Having written on guides and done some guiding myself over the years, I’m often asked what makes the great ones great. It all boils down to four things. Whether you want to hire one or be one, know what separates the contenders from the pretenders:

1. All great guides manage expectations then over-deliver. They ask the client what they want, then give that to them, plus some. Some customers want to learn every knot and bug. Others just want a photo-op. The good guide knows where the end zone is, and acts as if he/she has been there often.

2. Sharing knowledge is key; demonstrating knowledge is lame. Terry Gunn told me that (I think he got it from Lefty Kreh). If a guide leaves the angler with one unique yet important lesson that sinks in and makes a difference in the future, that’s success. Of course, the better the angler, the higher the bar.
3.** Great guides understand there’s more to life than “Nice fish, pretty colors.” They read, learn, and understand current events. They know what the stock market is doing, and can carry on an intelligent conversation when the fish stop biting.

4. Dock talk is taboo. Rule 2, section B of the guide code clearly states that guides do not talk about how much they “kicked butt” in front of other guides and clients. Odds are, the trash-talkers are full of bull anyway.