“He scares the living daylights out of me,” said my buddy, putting a finer point on our state of mind. We had saved enough money to pay for a week’s lodging, travel and, best of all (or, so we thought), a guide to float the Big Mo for one glorious day.
I was beyond giddy, seduced by the marketing mavens who still immortalize the American West as a fly- fishing Mecca. If his introduction wasn’t prickly enough, our salty sea captain, whom we later dubbed Mr. Sunshine, seemed annoyed at our mere presence.
Long story short: We floated the Missouri for nearly eight hours, spied some beautiful country, cast oversized nymphs that resembled lead-head jigs and, yes, caught some big brown trout. “I don’t even want to tip the guy,” my buddy whispered in my ear as the three of us bellied up to the bar for an adult beverage at day’s end.
I recently told my Missouri River story to three veteran Midwestern guides (two from Minnesota, one from Wisconsin), and all were a little horrified by my experience. But if you’re thinking about hiring a fishing guide this summer, keep in mind that independent guides have high overhead costs and derive a large percentage of their incomes from tips.
They also provide the boat, the gear (rod and reel), bait, tackle and a library’s worth of angling knowledge. “I’m always grateful for a tip because I work hard for my customers and my margins are pretty tight,” said Dick (Grid) Brzezinski of St. Paul, who has guided for walleyes and other species across Minnesota for more than 40 years.
As we stood at that Montana bar after a day on the Missouri River, our crusty fly- fishing guide finally thawed after a few beers. We realized he was a decent man, just trying to make a living in a stressful profession where income is seasonal and often unpredictable.
When clients ask me how much is it proper to tip your guide, I usually cringe and give them this piece of advice. First and foremost, It is most important that you feel your guide has worked hard to put you in front of fish (even though it has been totally overcast or very windy).
Most guides, including myself, tend to judge the quality of the experience given and effort provided for the day by one's gratuity. At the end of a day I tend not to look at checks written or a wad of cash handed to me to count, so as not to seem they are mandatory.
We've dock age fees, fishing licenses (to the State and Federal governments), oil, bait & tackle costs and liability insurance also to contend with. You can see from the chart below, as sent to me from a regular client, with 144 respondents to the survey, (the Angling Report) the average tip was $62, for a full day of guided flats fishing .
You prepare to part ways with the guide who has rowed his heart out, tied dozens of flies onto your leader, given great advice on how to get your offering into the right spot in the current seam, whipped up a spectacular shore lunch, and even managed to get a great photo of you and that huge trout just before it wiggled out of your hands and released itself back into the river. Superior service can be preparation to make a day on the water the best it can be or to correct a situation when things have gone wrong.
But we also understand that these workers are earning a pitifully meager wage in most cases and our tips are how they pay their bills. Some people will press a twenty into the hand of a hostess who goes out of her way to secure a better table in a nice restaurant.
When traveling, Americans are also accustomed to tipping the skycap at the airport for assistance getting their luggage to the check-in counter, or the concierge for help in making dinner reservations. Put that same person in a drift boat for eight solid hours under the hot sun and suddenly 20 percent seems like a lot of money even though you have your guide ’s undivided attention for the entire day.
The problem is that many anglers don’t know what is expected and what etiquette calls for when it comes to rewarding their guide for great service. He is also the one making the boat and insurance payments and filling it with gas, providing high-end gear and tackle, and shopping for the groceries for lunch.
If you’re bad at math and/or don’t want to mess with it, you can tip about $50 to $100 per day depending on how attentive the guide was, how hard he worked, and whether he was friendly and tried to meet your needs. Tip well and you’ll earn a reputation and create competition among guides who want to work for you.
Occasionally, you’ll find some tipping guidelines listed on the website right alongside the other prices. It’s also important to remember, no matter how much you paid for your day on the water, there are many factors the guide can’t control.
If you’d prefer to tip individually, don’t forget the housekeeper, the person who cleans your fish, drivers, and others whose work makes your stay possible. But standing at the boat landing, your guide likely won’t have a credit card reader handy.
Technology is changing that with cell phone card readers, but don’t count on your guide carrying one. In most cases, using a credit card or writing a check won’t be appreciated and there is a chance you’ll have to pay a surcharge to do so.
Tom SAK of the Fort Lauderdale charter boat Happy Day Today. A good waiter sees to it that your water glass is never empty and your food is hot.
He'll bait your hook, adjust a reel's drag, gaff your fish, take your photograph or fillet your catch. Most captains said they typically receive tips ranging from 10 to 20 percent of the cost of the trip.
The party, all experienced anglers, recognized the effort and gave Kane and the mate a $100 tip. On the other hand, when the mate and captain work hard and good fishing results, it's not bad form to tip a little more.
“A tip can range from zero for an arrogant or offensive guide to half the price of the trip on those rare and wonderful occasions when hard work and hungry fish come together to create a lifetime memory,” Manner said. Some ask why tip a guide at all _ they have a great job, getting paid to fish a few hours a day.
Guides point out that the customer doesn't see the extra effort behind the scenes that makes their jobs look easy. Successful skippers buy or catch live bait every morning and clean the boat, repair rods and tie new rigs every evening.
Things can get a little complicated when you catch commercially valuable fish, such as dolphin, snapper and Yahoo. SAK once took Kenny Stabler and Bum Phillips of the New Orleans Saints fishing.