By Montana Grant

Posted: August 7, 2021

Great fishing Guides are rare. There are plenty of Guides, but not all are Great. You can find a Guide that will row your boat, tie your knot, and hook up your strike indicators for miles of nymph fishing. Your lunch will be fine, and you will catch fish, but what will you learn?

You won’t appreciate a Great Guide until you catch one. As a kid, I was spoiled. I had the pleasure to fish with Lefty Kreh, Charles Brooks, Joe Brooks, and many other Guides that were a joy to spend the day with. Many of my great guides have aged or are fishing under the Rainbow Bridge.

What separates a Great Guide from a Guide is simple. Great Guides are Great Teachers. The day on the water is an investment in making you a better fisherman. “The most important things that you learn are the things you learn after you already know everything!”

Great Guides come in all sizes and personalities. Pay attention and ask questions. Some row boats while others walk and wade the rivers. The biggest hook ups of the day will be the new things that you take with you.

 Fishing and Fly Fishing have become very popular sports. Montana is the most popular destination. Tourists and fishermen flood to Big Sky Country to catch lifelong memories. For many, a simple float down the river is enough. Waving a rod around and snagging a couple fish ices the cake. But what did they really learn?

Fly fishing is not an easy sport. You will never learn everything. Each trip should help you limit out on skills, tips, and tricks. Catch and Release skills must be taught and learned. This is where a Great Guide comes in.

Fly fishing and our fisheries are changing. If we do not change how we fish, where we fish, when we fish, and help to protect our over pressured fisheries, we will end up loving them to death.

With the intense pressure being put on our watersheds, we may need to rethink how to limit fishing and people pressure and use Guides. Perhaps some of our most special waters need to be managed by Great Guides. To fish the Madison, you need to hire a Guide that is not just an oarsman but an instructor, Biologist, Environmentalist, ethical sportsman, and a Stewart of the resource. It may require that Guides be trained and certified as a Great Guide. New rules may also limit how many fish each angler can catch each day. Once you have caught and released your limit, its time to help others and learn how to row or improve needed skills.

If tourists that want to “Rip Lips”, and measure success by hoisting full stringers, perhaps they need to be directed to stocked, or more urban fisheries. There are Guides that can also service these clients. Just fishing can be a great family memory and opportunity.

The boat or watershed becomes a classroom. You learn to tie knots, demonstrate correct Catch and Release techniques, understand the ecosystem and entomology of the ecosystem. It is not about how many “lips you can rip”, it’s about learning to be an ethical sportsman. There is no limit to what you can learn.

Two Great Guides come to mind, when I think about southwest Montana.

Sean Blaine   You can catch him at Peaks to, or at Anglers West Fly Fishing Outfitters. Sean is an Outfitter/Guide, master oarsman, and all-around fly fisherman. He has traveled, and Guided, many of the greatest waters of North America, Chile, Argentina, and especially Montana. His friendly smile, sense of humor and teaching strengths are Great! Kids, Lady anglers, and all fishermen will not be disappointed. This Idaho born fishing guide is amazing.

Josh Stannish “Biggie” is a larger-than-life Great Guide and Outfitter. Not only is he a master of all skills fly fishing, but he is also an incredible chef.  In his daily life, Josh is also a public-school teacher. He loves teaching the joys of fly fishing. His smile and excitement are infectious. Josh is an expert on fishing skills, that are old, and new. He truly “invites, invests, and shares ownership” when he guides, and teaches. He can be contacted through Facebook, ‘Biggies Bug and Guide Service”, or through Jason Fleury@troutchasers, in Bozeman, Montana.

Both Sean and Josh are active in programs that promote conservation and ethics in the sport. They also take any and every opportunity to promote training and introduce Warriors, or other challenged fishermen, to fishing.

Anyone can catch a fish, but Great fishermen can teach others how to do it. This is what makes for Great Guide! Hook up with a Great Guide to become a Great Fisherman.

Montana Grant