Tipping Guides

I've learned that a guide can be very helpful in shortening the learning curve on new water. I'm not sure that I've got the tip thing figured out though. Should it be based on how many people are in the boat or on the trip? Better tip if fish are caught? More or less for walk-in vs. a float? If I'm at a restaurant, and the food and service are good, I normally do 20%. Following that rule, a $350 trip would result in a $70 tip. Is that about right? What do you all think?


"There are none happy in the world but beings who enjoy freely a vast horizon."
I think 20% is fair for a guide that works hard and works to make the trip what you discussed. I don't think i would evaluate it on fish caught. A knowledgeable guide that is hustling is worth a tip of 20%. It is ultimately up to the consumer and I have had guides try to hand me back money on days they didn't produce the number of fish they thought they should ... i've never taken the money back


We work to become, not to acquire.
I have to second that the tip should not be based on fish caught but rather the experience. Did the guide help you with your casting, reading the water or any other item you overlooked. It should be based on the what you got out of it. I have been out and not caught anything but a great time. All tips should based on the service provided. There were a few threads in 03' an 04' about this.
Thanks. I found responses to two posts by Bob Triggs that answered my questions.

I normally fish in Washington with one other guy. We take turns paying for the trip. However, last summer we had another guy in the boat. My partner paid for this trip, so I handled the tip and gas for the van. I took enough cash for what was about a 15% tip, but later thought that maybe I should have bumped it up a little since there were three of us.

Reassuring to know that I was in the ball park.

Probably been covered by other ex-guides in the past, but here is my two cents.

$50-$70 is a good tip ($50 when I was guiding ten years ago was the norm, now $70 is probably right).

Probably the hardest thing for people to do is to tip based on service, not fish. Good guides work their hardest when the fishing is crappy, so pay attention and reward them accordingly. . . slow fishing days can also be good teaching days. If they work their tails off and the fish don't work out, recognize that and don't stiff them. However, of course, this doesn't mean shorting a guide on a good day when the fish are jumping in the boat and life is easy.

Best tip I ever heard of was $300 for one fish caught-but it was the client's biggest ever. . .

Best tip I ever got was a few bottles of very nice wine from some wine industry types, I thought that was a cool gesture and really appreciated it.
20% is a good basis, and as has been mentioned, fish caught shouldn't be a criteria. Rut rather, the guide's demeanor, personality, and efforts put forth. If a guide busts his (or her) butt to get you on fish, or just put you on an opportunity, that's more than the guide who just walks down the river behind you telling you where to cast. Effort is a big thing. And non-monetary tipping goes a long way too. I've had clients give me really nice, brand new Leatherman tools, nice C&F flyboxes, and a doctor gave me a kick a$$ set of stainless forceps that I haven't seen anything like in any flyshop anywhere. He used a set like them, and I asked him about them, and on the last day of the trip, he gave me a brand new set from his bag. Meant more than money to me. Cool old guy from San Diego.

Take care all,
Does it make any difference if your guide is the owner (as opposed to an employee of a guide service)?

If he is the owner, he does not depend on tips because he is free to charge whatever he wants for his service, and gets to pocket all of it. But if he is an employee, he gets only what the owner pays him, and almost certainly depends on generous tips for a decent living.

Customary etiquette rules say you should always tip 15-20% for any personal service, unless the service provider is the owner, in which case, at least traditionally, no tip is expected. I usually tip a guide regardless of whether he's the owner of the outfit, but closer to 10% for owners, and closer to 20% for employees.
Bright Rivers said:
Does it make any difference if your guide is the owner (as opposed to an employee of a guide service)?
I would have to say that it does not. A good friend of mine is owner/operator of his service in Kodiak. I'd say that tipping an owner is just as, if not more important than tipping an employee well. It's the owner of the service who's put up the overhead, pays the insurance (which can break a small guide service) buys/ties the flies, maintains the gear he uses for clients, maintains the truck or plane used for the service or lodge. Yes,the owner can put up his own price, and that is what you pay to cover these things, but after watching my friend get by on next to nothing with a fully booked season, and now thinking about quitting quiding and tying professionally, it's easy to see that being the owner doesn't allow you to pocket much. Now, if you're at some $5,000 a week set up, it may be a different story, but for a guy who's selling you a day of his own service, and guiding himself he needs tipped as much as the guy who's working for the $5k/week lodge. The little guide is on his own, and tips can get him through the rough spots.

If you're at a lodge, don't forget to tip the cooks/waitstaff/housekeepers as well. As many of you know, tipping can add up, and should be budgeted into the cost of the trip.

Take care all,


Piscatorial predilection
Roper said:
Tipping guides...? Is that like tipping cows...? :rofl:
Haha, only if you can catch them sleeping while standing, and can sneak up on their off side!

That sneaking up part is much more difficult with a gravel bar underfoot though, LOL :clown:

Tip the owners too. My boss in MT turns all of his money except tips back into the general pool for the shop. The only "salary" he pays himself out of shop funds is $20K, so it really frosts him when he doesn't get a tip.

My average tip is about $60, with anything ranging from $40-100 common.
What if the guide is piss poor. Last year I went out with one that brought his dog. The dog swam in some of the runs and the guide did not bother to try and control him. Also the first thing that he asked us was what flies did we bring. Are you kidding? Then when I lost a fish he said I lost it because the hook that tied my fly on was too small. What broke the camels back was be took out my spey rod while I was working a run and started to fish. At that point I almost punctured his pontoon. I did end up giving a tip but it was probably 12%. Do you thyink that was too much?
The last 2 guided trips we went on we had great results, so we tipped 15-20%. For an EXCELLENT trip, give the guy 25%.

I don't think it matters hike vs. boat or anything like that, since that's arguably in the price already. So do a PERCENTAGE of their fee as the tip.
1. You should not have tipped that guide; the fishing without being invited and the dog are the reasons.

2. So what that the first question he asked was what flies you brought? My shop does not include flies in the trip price, nor do most shops/guides that I know about. Obviously we make recommendations before hand and bring boxes full in case the client has come ill-equipped, but they're an extra charge. Most people prefer to use their own, if possible.
Long for Cutts I am glad you agree with the bad service. I think the fact that the guide did not tell me that we needed to bring flies was irritating. Granted I did bring an arsenal of lies along with us he should have warned me. I have been out with good guides is Washington like Wes Hill and Scott Buckner that actually did a lot of teaching and instructed you how to fish runs. This one did nothing but take you to a spot and told you to try here. I think 20% gratuity is a must if you learn new techniques and especially if you catch fish. In regards to purchasing flies before hand I have had that expereince in Colorado a few years ago. I was told when booking the trip that I had to do so and had no problem with it. I think in this case there was overall bad service.

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