How To Become A Fishing Guide In Colorado

If you love fishing, and are really good at it, a great way to make a living with your skills is as a fishing guide. Not only do you get to spend all your days doing what you love, you also help others discover the wonderful world of fishing, while getting in touch with nature at its finest.

But, if you’re really thinking about becoming a fishing guide, you need to figure out what the requirements are – what are the necessary qualifications (apart from being a skilled fisherman) and permits, and what steps do you need to go through?

Here we’ll walk you through the main process of becoming a fishing guide, and also what you need to do in Colorado specifically to practice this profession. 

Skills you need in order to become a fishing guide

If you’re planning to be a successful guide, you’ll need to take your clients (who more often than not are likely to be newbies) to the right fishing spots, and help them to catch fish there, all while thoroughly enjoying the experience.

While you may be thinking that this sounds great, since you’ll get to do a lot of fishing, that’s actually not the case. Instead of fishing yourself, you’ll need to devote most of your time to making sure that your clients are fishing effectively, and catching fish. Making sure that someone else catches fish can be much harder than catching the fish yourself. Because of this, you’ll need to develop your skills as a coach and teacher, with 100% of your focus on the client, and not yourself. 

Providing your clients with fishing tackle

Most people who hire a fishing guide show up without any tackle, and may even be complete beginners. So you not only need to know exactly what tackle is best for them, but you also need to have it in stock so they can start fishing right away.

A big part of this is having a detailed knowledge of your fisheries, and knowing what kind of tackle is best for beginners to catch fish effectively in your fisheries. For example, most beginners are most likely to be successful with a spinning reel setup, compared to more complex reel setups, such as baitcasting reels or fly reels (for more details on this, check out this guide).

Since the hardest part will be to enable inexperienced clients to be successful, you need to make sure you’ve got everything else covered, to maximise their chances of catching fish. So you’ll need to know exactly what species are currently found where, and what are the best tactics, lures and times to catch them. 

In order to have this kind of in-depth knowledge, it’s best to specialize in one or two fisheries, and one main type of fishing technique. This is especially true if you’re planning to be a fly fishing guide, since this style of fishing is significantly more complicated than others. 

What permits do you need to become a fishing guide in Colorado?

While you don’t need a certification to become a fishing guide in Colorado, you do need an outfitters permit, which is unfortunately not that easy to get, since state and federal authorities have limited the number of permits that are granted, in order to avoid overfishing. Because of this, there are only relatively few outfitters in Colorado, and most of them have a large team.

So if the thought of starting your own business as a fishing guide seems a little daunting, a great alternative option is to become a guide for one of the existing outfitters in Colorado. For example, if you want to be a fly fishing guide, check out the Fly Fishing Outfitters in Vail, Colorado.

Also, if you’ll be taking your clients out on a boat or other floating device, you’ll need to get on Oar Certification, which takes 50 hours to complete. 

Adjust for seasonality

Finally, if you’re planning to be a fishing guide, keep in mind that there is a peak season in summer, often with more clients than you can handle, followed by a low season in winter, where you’ll have to make your living another way during the cold months.

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