guide on many Colorado rivers, it’s cool to get questions on the variation of techniques among the different waters. Questions are really a dialogue, if I get a question I don’t know the answer to I’ll hit up some other guides back at the shop. Our philosophy is, we’re always learning and inquisitive clients keep us all searching. It’s part of the great journey of fly fishing.

  4. Steve holmes February 9, 2017 / 4:08 pm

    How about
    “Are you currently stoned? Do you plan to be during any portion of my trip?”

    “Are you in a big hurry to be somewhere this evening?”

    “How close to the takeout do you live?”

    These questions honestly answered will give you a far better indication of the day you’re about to have than.
    Like every other profession on the planet, you’ve got good ones and lazy ones.
    Trial and error or ask somebody who the good ones are is #1!
    We’ve put in the time, sorted them out and have gone back to the same great guys for a decade!

  5. Big Larry March 17, 2017 / 1:31 pm

    If you have to ask the “guide” what flies they are tying on and how/where to fish them, you haven’t hired much of a guide.

  6. Dave Anderson April 6, 2017 / 3:17 pm

    I am planning a trip for my sons and their cousins this summer to go fly fishing and have some bonding time. Because I am the only one going on the trip that has any fishing knowledge I thought that it would be a good idea to hire a fly fishing guide to help them. I agree that all of the questions that you posed would be good ones to ask my guide and I will make sure that I do so to become a better fisher.

  7. Todd Stauffer May 29, 2018 / 3:19 pm

    I like how you said that you should ask your fishing guide what kind of a fly you are using so you can keep it above or below the water. My sons and I love to go fishing but we have never gone with a guide before. We’ll have to look into hiring one so we can have a learning experience.

  8. Shirley Carrillo June 5, 2019 / 4:50 am

    01. This article reminds me of my childhood. In my childhood when I went to my grandfather’s home in summer vacations. I enjoyed fishing on the canal with my village friends. That time we made the fishing rod by rattan.
    Yesterday when I was browsing my pc I saw this article and read it. It’s an awesome article where I know the actual thing with the details of the fly.

    Thanks for this informative article.

  9. Fly fishing February 24, 2020 / 5:34 am

    Getting into tying flies but not sure where to start, getting a kit can be the way to go. There are many kits out there on the market and can be very helpful in starting your journey into fly tying. I personally bought the cheapest kit on the market when I first started. There was only a couple back then and it helped me get into tying at a relatively low cost.

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