Guides and Outfitters
If you plan to book a fishing trip with a guide, guide service or outfitter, it is important to know if they are trained, licensed, insured, etc. In many states, (Idaho and Montana are examples), guides must work under a licensed outfitter. There are many requirements and licensing for both guide and outfitter. There are requirements for first aid training, liability insurance, competency in boat handling, etc. In other states (Missouri is one), there are no licensing requirements so any person can be a fishing guide...evidently all you need to do is say "I am a fishing guide".
I have a good friend that is an outfitter in Idaho. He spends many thousands of dollars every year in licensing fees for the business and for the guides that work for him. There are licensing fees, boat related fees, usage fees (state and federal) and costs of required liability insurance. In addition, there are dozens of regulations about the number of boats/guides you can have on a section of many rivers. Being an outfitter carries a great deal of responsibility.
Many years ago, a good friend and I decided to go bonefishing in the Bahamas. Neither of us had ever been there before and we booked the trip through an agent in Fort Lauderdale. As I do not want to write an entire book about how a trip can go wrong, I will simply say that when you have to bail the boat while your buddy fishes from the bow and you miss 2-3 hours of prime fishing time several days due to the guide not having gas for the boat, you are not having a great trip...
Having spent a lot of money on fishing guides over the years, I can offer the following in the way of advice:
1. Whenever possible, talk to someone who has hired the guide/outfitter in the past. As I stated above, in some states, there are no rules, regulations or qualifications for guides. If you cannot get a good recommendation, try to actually talk to the guide or outfitter and ask for a reference or two. Any good guide/outfitter will be pleased to provide them. If they cannot, be aware...
2. In all cases, you should always talk or otherwise communicate with the guide/outfitter and discuss both your expectations for the trip and any expectations that the guide or outfitter may have of you. When expectations are met, everyone has a better experience. For instance...
A. What you would prefer to fish for assuming the destination has multiple species available.
B. Make sure the guide understands that you are a fly fisherman. I have had the unfortunate experience of hiring guides that were not well versed on how best to handle even the most basic things such as positioning a boat for the optimal casting position or even knowing which fly patterns to use. Do not assume a guide is a fly fisherman.
C. Are things such as lunch and drinks provided?
D. Are there any recommended clothing or other items such as bug repellant, rain gear, etc.?
E. Ask what weight rods are suggested, do I need a sinking line(s), will the guide have flies if needed?
F. Finally, do you or a fishing partner want or expect the guide to provide instructional help in the way of casting or any other type skill such as reading the water, etc.
When you spend your money for a guide, you should expect a good experience, a safe experience. Be an educated consumer!