Picking a fishing guide

Jon Hazlett and Doug Rohn on Christmas Island with their guide Teteau.

I’m often asked questions about fishing guides. How do you find one when traveling into an unfamiliar area? What constitutes a good guide? What can they do and cannot do? There are many great guides and people ask me for recommendations.

First, let me say this: guides are people — like you and me — who have different personalities and different ways of interacting with others. Finding one that is right for you begins by talking to him or her.

Before I had the ability to ask other guide friends if they knew a good guide for a certain area, I would do research. There is nothing better than to talk to someone about fishing. By contacting a guide and talking about fishing, you can find out a lot about an individual.

You are conducting an interview each time that you contact a guide about a potential trip that you are considering. An accomplished angler, or even a beginner, can generally find a personality with whom he or she can be comfortable.

If you are thinking of hiring a guide, but you do not possess basic fishing skills, be realistic. Guides are not magicians.

Expectations are the biggest issue when it comes to hiring a guide. While guides are excellent at fishing, this does not mean that a beginner will necessarily be guaranteed to catch fish. A guide can give you, the beginner, the best chance to catch a fish, but the experience will be one of teaching and learning.

The one area that is difficult for both guides and clients is the client’s level of competence. Often guides will hear that a client has been fishing for many years. Unfortunately, the client fails to mention that he or she has just begun to fly-fish. Yet, that same client expects to catch one of the Truckee River giants someone posted on Instagram or Facebook.

Clients have lofty expectations and they should not. This is one experience where they should be content learning as much from the guide as they can.

A good guide, besides being a great angler, knows his/her local water, has patience, has great communication skills and is a great teacher. This is what you should expect to get when you hire a guide.

Experienced anglers also often have lofty expectations when it comes to catching fish. As a newbie to flats fishing, this was really apparent on my first trip to the flats. While I caught lots of fish, it was a total learning experience.

You see, as an angler, I thought flats fishing would be a piece of cake. Managing the loops while fishing the flats proved much more challenging than I imagined. Errors, such as catching the fly line with the fly and standing inside the loop, caused failed opportunities. I was frustrated and the guide was undoubtedly upset about missing good opportunities, as well.

So, if you are thinking of hiring a guide in order to catch fish, but you do not possess basic fishing skills, be realistic. Guides are not magicians. However, they can put you on the right road by providing great instruction and a pleasurable day.


Boca Reservoir | The road over the dam is closed until further notice. Inflow is at 94 cfs and the outflow is 133 cfs. Powerbait, nightcrawlers and lures are all working. Fly-fishers have been catching some fish near the inlet with nymphs, streamers and dries.

Donner Lake | Fishing has been fair to good. Kokanee fishing has been fair to good. Nightcrawlers and Powerbait seem to be the main bait. Mackinaw fishing has been good. Fly-fishers are catching some fish with streamers.

Lake Tahoe | All tributaries are open to all fishing until Sept. 30. Fishing has been fair to good for mackinaw. A guide is highly recommended if you are fishing for mackinaw for the first time. Toplining and shore fishing is fair. Most shore anglers use inflated nightcrawlers.

Little Truckee River | The flow is at 94 cfs. This flow is up slightly from last week. Nymphing and dries should both work at this level. Dry dropper rigs are also recommended. Hatches are similar to the main Truckee.

Martis Lake | Zero kill. Catch and release only with barbless artificial lures or flies. Fishing is best early in the season and the fall. Smallmouth bass are part of the fishery.

Prosser Reservoir | Fishing has been fair. Anglers using bait, lures and flies have all caught fish. Fly-fishers have done well near the inlet areas. Bass fishing should improve as waters warm.

Stampede Reservoir | The road will be closed over the dam for construction through 2018. Access to the boat ramp will be through the Hobart Mills side. Fishing has been fair from shore. Nightcrawlers, Powerbait and lures have all produced from shore. Fly-fishers have been doing well near the inlets with nymphs and streamers. The kokanee fishing is still producing for those in the know. Smallmouth bass fishing should improve as waters warm.

Truckee River | The flow out of the dam in Tahoe City is at 230 cfs. The flows through Truckee are at 275 cfs. Fishing has been fair for those working hard. Best area to target is below where Prosser Creek comes into the Truckee River downstream to the state line. Lots of bugs are appearing now: Caddis, PMD and Little Yellow stones. Grasshoppers are in full swing. Water temperatures are up. Carry a thermometer and quit fishing if water temps get more than 66 to 68 degrees F. Catch-and-release fishing is encouraged, but an angler may keep two fish with a minimum size of 14 inches during the regular trout season.

Davis and Frenchman lakes | Both are full. Boat, shore and fly anglers are catching fish. Reports from Davis are only fair at best. I suggest not fishing at either until the waters cool.