Despite all the content put out over the years, and all the communications between fly anglers on this topic, there still seems to be quite a bit of mystery still out there when it comes to tipping fly fishing guides.
I get many clients that tip above and beyond what’s expected of them. Other times, I’m literally crawling back to my truck with every ounce of energy zapped from instructing and putting my clients on fish, and at the end of the day I’m blessed with a cold empty handshake. Sometimes, there seems to be no reasoning at all with gratuity, most clients seem to get it, but no matter what, there’s always going to be those few that feel gratuity isn’t necessary or are uneducated that it’s customary. All I truly care about is that gratuity is determined and provided to the guide based on customer service and professionalism, and that with any service-oriented job, regardless of the industry, gratuity should be on the radar.
A few weeks ago, one of our loyal Gink & Gasoline followers sent us an email that voiced a few concerns about a fly fishing guide they hired on a recent float trip. Apparently, at the end of the day the follower and his partner were in disagreement about the amount of guide gratuity they should leave. Below is the email and question that was sent to us:
“I would like to get your thoughts on tipping guides. I just came back from a trip to Montana and mentioning no names, I spent a week with a very well-known guide. The trip went well and we caught a lot of fish but his equipment sucked. His Driftboat was a small skiff that he did not want you standing up in to cast, and his Skadden style raft frames front seat came off three times, almost pitching my buddy into the river. Any thoughts on amounts or percentages for tipping would be greatly appreciated.”
Here’s my opinion on what you told me, but keep in mind I was not there and did not see the water conditions or his boat equipment.
I’d say your guide passed with flying colors on putting you on fish and that should be a big positive. Depending on your skill level your guide probably had to work extra hard to keep you consistently hooked up with fish. On the other hand, it does sound like he failed by showing up with one of his boat seats unsafe and not in proper working condition. That being said, if the equipment failure had just happened, there’s a good chance he might not have had ample time to run into town to get the parts to fix it before your trip. Guiding over the years, I’ve had my fair share of equipment break downs on the road to meet my clients. It actually happens quite often if you drive bumpy gravel roads like I do. Furthermore, many of those Montana guides literally book 30 days or more in a row, which leaves them in situations where their gear may not be at 100%. If it was an old break down and he had time to fix it, it is completely his fault and unacceptable. If it just happened sometimes you have to cut guides some slack, especially if they’re putting you on fish and working hard. If your buddy had added difficulty fishing during the day because of the seat, and the guide didn’t apologize and dictate why it was unfixed, I feel like you have authority to subtract a portion of his gratuity.
A few months ago, one of my tail-light poles on my boat trailer busted a weld on the way into town, and I was about to lose it completely. When my clients showed up, they saw me duck taping everything together so I could make it through the day. They later admitted to me, it had thrown up a red flag to them on my professionalism. Apparently, they found it really hard to believe that the equipment break down had just happened. The point of me telling you my story is that situations like this do happen. It’s important for everyone to understand, S*it almost always shows up at the worst time. We shouldn’t write someone’s professionalism off completely because of a minor set back. If you show up late to meet your guide because you hit the snooze button, does that give your guide the right to perform below his/her ability. Professionalism goes both ways. But the fact that you booked this guy for an entire week, it does look really bad that he didn’t find time to find some sort of a solution to fix the failing boat seat.
As for the guide wanting you to stay seated while fishing, this could have been for multiple reasons. I personally tell my clients to sit down when I’m guiding for several reasons, and as the Captain of the boat, I feel like I have the authority to do so. Below are some possible reasons why your guide may have been asking you to stay seated.
The first reason I tell my clients to sit down is when I’m coming up on rowing a difficult or challenging section of water. By my clients sitting, I have them safe and secure, and it also provides me a clear view downstream, for spotting obstacles. The second reason, is if we are fishing to extremely spooky fish. It’s very popular for western guides to request there clients to sit while fishing. This way they can keep a low profile and be more stealthy when approaching holes, so fish are less likely to be alerted. In some instances, this can really increase your number of takes, and it also helps to increase success for the guy in the back of the boat as well. That being said, if you saw lots of other anglers in other boats standing and catching fish, I would have to say that you’re guide may have been asking you to do something that wasn’t necessary. If I would have been there I could tell you for sure if he was out of line or not. If your buddies safety was at risk from the seat, he was totally in the wrong, because with a faulty seat, it would only make sense that it would be safer to stand and fish.
As for the tip, it sounded like he did good at some aspects of guiding and bad at others. Doesn’t sound like he deserves a top of the line tip but at the same time he shouldn’t be stiffed. $50-$100 tip for a full day with two people is the norm. If the guide did everything right and worked hard, and also tried his best to improve your skills, this is what I expect from my clients. If the guide fell below this in customer service, then I would tip below $50. If he was a complete tard and unprofessional, don’t tip him, but respectfully take the time to tell him why. I know you said you’re guide was well known and he shouldn’t need any explanation, but there are a lot of rookie guides out there that would benefit from client critiquing at the end of trips. Particular in cases that are similar to what you have just brought up.
By all means a client has the right to tip however they feel comfortable. And they should feel no remorse with deducting gratuity for a guide that doesn’t present themselves professionally in every aspect of the job. On the contrary, gratuity should be fair, and provided accordingly to a guide that meets all expectations. If you’re unsure of what gratuity to leave, take the time to ask a couple friends that have been on guide trips. It’s standard to leave 20-30% gratuity for a guide that did a great job.
Keep it Reel,Kent Klewein Gink & Gasoline www.ginkandgasoline.com firstname.lastname@example.org Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!