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The Path to Becoming a Fly Fishing Guide in Colorado

Sharing a Passion and Making a Career

As an avid fly fishing enthusiast, I can understand the awe and admiration people have for fly fishing guides. “What a beautiful office you work in,” a client once remarked as we floated down the Colorado River. And they were right. Fly fishing guides have the unique privilege of working in the outdoors, surrounded by breathtaking scenery, doing what they love most: teaching the art of fly fishing. However, like any job, being a fly fishing guide comes with its own set of challenges and hardships.

For many, becoming a fly fishing guide is not just a job, but a way to share their passion for fly fishing with others and get paid to do it. It’s a career path that allows them to translate their love for fly fishing and being around people into a fulfilling lifestyle. But how does one become a fly fishing guide? In Colorado, the process varies based on the area you wish to guide in, as regulations for recreational guides differ from state to state and country to country. In this article, we’ll focus on the requirements to become a fly fishing guide in the beautiful state of Colorado.

The Regulations in Colorado

To be a wade fly fishing guide in Colorado, you don’t need any sort of certification. However, if you wish to guide on public water, you need the correct permitting. This is why most fly fishing outfitters have larger guide staff, as they have retained the permits from the state and federal agencies that manage the public land and water. These agencies limit the number of permits to ensure the proper management of the fisheries and protect them from overfishing.

For those who want to commercially float guide, meaning guiding from a boat, in Colorado, an oar certification is required. This certification involves 50 hours of instruction by a certified guide instructor. It ensures that guides have the necessary skills to navigate the rivers safely and provide a great experience for their clients.

Exploring Fly Fishing Guide Schools

Fly fishing guide schools are typically week-long courses taught by senior guides. These schools cover all aspects of guiding, both in the classroom and on the water. At Vail Valley Anglers, for example, their guide school is a five-day course that includes classroom instruction and extensive on-the-water training. The topics covered range from guide tactics and rigging to customer service and photography. The school provides an opportunity to learn firsthand from experienced guides, ask them questions, and discover tactics that work for them.

While it is true that you don’t necessarily need to attend a guide school to become a fishing guide, the benefits of doing so are worth considering. Attending a guide school gives you a deeper understanding of the guiding profession and helps you determine if it’s the right path for you. Moreover, guide schools often serve as hiring platforms for fly shops and outfitters, so attending one can be an excellent way to network and find job opportunities. Additionally, completing a guide school can boost your resume, providing you with the experience and references needed to guide on your own or elsewhere.

Oar Certification and its Importance

As mentioned earlier, oar certification is a requirement for floating guides in Colorado. The state mandates that a guide must complete 50 hours of training, with 30 hours under the supervision of a qualified guide instructor and the remaining 20 hours on the same training trip. These training hours cover a range of essential skills, including rigging and maneuvering the vessel, river currents and hazards, scouting and running rapids, and river rescue and emergency procedures.

At Vail Valley Anglers, their oar certification course involves five 10-hour days on the water, accompanied by a classroom orientation session. This comprehensive training not only provides the necessary certification to guide in Colorado’s rivers but also equips guides with the skills needed to navigate turbulent waters safely.

A Clear Path to Pursue

Becoming a fly fishing guide in Colorado requires a combination of passion, knowledge, and proper training. By understanding the regulations, the benefits of attending guide schools, and the importance of oar certification, aspiring guides can embark on a fulfilling career path. Whether you choose to pursue guiding as a way to share your love for fly fishing or as a means to combine your passion and profession, becoming a fly fishing guide in Colorado offers a unique opportunity to experience the beauty and tranquility of the outdoors while doing what you love most.

If you’re interested in learning more about the training courses available for aspiring fly fishing guides, don’t hesitate to reach out to the guide service managers at Vail Valley Anglers. They’ll be more than happy to provide further information and answer any questions you may have.

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