If you’ve never done so, hiring a fly fishing guide in Colorado can be daunting.

Not only is it an investment in time, energy, and money, but if you don’t hire a quality guide, you can end up missing out on a fun, exciting, and skill-improving experience.

For those reasons, I’m going to share the top 5 things you should consider when hiring a guide in Colorado. 

1. Does The Guide Take An Interest In Your Goals?

Some people may say that the most obvious reason to hire a guide is to catch fish.  

That may be true for some people, but you may have other goals.  

For example, you may want to become familiar with a new location and want to reduce your learning time. A guide will show you places to fish and more importantly, not fish. 

Or, you want to learn how to fish and work on the basics of setting up a rig, casting, playing a fish, etc. 

A quality guide will take an interest in your fly-fishing goals and use that information to make the day perfect for you.

Goals can be communicated by a phone call or email where you get to know your guide, and they get to know you.  

My wife once asked me, “how do you spend all day with a stranger?” 

I told her that I hope they aren’t a stranger after about an hour because I like fishing with friends and usually someone who wants to fly fish is going to be my friend.  

So, I hope we become friends in the first hour.

2. Is The Guide Willing To Accommodate Your Learning Style and Temperament? 

Some people learn best by seeing, some by hearing, some by trying and some by some combination of all of them. 

In adult learning, it is usually some combination of showing, trying, and explaining.  

Oftentimes, guides are faced with a dilemma.  

That dilemma goes something like this: “I know how to fish. Help my (fill in the blank) (wife, partner, business associate, son, daughter, mom, etc.)  fish. I’m good.”.  Then, when the guide does do that and (fill in the blank) catches more fish than the self-ascribed expert, the expert wants to know why they aren’t catching fish. 

Well, see #1 from above, if the goal was “help (fill in the blank) catch fish”  then now we have to change our strategy and “help you both.”  But, what works for a beginner, does not always work for the “expert.”  

So, can the guide assess the situation, clearly communicate what works best for the clients, and approach everyone differently? 

On another note, some of the more passionate guides are great at getting you on fish, but if you don’t listen (or don’t want to listen) it can make for a long day. If you welcome being told what to do rather emphatically, these types of guides are really good for you.

On the other hand, if you’re the total opposite of that, then you should request a more mild-mannered, even-keeled guide.

Great guide services will listen to your needs and match the guide to your temperament.

3. Is The Guide Service Prepared And Professional?

At Fish On Colorado, all the guides are expected to follow a strict code of conduct, and our team has high expectations for your experience.  

So, you should consider the following:

  1. Does the guide service and guide respond to emails timely?
  2. Are waivers and forms all online and digital?
  3. Is there a real phone number for someone to call?

Many guides are on the water all day without cell coverage, and frankly, you don’t want them taking calls while wading or floating with you.  So, timely responses to calls and emails are usually about 24 hours. 

Some guide services will hire anyone who wants to be a “guide”.   

They cater to high volume needs and are more concerned about volume than quality.  

These guide services usually service a tourist area, and the goal is to get as many people on the water as possible. 

The quality of the guide can vary, so you want to make sure that whoever speaks with you thinks about your goals, aligns your learning style with the type of guide you want, and connects you to the right guide.  

Other things you should ask the guide service about:

Are they prepared to help you in an emergency?

Do they carry first aid kits? (First Aid Training is required by the state) – Not just a “boo boo” kit but a true outfitter’s first aid kit? 

Do they carry emergency beacons like a Garmin InReach etc. or is there known cell coverage in the area? 

4. Is The Guide A Cheapskate?

Guides will typically provide flies, leader, tippet, and other gear for use by the client.  

From a gear standpoint, you want to make sure that the gear is well-maintained and works.  

You don’t want waders that leak, fly rods with missing pieces, and a look of general dysfunction with the gear.

For flies, leaders, split shot, strike indicators, and leaders I promise you that you will tangle at least once during the day, break off flies, or simply lose the entire setup for some reason.  These things happen.  We expect you to lose a few flies, maybe a strike indicator or two, and certainly, we will untangle you many, many, many times.  

What you don’t want is a guide that makes you feel bad about it. 

We were checking out a potential guide for FishonColorado, and I was the “client.”  I think I got tangled, and I lost a few flies, and I could tell that my “guide” wasn’t happy about it.  

In fact, he was telling me how much flies cost him and generally how much I was costing him.  Needless to say, he’s not a guide with us. 

Gear is expensive for the guide.  They often must purchase everything themselves, so it is fair that they want you to take care of what you are borrowing. 

So, please do your best not to break anything.  

But if you are fly fishing, you will lose flies, leaders, tippet, split shot, and strike indicators and you will get tangled here and there.  Your guide should handle it and take care of it with a good attitude and a friendly demeanor.  

At the end of the day, if YOU feel bad about how many tangles you had and flies you lost, but your guide was patient and cool about it, reflect your gratitude in your tip. 

5. Will The Guide Do The Hard Work To Help You Catch Fish?

Most guides know multiple ways to catch fish.  

For example, they may start you off with one technique, like nymphing, then see a hatch occurring and, thus, an opportunity to fish some dries.   

Will the guide change your rig or have another rod with a dry fly set up for you to use?  

Will they do the work necessary to change from one technique to another if conditions change or if you ask?  

For example, streamer fishing is very new to many people, and some people want to learn to streamer fish.  The setup is different, and your guide should be happy to show you another technique.

Your guide should have no qualms about completely changing over your rig or swapping out flies.  

If you aren’t catching fish, are they changing depths, flies, and approaches to position you best for catching a fish?  

I have been with guides that set up one time in the morning, then refuse to change your rig all day (unless you snag or break off). 

If you are catching fish, it makes sense not to change, but if you aren’t, is the guide doing the work to make the adjustments necessary to catch fish?  

Sometimes during a dry fly hatch, if my fly is rejected, I’ll keep changing to see if  I can catch the fish.  I may switch every 10 casts until I have exhausted all my ideas.  You have to be willing to do that.

Final Thoughts On Hiring A Fly Fishing Guide In Colorado

If I were to sum up what you should look for in a guide, it would be this:  find a guide service that takes an interest in your goals, matches you with the best guide for your learning style, is professional in their approach, and is ready to work hard to help you achieve your goals.

If you’re ready to hire a fly fishing guide in Colorado, be sure to reach out to us and book a trip. All of our guides at Fish On Colorado are eager to help you catch more fish, improve your angling skills, and experience a great day on the water.


Written By: Dave Chao, professional fly fishing guide, Fish On Colorado