I have dreaded writing this out for a while. Tipping your fishing guide keeps coming up in the past 6 months. I assume this is because of a post I made on Washington Fly Fishing. Here is MY as non bias as possible opinion.
Should you be tipping your fishing guide? Well, of coarse this is a complicated answer; Do you tip your waitress when he/she does a great job? Did your guide work his butt off for you. Do you feel like your guide showed you a great time? Why did the subject even come up?
Look, I will be the first to admit, being a professional fishing guide is the best job in the world! I love every second I spend on the water with you guys. We catch awesome fish and we tell dirty jokes. We often share life stories, and we have a kick ass time every day! What more could I ask for? Being the best fishing guide possible has been my life’s ambition for as long as I can remember. Hiring guides is a huge bonus for me. Those two things give me a unique insight on the subject.
First, most of us were not around when the tradition of tipping your guides started. I have looked on dozens of websites in preparation for writing this, and could not find how the tradition got started. Research did show that most fishing guides when not tipped, feel they did something to offend their clients. I can relate to that both an independent guide and a guide who has worked out of a few different lodges and shops.
Tipping your fishing guide should feel good at the end of the day. If it does not, I personally would prefer you did not do it. I personally do not factor my tips into my budget for the week, I look at it like a bonus. I pride myself on my clients coming back to fish with me every year. Tips are often a way to cover overhead like fuel, lunch, and services for the boat. If I come in under budget for the week, that is a huge bonus for us, if not that is okay. I would say that 95% of clients do tip, and of the 3% that do not, they rebook on the day of the trip.
Here is how tipping your fishing guide typically goes; There are three different types of clients when it comes to tipping. One who talks about the tip from the first step onto the boat, the other than hands you cash, and then the credit card tipper. As a guide, we appreciate them all. The first however makes all fishing guides feel awkward. We are not working for that tip! Save it for the end of the day. The next guy pays his bill, hands you $50-$100 and tells you “Thank you, I hope to do it again.” This is how all guides like to leave it. The last is the Credit Card tip. This is the main way people pay. If this is how you tip, make sure you tell your guide before you pay your bill. The last two ways are the best ways to handle this.
This is the biggest thing with tips. The best guides in the world can not avoid this. The dreaded skunk day. Fortunately our fishery here in Puget Sound/Hood Canal does not have many of these… But we have had it, and as a fishing guide, it is the worst. I would honestly rather be in the clients shoes than in the guides spot on those days, I remember the first time ever, I felt sick, sad, depressed, and rethought my entire life’s ambition. It is the worst feeling you can possibly be in, and it is way worse to be the guide than the client. I’ve been skunked on $5,000 tarpon trips, $500 trout trips, and yes, here in Hood Canal it’s happened. The fish sometimes win, and as long as your guide puts in the effort, this should not reflect on the guide. It just happens.
Look, tipping your guide should feel good, or don’t do it. Just know that it is a tradition, and if you are not going to, let the guide know how you felt about the day. Give a review on their social media page, book another date, and all around be grateful. Most fishing guides are living their dream on the water, and made serious sacrifices to do their dream job, just knowing their clients appreciate their hard work means a lot.
For The Guide:
Be honest, this is a career famous for lazy, late, unprofessional people. If you are any of the three, you do not deserve your clients bonus at the end of the day. A tip is not required or even expected, it is a act of appreciation for your extra effort.
Here are a few things you can do for your fishing guide as a client:
- Show up on time! You are only doing yourself wrong by not showing up on time. Weather, Tide, and daylight all factor into the fishing you are about to go on.
- Be patient with yourself and your guide. They will judge your skill level as the day gets going and adjust accordingly.
- Be polite. Don’t trash their boat and don’t get trashed on their boat!
- Write reviews: These matter more and more to fishing guides these days. Word of mouth is still the best way for a guide to get known!
- Tell people: Tell your friends, neighbors, coworkers, I know alot of guide who are starting out and could use the extra help. If you notice the guide is fishing one particular company, let that company know what a great time they had with them.
- DINNER AND A DRINK IS FOR DATES, NOT FISHING GUIDES. Obviously there are exceptions to all rules. However, by the time they get their boat ready, put it in the water, fish, pulled out, washed down, and ready it for the morning. Thats 10-12 hours. I rarely have a cocktail with my clients anymore, not because I don’t love my clients, but because my kids wont remember my name if I do!