How taking a fly fishing guide school in Colorado helped propel my career as a fly-fishing guide
By Doug Freemann- RIGS Fly Shop & Guide Service Guide and Instructor
Often times when out on the water guiding, I pause and think to myself “Doesn’t get better than this”! Cool running rivers encased in beautiful scenery constitute my daily workplace. Tight lines accompanied by zealous smiles serve as highlights amidst time spent sharing with others what I truly enjoy the most. Working as a fly-fishing guide provides the opportunity to teach not only about how to catch fish, but also about ecology, history, geography, and sustainability. For those deeply passionate about fly fishing, there is no better way to immerse oneself fully in the sport than by being on the water daily as a guide.
How I got started
Born and raised in the Philadelphia area, Pennsylvania’s limestone spring creeks served as my initial proving grounds in the sport. Although enjoying occasional success, it soon became clear that in order to improve, surrounding myself with those more knowledgeable about the sport would be critical.
This pursuit led me to the U.S. Youth Fly Fishing Team, a not-for-profit organization which strives to hone young fly anglers’ skills while fielding a team to compete in an annual world championship event. Not being able to imagine a better way to learn, I jumped headfirst into the competitive fly-fishing world. The team not only offered an opportunity to fish in three World Youth Fly Fishing Championships, but also the chance to learn from some of the nation’s leading fly fishermen. Through this, I gained invaluable experience that furthered my angling ability, while also being introduced to like-minded anglers from around the world.
Becoming a Guide
Following my time on the Youth Team, I attended Colorado State University, part of a calculated (yet unbeknownst to my family) initiative to get closer to our nation’s top trout waters. During my college years, I pursued guiding opportunities in the summertime, including stints on Wyoming’s North Platte River and Colorado’s Front Range region. It was not until I attended Guide School, however, that taking the next steps towards becoming a full-time professional guide became a possibility.
At the time, I was looking to advance my boating knowledge while also seeking an ideal fit for launching a professional guide career post-graduation. RIGS Float Fishing Guide School in Southwest Colorado came highly recommended, and despite never having been to the region, I signed up. That decision would end up not only setting me up for success as a fly fishing guide, but also introducing me to the world class rivers and scenery the area had to offer.
What is Guide School? Why is it Useful?
RIGS offers two fly fishing guide schools, a three-day Walk Wade Guide School and a seven-day Float Fishing Guide School. I attended the float fishing guide school, but both serve as potential springboards into a guiding career. Both schools cover the basic requirements of becoming a guide such as personal responsibilities, understanding the environment, and equipment. The walk wade school focuses on teaching potential guides skills and strategies to be successful guiding on foot in a variety of situations and conditions. The float fishing guide school builds rowing skills and knowledge, float fishing tactics, and a strong foundational understanding of what it takes to be a successful guide.
In order to be a float fishing guide in Colorado, the state’s minimum raft guiding qualifications must be met, including fifty hours of professional instruction. RIGS float fishing guide school provides that and much more to participants. Through participating, I was able to greatly expand my knowledge about rafting and float fishing, and develop confidence and proficiency in the fundamentals by the end of the course. This helped me apply my previous knowledge of fishing and guiding to float fishing while also learning about best practices more generally in guiding.
When I began my search for a full-time guiding job post-graduation, my experience at the float fishing guide school immediately drew me to RIGS. The professionalism of the staff and their knowledge of the trade is second to none, and I couldn’t have hoped for a better landing spot to further my guiding career. Now working and a fly-fishing guide with RIGS, I enjoy teaching others about the sport I love while exploring the world class fishing and outdoor opportunities Southwest Colorado has to offer. Come fish with us!