I was a guide for a number of years. I no longer am one, so it is without fear of financial and business repercussions that I write this. Far too many fly fishing clients are shitty tippers. If you extrapolate that out to the numbers of people that eat at restaurants, the shitty tipper numbers get mind-boggling. In order to be a good guide (we’ll leave the not-so-good guides out of this conversation…tip those douches whatever the hell you want), you have to have a rather extensive knowledge on many subjects; fish, bugs, water hydrology, first aid, survival, boats, backcountry navigation, casting, cooking and last but not least a cornucopia of the trivial and mundane so that pleasant conversation can be easily faked all day, if necessary. All an accountant needs to know is how to add and subtract. Yet, an accountant often makes five to 10 times as much as a fly fishing guide. Don’t be fooled. Guides are poor — one-bad-season-away-from-homeless poor. “Long days doing what you love is its own reward,” they say. I say bullshit. Long days loving what you do and still being able to pay your heating bill in the winter is a way better reward.
The average guide works an 11-12-hour day when it’s all said and done. You, as the client, are only there for maybe eight hours of it. From tying flies the night before to shopping for lunch the morning of, there is no downtime during the season, and in the South, the season is a long one. The economics of your trip for the average guide is even more depressing. Out of the 400 bucks you pay for a trip, the shop usually takes a quarter or more off the top. The shuttle driver takes his 20 bucks, and your lunch costs another $20. The guide’s truck will chew another $40-50 dollars worth of gas on an average day. Now you’re talking $200 profit, but oh, you lost 10 flies on your trip and chewed up a spool of tippet and a couple of leaders while you were flailing about. As you can see, the economics of being a full-time guide is about as prosperous as being the Congo…they’re poor. On an hourly basis, your guide is probably making less than the kid at the strip mall dressed up as Little Caesar, twirling a sign. Sad, right? Sally Struthers sad.
There have been plenty of articles and online information on how to tip a guide. Most often the author compares tipping a guide to tipping waitstaff; 10-20% based on service. I am going to simplify this for everyone out there since I failed percentages in third grade. One hundred dollars a day for a good day, that’s it. Anything less for a good day on the water, and you might as well hock a big loogie on it before you give it to him…and that’s just rude.