Guide fees; how much goes to the guide?

Jamie Dow

Active Member
#1
If you book a guide through a shop, what is the financial split? Assume tips are 100% to the guide. Shops probably vary but I'll bet the arrangements are pretty similar.
 

Matt Paluch

Active Member
#2
Generally between 40% to 100% depending on what the shop/outfitter offers. Lodges sometimes offer far less, but those usually provide food and living quarters so the guides don't have any major expenses while working there.
 

Jeremy Floyd

fly fishing my way through life
#3
If you put the cash in the guides hand, then 100%, at any place I’ve worked in Canada or USA. Generally gratuities get divided between all staff if you give it to a lodge.
 
#4
One shop that I book through in NC takes a 30% cut of the day fee. So if the day is $600, around $200 of that goes to the shop register drawer. I’m not a huge fan of this, but it does help keep the guides perhaps more consistently busy than they’d be on their own i guess.
 

Matt Paluch

Active Member
#5
One shop that I book through in NC takes a 30% cut of the day fee. So if the day is $600, around $200 of that goes to the shop register drawer. I’m not a huge fan of this, but it does help keep the guides perhaps more consistently busy than they’d be on their own i guess.
There is certainly a lot to be said for not having to do the marketing work yourself. Guides have so much to do just to be ready for the day of fishing that having a shop provide marketing and possibly insurance makes 30% or more worth it. If special outfitter permits are required for certain areas, guiding through a shop is the only way to go for most guides.
 

Trapper

Author, Writer, Photographer
#6
This varies from State to State and there are many variables. Does the Outfitter or shop cover expenses? Example, is the driftboat or raft property of the guide or the shop?

I posted this a couple years ago.

For the sake of conversation and understanding, not controversy, I'd like to understand this better. Just to be clear, I do tip guides on the occasions I've employed them. I do it because it looks to be an accepted convention, not because I understand it in a way that makes intrinsic sense. Trapper, who has some experience with the business points out differences between guiding, waiting tables, and trades.

1. In Montana, unless he's an outfitter, a guide is not an independent contractor. It sounds like he's a piece-work employee contractor who's responsible for his own over-head expenses.
Not exactly. Guides in Montana are sometimes employees, but mostly they work as sub-contractors to outfitters. They have to have an IC license, but they are not allowed to solicit clients independent of the outfitter. The outfitter sets the price of trip, not the IC guide. The guide can only negotiate his daily rate to the outfitter, but all outfitters I worked for paid the same rate to every guide regardless of experience.

For the most part, this was how the money part worked out:

Example: Cost of trip for 2 anglers — $500
Guides pay for the trip $250

Other costs.
— lunches - outfitter, but often I would make the lunches and the outfitter would reimburse me for them.

— shuttles - outfitter

— flies, tippet, snacks, drinks, extra rods, reels, etc - guide

— driftboat and/or raft - guide

— fuel, vehicle expenses, maintenance - guide

— guide license, $2 million liability insurance, commercial vehicle insurance, IC license, CPR and First Aid recertification — guide

Most years I would guide ~ 125 days.

Most days began ~ 0400 tying flies. On average I estimate I'd go through 2—3 dozen/day. I'd then deal with lunches and meet my clients around 0800.

For Blackfoot trips that meant a 2 hour drive. For the MO it was closer to an hour.

I'd typically got off the river around 7 PM, then dropped off the anglers and drove home.

I'd wash my boat, eat and hit the rack, typically around 10-11pm.

I loved guiding but it doesn't take a CPA to figure out you don't get rich doing it.

Should the angler have to supplement the guides income with tips? No, but I'm showing you what my reality as a guide looked like.

I'm showing the $500 paid to the outfitter isn't $500 in the pocket of the guide. Not even close.
 
#7
This varies from State to State and there are many variables. Does the Outfitter or shop cover expenses? Example, is the driftboat or raft property of the guide or the shop?

I posted this a couple years ago.



Not exactly. Guides in Montana are sometimes employees, but mostly they work as sub-contractors to outfitters. They have to have an IC license, but they are not allowed to solicit clients independent of the outfitter. The outfitter sets the price of trip, not the IC guide. The guide can only negotiate his daily rate to the outfitter, but all outfitters I worked for paid the same rate to every guide regardless of experience.

For the most part, this was how the money part worked out:

Example: Cost of trip for 2 anglers — $500
Guides pay for the trip $250

Other costs.
— lunches - outfitter, but often I would make the lunches and the outfitter would reimburse me for them.

— shuttles - outfitter

— flies, tippet, snacks, drinks, extra rods, reels, etc - guide

— driftboat and/or raft - guide

— fuel, vehicle expenses, maintenance - guide

— guide license, $2 million liability insurance, commercial vehicle insurance, IC license, CPR and First Aid recertification — guide

Most years I would guide ~ 125 days.

Most days began ~ 0400 tying flies. On average I estimate I'd go through 2—3 dozen/day. I'd then deal with lunches and meet my clients around 0800.

For Blackfoot trips that meant a 2 hour drive. For the MO it was closer to an hour.

I'd typically got off the river around 7 PM, then dropped off the anglers and drove home.

I'd wash my boat, eat and hit the rack, typically around 10-11pm.

I loved guiding but it doesn't take a CPA to figure out you don't get rich doing it.

Should the angler have to supplement the guides income with tips? No, but I'm showing you what my reality as a guide looked like.

I'm showing the $500 paid to the outfitter isn't $500 in the pocket of the guide. Not even close.
Thanks @Trapper. I have only hired a guide a handfull of times and wondered how they were paid. The part that surprised me is 2-3 dozen flies/day. I'm sure this is dependent on a lot of variables, but in the times I've fished with a guide I think the most flies I've used might be 4 or 5. Floated with a Yakima River guide a couple years ago with a guide from Red's and I had the same Chubby Chernobyl on all day with only a couple of dropper changes. Of course, the trout were climbing all over the Chubby all day :)
 

Trapper

Author, Writer, Photographer
#8
Thanks @Trapper. I have only hired a guide a handfull of times and wondered how they were paid. The part that surprised me is 2-3 dozen flies/day. I'm sure this is dependent on a lot of variables, but in the times I've fished with a guide I think the most flies I've used might be 4 or 5. Floated with a Yakima River guide a couple years ago with a guide from Red's and I had the same Chubby Chernobyl on all day with only a couple of dropper changes. Of course, the trout were climbing all over the Chubby all day :)
Steve. When I guided the Missouri, we fished a lot of small (#18-#20) patterns. That also meant lighter tippets and two fly rigs. I ended up guiding a lot of noobs. Some of the flies weren’t lost, just toothed up and tore up. Also, the Missouri has alot of big bows eating on top at times and guys who were used to nymphing or chucking steeamers tended to employ a hook set worthy of Tarpon, so the result was predictable.
 

nb_ken

Active Member
#9
None of that cost/revenue breakdown @Trapper provided surprised me. I suspected as much.

That 'couple of years ago' post may have come from a discussion on whether a guide deserves a tip. I wrote then, and I still believe, TIP YOUR GUIDE. Might make the difference between just getting by and a real living wage. Either way, no one is getting rich on the sticks.
 

creekx

spent spinner
#10
This varies from State to State and there are many variables. Does the Outfitter or shop cover expenses? Example, is the driftboat or raft property of the guide or the shop?

I posted this a couple years ago.



Not exactly. Guides in Montana are sometimes employees, but mostly they work as sub-contractors to outfitters. They have to have an IC license, but they are not allowed to solicit clients independent of the outfitter. The outfitter sets the price of trip, not the IC guide. The guide can only negotiate his daily rate to the outfitter, but all outfitters I worked for paid the same rate to every guide regardless of experience.

For the most part, this was how the money part worked out:

Example: Cost of trip for 2 anglers — $500
Guides pay for the trip $250

Other costs.
— lunches - outfitter, but often I would make the lunches and the outfitter would reimburse me for them.

— shuttles - outfitter

— flies, tippet, snacks, drinks, extra rods, reels, etc - guide

— driftboat and/or raft - guide

— fuel, vehicle expenses, maintenance - guide

— guide license, $2 million liability insurance, commercial vehicle insurance, IC license, CPR and First Aid recertification — guide

Most years I would guide ~ 125 days.

Most days began ~ 0400 tying flies. On average I estimate I'd go through 2—3 dozen/day. I'd then deal with lunches and meet my clients around 0800.

For Blackfoot trips that meant a 2 hour drive. For the MO it was closer to an hour.

I'd typically got off the river around 7 PM, then dropped off the anglers and drove home.

I'd wash my boat, eat and hit the rack, typically around 10-11pm.

I loved guiding but it doesn't take a CPA to figure out you don't get rich doing it.

Should the angler have to supplement the guides income with tips? No, but I'm showing you what my reality as a guide looked like.

I'm showing the $500 paid to the outfitter isn't $500 in the pocket of the guide. Not even close.
Thanks for the rundown Trapper.

Next loaded question: In your opinion, what constitutes "full day" and "half day" guided trips?

Had a full-day guided trip this summer that went like this (confirmed by my GPS route): Launched at 8:54 am and reached the take-out at 1:34 pm. That's a 4 hour, 40 minute float. A lunch stop of about 15 minutes was in there too so we had about 4.5 hours of actual floating/fishing. Including the drive to and from the launch on either end it was about a 7-hour excursion, door-to-door.

We had a great time, caught some slab browns, liked the guide, etc. but the float time seemed pretty short. What do you think?
 
#11
Thanks for the rundown Trapper.

Next loaded question: In your opinion, what constitutes "full day" and "half day" guided trips?

Had a full-day guided trip this summer that went like this (confirmed by my GPS route): Launched at 8:54 am and reached the take-out at 1:34 pm. That's a 4 hour, 40 minute float. A lunch stop of about 15 minutes was in there too so we had about 4.5 hours of actual floating/fishing. Including the drive to and from the launch on either end it was about a 7-hour excursion, door-to-door.

We had a great time, caught some slab browns, liked the guide, etc. but the float time seemed pretty short. What do you think?
I know you asked Trapper, but I guided for 20 years and think I'll weigh in here. I would not personally charge a full day rate for 4.5 hours of fishing. Saltwater outfits can have 6 hour full days depending on location, but freshwater is generally at least 8 hours fishing time. The only thing that's popping into my mind now is whether it was a discounted or donated trip which may change circumstances. For a full day, full price trip for trout, that is a really short time on the water.

Another possibility is if you were rude (not saying you were) or endangered the safety of anyone. Nobody is usually unclear about what is happening if that's the case, however. Maybe drinking one of the guide's beers (joking here). Hooking the guide more than twice on the backcast could do it.
 

Trapper

Author, Writer, Photographer
#12
Thanks for the rundown Trapper.

Next loaded question: In your opinion, what constitutes "full day" and "half day" guided trips?
I never did any half day trips because my gas and vehicle expenses were the same for full day and half day trips.

Our full day trips were always more than eight hours under normal conditions. I only rowed someone off early if they requested it or in very rare situations, when I felt someone was at high medical risk. One guy used both of his EpiPens and wanted to keep fishing. I rowed him off.
 

creekx

spent spinner
#13
I know you asked Trapper, but I guided for 20 years and think I'll weigh in here. I would not personally charge a full day rate for 4.5 hours of fishing. Saltwater outfits can have 6 hour full days depending on location, but freshwater is generally at least 8 hours fishing time. The only thing that's popping into my mind now is whether it was a discounted or donated trip which may change circumstances. For a full day, full price trip for trout, that is a really short time on the water.

Another possibility is if you were rude (not saying you were) or endangered the safety of anyone. Nobody is usually unclear about what is happening if that's the case, however. Maybe drinking one of the guide's beers (joking here). Hooking the guide more than twice on the backcast could do it.
No problems at all. Great day, great conversation, big fish, etc. The guide loved us. Full price for a full day. No complaints really. I even tipped him $100. In retrospect it just seemed short, but we don't typically hire guides.
 
#14
This varies from State to State and there are many variables. Does the Outfitter or shop cover expenses? Example, is the driftboat or raft property of the guide or the shop?

I posted this a couple years ago.



Not exactly. Guides in Montana are sometimes employees, but mostly they work as sub-contractors to outfitters. They have to have an IC license, but they are not allowed to solicit clients independent of the outfitter. The outfitter sets the price of trip, not the IC guide. The guide can only negotiate his daily rate to the outfitter, but all outfitters I worked for paid the same rate to every guide regardless of experience.

For the most part, this was how the money part worked out:

Example: Cost of trip for 2 anglers — $500
Guides pay for the trip $250

Other costs.
— lunches - outfitter, but often I would make the lunches and the outfitter would reimburse me for them.

— shuttles - outfitter

— flies, tippet, snacks, drinks, extra rods, reels, etc - guide

— driftboat and/or raft - guide

— fuel, vehicle expenses, maintenance - guide

— guide license, $2 million liability insurance, commercial vehicle insurance, IC license, CPR and First Aid recertification — guide

Most years I would guide ~ 125 days.

Most days began ~ 0400 tying flies. On average I estimate I'd go through 2—3 dozen/day. I'd then deal with lunches and meet my clients around 0800.

For Blackfoot trips that meant a 2 hour drive. For the MO it was closer to an hour.

I'd typically got off the river around 7 PM, then dropped off the anglers and drove home.

I'd wash my boat, eat and hit the rack, typically around 10-11pm.

I loved guiding but it doesn't take a CPA to figure out you don't get rich doing it.

Should the angler have to supplement the guides income with tips? No, but I'm showing you what my reality as a guide looked like.

I'm showing the $500 paid to the outfitter isn't $500 in the pocket of the guide. Not even close.
Trapper, based on your experience, what would an appropriate tip be based on such a day? I intend to hire a guide first week of October in Missoula, and want to be fair to them. I know they work their ass off.
Thanks in advance- Scott
 

Trapper

Author, Writer, Photographer
#15
Trapper, based on your experience, what would an appropriate tip be based on such a day? I intend to hire a guide first week of October in Missoula, and want to be fair to them. I know they work their ass off.
Thanks in advance- Scott
If you had a guide who worked his ass off, tip him $100-$150. If he’s a slug, waaaay less. If he’s a real slug, explain why and give him $0-$20.
 

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