Tipping a guide...


If the guide pilots the boat, hands me a store-bought sandwich, and doesn't do much else, that makes for a fee-simple day.

If I come away from the trip with a better understanding of the game, or an insight or angle that I hadn't explored or considered, I tip.

He didn't have to do that, but he did, and I show my appreciation in the universal language of cash.


wait just a minute....what the heck do you mean "he didn't have to do that". Yes he did. What you are talking about is the definition of true guiding. Anything less than that isn't guiding, and isn't worth the money in the first place. Are you implying that only lousy service should be untipped?


Proud to Be Alaskan

I understand perfectly that tips are customary in the fishing guide business. I haven't said they aren't. What I have said was in my first post in this thread, that I don't understand why tipping guides is customary, since it's a trade comparable to the hypothetical plumber and electrician who all set their own fees based on what they think their time and skill is worth, along with the competitive aspects of their respective markets. Yet plumbers and electricians, as far as I know, work for hourly rates and don't expect nor receive tips. However, fishing guides do receive tips.

Fishing guides are not waiters or waitresses. At $350 - $400 per day they are not making the $5.85 per hour paid to wait staff who depend on tips for much of their income. I'll duly note that the guide is providing a boat and has other overhead that wait staff don't. If fishing guides want to compare their service to waitressing, I'll be expecting a significant downward adjustment in their rates.

I'd guess most guides are making <$10/hour every guide I know makes less money than every waiter I know unless they own the bussiness


Proud to Be Alaskan
I have a hard time believing that a guide is going to look down on a $10 tip from a guy that says he has always dreamed of a guided trip and has saved for a year to do it, he is throwing a 20 year old rod and you know that $10 is alot for that guy.
Totally true if you are a kickass client, someone I'd love to fish with anyway tipping is not expected, although those clients usually tip the best wich is a double bonus...


For him there whould always be the riddle of steel
I have enjoyed the conversation so far and appreciate all the input, esp. CWUGirl and Salmo_g. Very well presented thoughts. If I may get back to the original post, however... how much is actually coming out of your/their pocket? $20? $50? $100?

I'll answer you directly....for a recent solo trip fishing over salmon, my guide charged a very reasonable $150. We had a fine day with me taking home 2 chrome coho & releasing 4 kings. The conversation was good & his company better. I learned a few tricks & a new piece of river fished a full 8 hours. I tipped him $50, that's about 35%.

Most trips I take are in a drift boat or a sled with 2 fishermen, those run $350 for the boat & guide. The lowest we have ever tipped as a team is $40, high $100. Most times out if we or our leader wants to grab a bite in the am we will buy the guide breakfast too.....:ray1:

Thats how I roll.



Piscatorial Engineer
If I think he did me a good job, and I like the guy, I am going to shake his hand and tell him so. And, I will probably give him a few bucks, $40-$50...That's how I roll.


Active Member
I would say that, based upon a good job by the guide (not number of fish, but quality of the experience), I'd start with $100 or $50 per client, whichever comes first. Four clients on a trip = $200. That might be high, I don't know, but on a per-client basis it's not much. I have never heard of guides driving Rolls Royces, so I doubt if guiding is a real cash cow, but the times I've been with a guide, I've been fortunate enough to have them treat me like a king, whether my miserable fly casting deserved such praise or not! On those days, if I was alone, they got $100 on top of the fee. I am blessed to have enough to pay for a guide once a year or so, and I always mentally add the tip cost to the up-front fee. We're both happy at the end of the day.

I did give a guide $20 once, at the end of the day, because he yelled at me and attempted to put 3 lines in the water when there were two of us in the boat, and because he made me launch the boat down a cliff ("Push it down and just keep going with it until it hits the water."). Maybe I should not have given him anything, but I thought that the small tip would leave a clearer message than nothing at all - that I WOULD have tipped him more had I enjoyed the experience. It was a long time ago and he wasn't a fly fishing guide, in the interests of full disclosure.
Interesting and long thread, suggesting there is no real norm for tipping guides. My 3 cents:

(1) I think there is a significant difference between independent guides and guides working for an outfitter; I suspect in most cases the hired hand might rely on tips more than the independent; but I, like S.g. haven't seen any real guidance. I used to only tip employed haircutters, but not independent business-owning haircutters. Now I tip based on how much I think the haircut (experience and result) was worth. Wait people doing an ok job get 15%, doing a great job get 20% (or some combo thereof depending on the liquour vs. food bill).

(2) I think some people tip large amounts to show how important they are (at least to themselves) and to establish at least an economic dominance over the guide.

(3) The next time I go fishing with an independent guide I'll tip to the extent that my experience exceeded my expectations based on the price agreed upon beforehand; if I feel great, I'll tip great (at least for a cheap SoB), if I feel bored or discouraged I won't tip, if I feel defeated (no fish) but amazed at the effort the guide put out, I'll tip. How much? Depends on the trip & number of clients. 2 clients tipping $20 on a $350 trip is not too bad for the lower end, but 1 client tipping $20 for a $175+ trip seems a little cheap if expectations were exceeded. $100 would be a lot for me, given my income, but I'd pay that for a really great 1-client trip and I would certainly pay $50 for a multiple client tip.

BTW, my greatest guided fishing trip was in Belize for permit with what I thought was a local (from across the street from the basement I was renting for $5/night) in an area not know for great fishing but who turned out to be recently retired from being the hottest bonefish/permit guide in Belize and who brought his still guiding brother along for fun; we didn't speak each other's language, but we had a ball and I caught 2 permit on my 8-wt steelhead rod:thumb: (despite having to cast ceramic crabs weighing a couple of pounds each). Now, when I booked the trip I confused the xchange rate for Guatemalan and Belizean currency and was paying more the 2X what I thought I bargained for (my wife straightened me out on the xchange rate before the trip thank goodness), I offered no tip (having exhausted our entire travel budget!), none was expected even with 2 guides for the price of one, I suspect the rate I payed was slightly lower than what is paid at Teneriffe but was probably still equal to the average annual income of a Belizean Garifuna person ...

Bob Triggs

Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!
In my own experience I think that from 10% to 20% is the normal range. I have had guests who did not tip at all, and I thought that maybe they never tip other people anyway. Thats okay. And I have had guests who tipped me well above 20% per day, even on multiple day trips, and they paid for my lodging, dinners and left me with gifts- reels, tackle, lines, flies and boxes, clothing, cameras etc- as well. That pretty much covers the range. Its nice when you tip me- a can always squander the cash on gas and food-. But I dont mind terribly if you dont. I dont treat anyone differently if they tip me or not. I do my best. I try to treat them as my guests, not my clients. Lawyers and businessmen have clients. Some people are easier to guide than others, they listen better, or perhaps they appreciate things etc. Some people can be very hard to serve. I do my best with them anyway.

A tip is a way of saying "thank you". That's all it is- a gratuity, the root of which is Gratis or more fully:Gratitude. In some situations it may be more helpful than in others. A lodge guide may depend upon the weekly tipos just to survive a season. A self employed guide may have some very good days or weeks. And unlike the lodge guide they may have more expenses along the way. And while one may think that they can calculate dollars per hour earned etc, most of that is just inexperienced speculation.

The fact is that many guides, especially self employed guides, do a lot of time on the water unpaid, at least if they are keeping up with things fish and flow wise for their gusests. And how about those winter flood cycles falling on every weekend for a while? Dollars per hour wont work out over the course of a year or a season. People guide for many reasons. If they love doing it, and they treat you well, maybe a tip is in order. How much? Thats up to you. But if you use it like a carrot-on-a stick, or a reward per fish, then you are thinking more like a client and less like a guest.
You mean the guide would rather have not booked a trip that day than to have booked a trip with someone who doesn't tip if no fish are caught? I guess guides should be clearer in their advertising and advise people to not book a trip with them if they don't intend to tip or gage the size of their tip according to what they catch.

That's silly at best and stupid overall. A guide works for the fee he charges. Tips are just that, a generous expression of appreciation from their clients who can afford it and feel like giving it.
I suppose you also stiff the waitresses at the restaraunts you eat :mad: The term TIPS originated a long time before I was born, it ment "TO INSURE PROPER SERVICE" and was given to a person before any service was rendered. Guiding is a service industry, and we work dam hard to insure you have a great time and an overall good experience on the water. I want all guides that fish Salmo_g make sure you include a huge tip to the original price, as he is a CHEAP ASS that guages his tip by how many fish were caught, which would proly would be little to nothing anyway. I say guides deserve a tip of some kind for a hard days work.
I typically see the same as Jergens, between $50.00 and $100.00 somtimes less, sometimes more. Thank god all fishers that use guides are not like Salmo_g. ASS GAS or Grass, nobody learns to flyfish for free.
I have always tipped well because it is tradition to do so and in all honesty the guides I have fished with worked their tails off and I felt good about tipping them. That said, if I fished with a guide that gave a half ass effort I would throw tradition out the window and not tip. How many fish are caught isn't part of the equation for me. It is all about the attitude and effort of the guide. Most of the guides I have met take pride in what they do, enjoy their jobs and work very hard. I am sure there are some out there that don't and those guys probably don't deserve anything above and beyond their fee.

Mike T

Active Member
I'm curious, how do guides and the shops they guide out of split the base fee? I was recently told that there is a significant difference in the split between guides in Washington and Montana with those in Montana keeping significantly more of the fee. I presume that guides work as independent contractors and have to cover their own costs; fuel, insurance, etc.
Most of the guides that work for an outfitter are independent and pay for their own fuel, shuttle, boats, gear, and the lunch they serve streamside. I'm not sure how much of the fee they get though. I am sure that varies among the different outfitters.


AKA Joe Willauer
I'm curious, how do guides and the shops they guide out of split the base fee? I was recently told that there is a significant difference in the split between guides in Washington and Montana with those in Montana keeping significantly more of the fee. I presume that guides work as independent contractors and have to cover their own costs; fuel, insurance, etc.

In general, a guide takes about 2/3 of the fee(obviously some get paid more, some less). It depends on the outfitter, experience of the guide, the river, location of the river, etc... Obviously a guide with more experience is going to make more. different rivers pay different i.e. if a guide is driving a long ways everyday all season they are probably getting paid more than a guide driving 5 minutes. The other aspect that is often over looked is costs. A guide typically has to cover shuttle, flies, lunch, gas, other odds and ends, and different outfitters cover a different number of these things. From my experience, although guiding in motnana is different than guiding in washington in many ways, to say that guides in montana make more then in washington is inaccurate.
... The term TIPS originated a long time before I was born, it ment "TO INSURE PROPER SERVICE" and was given to a person before any service was rendered... .
Soooo do you tip (give the guide an extra $100 over the stated fee) before the trip or do you provide a gratuity (a monetary measure of your gratitude that the tip met or exceeded your expectations). ?

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