Fish with enough fly guides across the country, and you’ll start to see a connection between those who are the hardest working—and often the “fishiest”—and the state of their trucks. These guys spend weeks on end launching early and getting home late, so oil changes, to-go-cup removal, and chipped-sideview-mirror replacement aren’t exactly priorities. Subsequently, these truck traits can tell you a lot about a guide’s experience level, and how often he’s on the water.
Don’t believe my abused-truck-equals-good-guide theory? You don’t have to take my word alone. I asked a few of the best fly guides I know, as well as some friends who fish with a lot of guides, to weigh in on the subject. If you plan on hiring a guide this season, keep an eye out for these criteria. I always start with the CHECK ENGINE light, which should be on.
• “One thing a good guide makes sure of is that all the lights work on both the truck and the trailer. The logic is, if the cops don’t stop you for lights out, they won’t notice your cracked windshield.” —John Perizzolo, The Blue Quill Angler
• “If all four tires match and your inspection sticker is up to date, you’re not a real guide.” —Joe Demalderis, Cross Current Guide Service
• “The best guide trucks are the hand-me-downs that still have a little life left. They play double duty plowing snow in the winter, or pulling a trailer of hay bales when the guide days fall short.” —Cameron Mortenson, The Fiberglass Manifesto
• “Every good guide truck has flies stuck everywhere, especially on the ceiling. All the ones on my ceiling are garbage flies, mostly that people gave me. If they were worth anything they’d be in the boat.” —Kevin Morlock, Indigo Guide Service
• “There must be at least three flashlights in the cab with totally dead batteries.” —Tom Rosenbauer, Orvis
• “Whenever I meet clients, the defrosters are usually blasting, and there are socks or something drying on my dashboard.” —Nick Raftas, Sky Blue Outfitters
• “There are always a few new hats on the dash from different pro staffs, but the guy is always wearing the same worn-out, faded hat from the local fly shop.” —Dave Hosler, Pile Cast Fly Fishing
• “If there’s a kid’s car seat in the back, you know you won’t die today, because the guy wants to get home safely to mama and baby.” —Shawn Brillon, Montana Fly Co.
• “There has to be a fair collection of snack wrappers and crushed plastic bottles. The odor should be a mix of salami and skunk.” —Mike Schmidt, Angler’s Choice Flies
• “All real guide trucks have so many rock chips in the windshield that you can barely see out of it. Also, you might wash your truck before the season, but you can’t wash it again until after. That’s a rule.” —Robert Hawkins, Bob Mitchell’s Fly Shop
• “Guys with too many stickers are posers. A true guide will have just a few in key places. One has to have a ‘screw the man’ political slogan, and one bumper sticker has to represent his favorite drinking establishment.” —Brad Bohen, Musky Country Outfitters
• “If your guide’s truck doesn’t have a crack in it, especially on the rear bumper, chances are he’s a greenhorn, or he’s more worried about how the truck looks than its performance.” —John Herzer, Blackfoot River Outfitters
Photographs (from top): Brian Grossenbacher, Bryan Gregson, Joe Cermele, Barry and Cathy Beck