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How to Tip Fishing Guides and Lodges

by Marshall Cutchin
The difference between a meager tip and an excessive gratuity is a puzzle to many traveling fly fishers. Read this guide to accepted practice before planning your next trip.

A STORY I like to tell about tipping involves a gentleman known among his friends, appropriately, as Wild Phil. Phil used to place a $100 bill in plain sight on the console of my skiff, and whenever he jumped a tarpon, he would get down and hand me the hundred dollars. One day, after we had jumped 9 tarpon in just a couple of hours, I was struck by the relative absurdity of this relationship, and I said, “Phil, you don’t need to be so generous.”

Phil thought about this for a few seconds, then said, “You’re right. I want you to know that I’m grateful. But I don’t want you to think I’m stupid.”

And so it is with tipping and fishing. Understand a little bit about how your guide, or lodge personnel, or captain are compensated and, within general expectations, follow your instincts.

Tipping Guides and Lodges

photo by McNair Evans

General Guidelines

With the amount of traveling fly fishers do, it’s surprising that there aren’t well-publicized standards for tipping guides — something like the $1-to-$2 per bag “rule” for airport skycaps and hotel bellmen in the U.S. But just as guides and lodges in different parts of the world charge different rates for the same services, they can also have very different expectations of what makes a fair gratuity.

In all cases, if you are using a booking service or know someone who has fished the location before, ask. You’ll avoid uncomfortable moments like a bartender in New Zealand refusing your $10 tip (“Why don’t you just buy a round for the bar, mate?”).

You may have some fixed rules of your own, like 15 percent for service people, or 20 percent if they’ve done an outstanding job. But following those rules in all foreign countries may do a disservice to other anglers and to lodge management. And what do you do at a lodge where half a dozen people are involved in ensuring the quality of your visit? Or maybe you’ve heard that in some parts of the world, T-shirts and fishing lures are more meaningful than cash. And what about that obnoxious bass guide in Florida who didn’t like fly fishers because he couldn’t tack on his normal “backlash” fee? (“Wind knot fees,” you suggested under your breath.)

The short answer to these questions is that tipping etiquette in the fly fishing business follows the same general rules that apply to all service industry workers in a given country. In the U.S. for example, gratuities of more than 20 percent mean you were extremely happy about the experience; tipping less than 10 percent means you were dissatisfied, but communicates to the service provider that you know tipping is customary.

In all cases, if you are using a booking service or know someone who has fished the location before, ask. You’ll avoid uncomfortable moments like a bartender in New Zealand refusing your $10 tip (“Why don’t you just buy a round for the bar, mate?”).

Is tipping discretionary? Tipping amounts — even in the U.S. and neighboring countries, where gratuities are often taken for granted — should always reflect quality of service. But not tipping in an industry where gratuities make up a considerable portion of the incomes of the lower-paid staff is almost always insulting. Discussing the source of a bad experience with a lodge manager while you are on-site, for example, is far better than leaving without tipping.

Guidelines for Tipping Independent Guides

First, let’s clarify what we mean by “independent guide.” Florida skiff guides and light-tackle offshore guides, New England and California striper guides, Texas bass and coastal redfish guides, and trout, salmon and steelhead guides not part of a lodge setting — whether booked by an outfitter or not — should all be considered independent guides, as far as tipping is concerned. What sets them apart is that they generally run their operations and provide service individually, absorbing the attendant overhead, and if they do accept bookings from a retail shop or outfitter, they generally have to pay a commission for that service.

As a rule, you should plan on tipping $40-50 to a bonefish guide for day of work in the Bahamas or around the Caribbean and Central and South America. In Iceland, on the other hand, you should plan to tip a salmon guide $50-100 per day.

If you are budgeting for gratuities, figure in 15 percent for an average level of service from an independent fly fishing guide, but not less than 10 percent. Guides get a large percentage of their income from tips. Some top-tier guides expect a sizeable tip, and won’t find future openings in their schedule for new clients who don’t tip 20 percent. And regularly tipping more than 15 percent can get you access to peak-season slots that suddenly “come open.”

Of course if a guide makes an exceptional effort — fishing an extra hour or three beyond the norm or working especially hard to put you on fish — tipping well makes good sense. Being stingy after a remarkable effort punishes the guide and the anglers who follow you. Not happy and don’t plan to fish with the same guide again? It’s still a good idea to tip something, even if it’s only 5 percent — it’s not worth saving a few bucks and risking having it become known among the other guides that you don’t tip.

One somewhat special case worth mentioning regards tipping independent Bahamas and other independent foreign guides. It’s hard to know what to tip independent foreign guides because in many cases their rates are considerably lower than independent guides in the U.S. As a rule, you should plan on tipping $40-50 to a bonefish guide for day of work in the Bahamas or around the Caribbean and Central and South America. In Iceland, on the other hand, you should plan to tip a salmon guide $50-100 per day.

Tipping GuidesAll that being said, keep in mind that many of the best guides in the U.S. would fish with their favorite customers even if they never tipped. When I was guiding — especially in the early years when I had little choice over my clientele — I believed that there was no amount of money that could compensate me for the pain of dealing with lousy customers. But I would have guided my best clients for free; tips from them were the icing. Here are a couple of other non-monetary suggestions for treating your guide well and letting them know you appreciate their efforts:

  • Show up 5-10 minutes early. Don’t make your guide wait, especially early in the morning.
  • Be pleasant company and fish well. Can’t fish well? You can try hard, and that’s all a good guide expects. Don’t get angry or frustrated to the point where it is interfering with the experience. Don’t talk on your cell phone while tarpon are sipping crabs from the surface 20 feet in front of the boat. And don’t strip all of your backing onto the floor of your guide’s rig on the way to the river.
  • Don’t treat taking your guide out to dinner as part of the gratuity. Most hardworking guides consider the opportunity to spend precious evening hours with their clients part of their work day, not a bonus.

Gratuities at Destination Fishing Lodges and on Package Trips

Unlike with independent guides, there are many variations on the accepted standards for tipping at lodges and on package trips, so gather as much information as you can before arriving. Every booking agent we know says that questions about tipping are the most common inquiry they get from traveling anglers, so if they don’t include the information in their trip “ready list,” be sure to ask for it.

General guidelines for tipping at lodges include the following:

Count on an extra 7-12 percent of the total package cost (on the land package, not including taxes, travel and other non-destination service charges), carried either as cash in your carry-on bag, which is best, or in the form of personal checks or travelers’ checks (note that travelers’ checks are one of the least-favored forms of gratuity, since banks will often charge significant fees to have them deposited; it’s a sore spot with guides, especially in far-flung locations). Suggestions for total tips will range from 5 percent to 15 percent, however, depending on your booking agent, the destination, and the total package price, so be sure to ask the agent or the lodge manager. Don’t let anyone convince you that you will be expected to pay more than 7-8 percent in gratuities on an $8000 trip. And just in case you were curious, 60-70 percent of these tips typically end up with the guides, and the rest is distributed to the non-guiding staff.

At Christmas Island, which became a very popular Pacific Ocean bonefishing destination in the 1980s, the local culture did not consider tipping to be acceptable behavior. It wasn’t until arriving international anglers influenced the local guides that individual tipping became part of the experience.

More often than not, you will be better off leaving a “collective” gratuity for your entire stay with the lodge manager at the end of the trip than you will tipping service staff and guides individually. The reasons for this are not readily apparent, but they include the fact that overtipping to individuals makes it more difficult for the lodge manager to control the expectations (and behavior) of the staff. At some lodges, guides who have been tipped excessively muscle out the less-experienced or less-senior but perhaps more-talented guides for access to the high tippers. And at other lodges, direct tipping throws a huge wrench into the works. For example, at Christmas Island, which became a very popular Pacific Ocean bonefishing destination in the 1980s, the local culture did not consider tipping to be acceptable behavior [note: this is also still true among other Pacific island cultures, including the newly publicized fishery at Penrhyn Atoll]. It wasn’t until arriving international anglers influenced the local guides that individual tipping became part of the experience. Finally, you many not always realize who is working the hardest to make your trip enjoyable. The camp cook, for example, may be getting up an hour before everyone else and going to bed an hour later, and working twice as hard during the day as the average guide.

If you do want to tip a guide working from a lodge operation directly, a $40-60 tip per day is the norm, at least in Alaska. (Be sure not to wait until the end of the week to reward your guide.) And in those rare cases where your guide is also flying you out to your day’s fishing, it is worth an additional $10 or $20. Generally, though, you can assume your pilot is getting a share of the lodge tip.

Cash rules, no matter where you go. Some lodges accept credit cards, but many don’t. And as we’ve already hinted, travelers’ checks are often worth 10-20 percent less than their face value after being cashed by the local bank and can be an inconvenience for guides. If you feel unsafe traveling with cash, find out what other form of payment the managers at your destination prefer. Note that in some special cases, however, cash tips to guides are discouraged — in parts of the Amazon for example, guides at some lodges I’ve visited were notorious for spending their tips on alcohol and not showing up for work for a week — and a lodge manager may suggest that you gift items like T-shirts or fishing lures instead of cash. Rarely should non-monetary gifts be counted as part of your overall gratuity, however, unless you have made a special pre-arrangement with your independent guide.

Tipping for Offshore and Other Special Types of Angling Excursions

There are also special types of destination angling that follow different sets of rules when it comes to gratuities. These include fishing from larger offshore boats, typically when fly fishing for billfish, whether they are directly booked or set up by a local lodge. (Note: we are not talking here about single-crew, open-fisherman type operations, where independent guide rules apply.)

In most parts of the world, you should expect to tip both the captain and mate(s) of an offshore boat independently of the lodge tip. The average gratuity for most operations works out to around $50 for the captain and $25 for each crew member for the entire boat, whether there are four anglers or only one. Some lodges and crews will expect higher gratuities, especially if they specialize in destination angling, but the most you should reasonably expect to tip a boat captain and crew collectively is $150 per day. Obviously, the crew and captain both have to work harder with a full boat, so consideration should be made if you are splitting the gratuity. As always, and especially when arranging for offshore fishing through a lodge, get a clear answer from the lodge or booking agent about tipping expectations.

Often in the Caribbean, South America, Central America and Mexico, you will find opportunities to fish with guides working independently out of small boats like pangas. These guides typically charge less and expect less in the way of tips than guides in established guiding communities, so let common sense be your guide, but be wary of over-tipping. Oftentimes these guides are not familiar with fly fishing techniques, expect to catch and sell their fish, and are used to smaller gratuities.

Finally, there are a few other special situations and customs you should be aware of:

  • In some parts of Latin America, such as Venezuela and parts of Mexico, and in some European countries like France and Italy, gratuities are automatically added to restaurant and/or hotel bills. Be sure to know the customs so that you can avoid double-tipping.
  • As in the example mentioned at the beginning of this article, service personnel in Australia and New Zealand and bartenders in the U. K. generally find tipping strange, as do people in Germany, Japan and China. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t plan on tipping guides and lodges in countries where gratuities are uncommon, however. Although New Zealanders, for example, aren’t all accustomed to tipping, guests regularly tip at most of the fly fishing lodges there — usually $100-200 for a week’s stay, considerably less than the 7-10% that could be considered average at a U.S. lodge.

The most important thing to know about tipping is that a little knowledge goes a long way. Don’t agonize about what is fair. Be excessive if the spirit of the occasion warrants it. And remember that a small tip sometimes sends a stronger message than no tip at all.

MidCurrent Fly Fishing
Marshall Cutchin is the editor and publisher of MidCurrent.
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  • Mike McGarry

    Educational article and an enjoyable read for someone curious about what to tip on their next float trip.  My brother and I are taking a bass fly-fishing float trip this weekend and I have no idea what to tip or how to tip.  This article was excellent and a specific bullet resinate with me…”Be pleasant company and fish well. Can’t fish well? You can try hard, and that’s all a good guide expects. Don’t get angry or frustrated to the point where it is interfering with the experience. Don’t talk on your cell phone while tarpon are sipping crabs from the surface 20 feet in front of the boat. And don’t strip all of your backing onto the floor of your guide’s rig on the way to the river.” 
    Well put and thank you!

  • Glad you found it helpful!

  • GDN

    This informative article and others are what makes MidCurrent great.  I am glad to know that I have been in line with what you recommend.  I always wondered.  Guides work hard and I don’t think they are getting rich. 
    In Bergen, Norway, we were told that waiters are well compensated by their restaurants.  If you want to tip that is fine but not necessary.  I beleve this goes for all of Europe.  If wrong, I hope someone corrects me.

  • Swimming crab

    Great observation about taking the guide out to dinner. Of course there are exceptions, but most guides would rather go home to their family than spend another couple of hours wearing a game face with a client.

    • wayneosguideservice

      As a fishing guide in Upstate NY I couldn’t agree more. Many times clients want to take me for a burger and a beer after the trip. Part of me is happy they obviously enjoyed their day and want it to continue but at the same time as you said that is time away from my wife and two young sons. To count that as a tip is wrong in my opinion. Especially when you are going to continue to ask questions about fishing and gain more knowledge during this time.

  • Pete

    thanks for a very helpful article that throws a lot of light on something that can become very emotive. one thing i’m still not really clear on however is the tipping of an independant guide. in your article you mention 15% for an average level of service but not less than 10%.
     my questions are:
    1)surley if the guides an indepandant he’s taking the full fee less expenses and he’s pretty much charging for everything ( at least thats my experience and i’ve pretty much fished all around the world) so there’s a healthy margin in it or is he deliberatly under charging?

    2) what constitutes average service and what distinguishes good service from it?

    • Pete,

      Any good guide will have some significant expenses attached to their day of guiding, like fuel, flies, gear wear-and-tear. But most guides charge based on the “going rate” for a number of reasons, not least of which is that they don’t want to undercut other guides. Is there a lot of profit built in? There may be, in some cases, but you also have to remember that if the weather turns bad, they can have a lot of unpaid days off.

      What makes good service? In my opinion its a combination of:

      1. Expert knowledge of the water and fish behavior in given conditions
      2. Friendliness and eagerness to teach
      3. Hard work

      As you know from your experience, there are plenty of guides who are out there just to get through the day. A great guide is doing it because he wants to be a great guide — and because he wants the client to leave with something more than a few fish pictures.

  • Olivier

    Hi Marshall,
    Very useful information. It’s always a difficult to know what to tip.
    You feel guilty when you fell you tip to low.
    Do you have experience about Mexico?
    I am just back from Assecion Bay and there it seems like every fish you catch as a price.
    You do not tip the guide, you tip the catches.
    Here is what the guides expect :
    Standard day $40, 1 permit caught $100. 2 permits $150 and so on.
    Grand Slam $150.
    I hated this. I don’t mind tipping but fish have a price at the fish market, not on a fishing day.
    You are very good caster and experienced angler and catch 3 permits on a nice sunny day when the fish are biting and the guiding is easy then you have to give $200/250.
    The next day, the weather is shit and the guide have to work his ass off to put you on a fish. Finally, you catch none then you are supposed to give only $40.
    I’d rather tip high on a blank day when the guide has worked very hard and has done his very best to put me on a fish rather than stop fishing on an excellent because I can’t afford to catch more fish. 
    What is your expert opininon?

    • Olivier,

      I’m not sure whom you fished with, but this kind of tipping policy is certainly not common, and I don’t think it is fair to either the guide or the angler. Guides often have very little control over how many fish are caught in a day, and anglers shouldn’t be expected to pay more when they catch more fish — that’s a real spirit-killer. I’m guessing this is an attempt by the lodge to encourage the guides to work harder, but you couldn’t get away with this in an environment where the guides are truly independent experts. Just my opinion.


    • Dan

      Outrageous, and just when I was looking for another reason NOT to visit Mexico, lol.

  • Martin Carranza

    Thank you Marshall for this information, may I use part of your text in our welcome brochure at Chime Lodge in Patagonia?  Of course I can put your name on it.  Best regards, Martin

  • Very complete and useful article!But in Italy gratuities are not automatically added to restaurant and hotel bills…I never saw this and I live in Italy

    • Thanks for the feedback, Angelo. Good to hear the resident perspective.

  • Thanks for this article I have many clients (both generous and unknowing) who are not quite confortable with just what is appropriate. Appreciate it …Brian

  • smokies guide

    This is the best articl eon guide tipping that I have read. Thanks for writing it.

  • Dan Ross

    This is an awesome article.  I have guided for 30+ years and this is great I am book marking it and will recommend my clients that talk about tipping read it. Thanks Dan

  • Nicolasbotting

    Great article, although I think that in some specific areas guides are getting tipped a little bit more that what you say in your article. Most lodges have a very clear policy about this and it´s usually mentioned in their “welcome letters”.
    The only other thing you are missing is when a client decides to tip his guide with some kind of gear, say a $500.- rod. He may think he is tipping that amount but the truth is that usually guides have already more than enough rods and get them with a good discount from the rod builders directly. So maybe the client´s intention is good but is not really helping the guide.

  • lip ripper

    as a guide for many years on an inland lake in ontario canada i’ve seen just about everything in the way of tips.from absolutely nothing to several hundred dollars per day.working for a rather large lodge and with many guides, tips has become a rather sore topic.just in case some of you have illusions that lodges pay great money to its employees think again.most lodges only hire kids and students so that means in most cases  only min. wage is paid. because it is only considered seasonal labour the employer can pay less wages no benefits and force staff to work more than 44 hrs /week with no overtime.
    generally they do not pay an hourly wage but a monthly salary with a bonus upon completion of a contract ,and thats only paid on completion of the contract.some groundskeepers arent really needed after mid august and are let go for one reason or another  to avoid paying the completion bonus.some lodges even allow staff to charge drinks at the bar and store purchases to the point they drink their whole cheque.this only stopped after the death of a staff member who had been over served and fell into the water and drowned.
    .some lodges also charge employees room and board on top of an already low wage.the lodge i worked at used to not charge an automatic gratuity to its guests on their bill and left it to the guest to leave the tip to the staff/guides.sadly that all changed when they realized the amount of cash being left to staff and guides.the end result is the lodge is collecting tips on behalf of staff/guides and only paying out about one fifth of the money they collect on behalf of staff/guides.once you leave a tip with a manager or office staff do you know where it goes?
    if you really want to thank someone for their hard work put the tip in their hands.i dont really need a middleman in my tips.for corporate groups it is important that they have a reciept for tax purposes so the tip is usually paid on the main bill.what the lodge decides to pay out to staff is not always what was left.i have always thought that a tip was a personal thank you from one person to another,so giving my tip to a manager or office staff is i feel equivalent to a slap in the face.had i spent 8 hrs a day in a boat with my guide i would at the very least shake his hand at the end of my trip and put the tip in his hands.
    i could continue for several more paragraphs about the evils of guiding and lodges but in the end it still falls on you to decide what you should leave as a tip and to who.please be wary of lodges that charge automatic gratuities on the bill or who vigorously encourage leaving tips on the bill for staff or who claim that they want to make sure that staff pay taxes on their tips.why would an employer want to make sure of this? i have no problems declaring what i make on my taxes and being that they are my taxes i’ll  do them myself .what i claim on my taxes is my business not my employers.just from my above statements it would appear that there is just as much money to be made from staff as there is from guests.
    to some of you it would appear that i have become very bitter about my experiences.actually i feel pretty good about them as they have taught me about how some people conduct their business’s.
    please remember that for the most part lodge staff are kids who love the outdoors and what they do and they shouldnt be ripped off ,manipulated or end up dead for a summers work.i no longer work for that lodge and my new employer keeps his hands out of my piggy bank. good fishing everyone!!!

  • Mswalleye

    Just wondering … my husband guides at a fly in outpost camp for fly in service, he guides, helps prepare meals(used to do all the cooking) clean up, prepares boats, keeps cabin warm, cool whatever, guides in the evening if they want that … he is with the client 24 hours a day, at their beck and call.  What would you think a reasonable daily rate would be?  As far as the tipping goes it is like another person on here said, he would gladly guide some groups for free but others ???  He has found that the corporate groups are the stingiest with tips, like little to non existant tips.  He is a nice guy and busts his balls for his clients so I know his lack of tips with corporate is due to poor service … I think he is being used at his present rate but … that is my opinion… thanks

    • Just as there aren’t any hard and fast rules for tipping, the going rate for”fair” for wages often depends on location (independent saltwater guides tend to earn more than guides who depend on lodges or outfitters to generate business, for example) and tradition.  Unfortunately wages hardly ever reward guides for extra effort, and tipping in a group fishing situation is almost always unpredictable unless the lodge takes specific steps to educate clients.  I’d suggest trying to compare your husband’s role to similar jobs in the area — it’s about the only way to know what the market rate is.

    • Larry Tullis

      Corporate groups should have a fair gratuity added to the bill, just as done in some restraurants. Any other individual tips are then gravy.

  • Linehan

    Great story and very straightforward. I would also add that sometimes clients don’t feel it necessary to tip the owner in the case of western outfitters even though they are also guiding. In short, the individual doing the guiding, whether he or she owns the company or not, should be tipped accordingly for obvious reasons.

  • Jfoye54

    I have a different take in independent guides.  They are self employed pros and I operate on the assumption that they set their rates fairly and in an amount that compensates them fully for their efforts.  Many professionals that own a business are insulted if you attempt to tip them.. Distinguish the owner of the barbershop with an employee..  I once had a barbershop owner explain to me that he was not he hired help and expected no tip.  Tip my employees, the hired help, not me!  I know there are many counterpoints among us about this but this is my pov.

    • Seahosre76

      And you will never fish with a guide more than once… Maybe we figure in that our clients understand we are trying to keep the cost of fishing down as much as possible and the client if possible should pick up the extra.. If I figured in what it actually cost no one would ever book a trip… Don’t forget when your off the boat our work doesn’t stop… We have to clean the boat, tie flies, leaders etc.etc.etc which usually ends up being a 12-14+ hour day. So do the guide world a favor and don’t book one if your going to stiff us…

      • xxxx

        Hey, join the real world. I am employed in agriculture and often advise growers. I am never tipped–it is part of my job. And I don’t even set my own salary. Tell you what, $600 for a half day fishing for 4 people–really? No lunch, no fish cleaning–but I did not expect that. The guide is self-employed. What makes you guys think tipping applies if you are self-employed? Did I agree to it? Are you paid minimum wage? You are a business person–if you cannot charge a reasonable rate, perhaps you are not running your business correctly. Tip also? Then again, I am just not that into fishing. Maybe supermarkets can provide fish at a better rate–don’t have to tip there. Then again, the fish don’t fight much.

        • Being a guide means that you are in the Service Profession. It is customary, and industry wide in the service industry that the bulk of what we make is from gratuity. Trust me, if you are making a name for yourself as the guy who doesn’t tip. Before long, you will never be able to fish the same river twice.

  • I got a guide to fish the marshes of LA for Redfish a few months ago who took the cake.  All he focused on was an upcoming football game that afternoon.  We got up to meet him at 06am then found ourselves buying our(and his) breakfast and lunch only to get on the water by 9:30.  When we finally got going he spotted maybe 2 fish all morning and would only say “fish!”  I finally threw a hint to my buddy saying “tail 10 o’clock 20 feet” but the poor smuck never got it???!  By 1100 I started blind casting and got my buddy to do so and actually caught fish he didn’t spot.  By 2pm he started heading back without discussion mentioning the game.  We were so disappointed we barely tipped him maybe 5% and cancelled the second day.  I think besides the poling, I may have done better than this “experienced” guide at his premium rate.  

  • AK bush

    I worked as a fishing guide for many years at a remote Alaskan sport fishing camp where the rule was that the staff shared tips equally (Great system for that particular lodge and arrangement). We averaged a staff of 12 guides, 2-3 camp hands, and 2 cooks. Average of about 30 clients at a time. This was a fully inclusive outfitted camp in the middle of really fishy wilderness where the only access was by float plane, so the staff was always “on duty” and the clients were always there. Cost for the client was about $450-$500 per day all inclusive, typically 5 day to 7 day trips. ($2500-$3000 trip). My personal opinion is that the 7-10% amount listed here is the absolute minimum you should tip for such a situation. A shocking number of people tipped less than that. The owner had tipping suggestions of 10-20% on the website, listed such in a letter that the clients received before the trip, and had it on a welcome note that the clients found on their cot upon arrival. 10% is only $40 per day and sometimes people would tip that for the whole week which is ridiculous. No one guiding in remote Alaska is doing it to get rich, and the sheer experience of getting to fish in such an incredible place is very rewarding, but those guides sacrifice alot to go work in the bush, often leaving family and otherwise full time jobs and businesses behind while they come guide for a few months. Give them the courtesy and respect of a little green paper as a financial reward they can go back home with. I no longer guide for a living and during my 2 weeks of vacation per year I try to take guided fishing trips and I tip about 15% uniformally unless I am really upset about the guides performance. 15% should be the baseline, 10% minimum and if you can afford it tip 20%. Eat one less dinner at a nice restaurant when you get back home and it will cover the difference between a marginal and a generous tip. Remember that it supports really hard working guides that dont make very much money.

    • Dan

      Ridiculous advice. First, who needs a guide in AK? I’ve been there five times, the fish practically jump into your hands. Second, the customers shouldn’t have to pay “twice” for their trips. I think the problem here is that the outfitting isn’t paying his staff a decent wage. Guides or any employee shouldn’t be left wondering all week if they’re going to make $100 or $300, that’s a lousy way to live. These trips should be flat rate, include a reasonable and fair pay for the guides.

  • Anonymous

    Having worked several jobs where tipping is customary, you (as employee) are setting yourself up for disappointment and cultivating a negative outlook if you expect a tip from each and every customer. Treat each tip as a small bonus for a job well done. If poor tipping upsets you, then choose another profession. If you count on tips to get by, find something that pays better. Complaining about customers that don’t tip according to subjective standards set by you or the industry is ridiculous. On a related note, people that have worked in positions in which they received tips tip tremendously better than those who haven’t. The more white collar the customer, the less likely they will tip a decent percentage, if any at all.

    • Dan

      This is the most reasonable comment that I’ve read on this whole board. Very good.

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  • Melanie Daryl

    I guess that at the end of the day, whatever the rules are for tipping, we should give it wholeheartedly. Anyway, it’s a case-to-case basis. This is dependent on the discretion of the customer, whether he or she was happy with the service or not.

    Melanie Daryl

  • 3fins

    Independent or not,in the Fishing INDUSTRY guides get tipped. On the outside it seems that a fishing guide makes a lot of money. Couldn’t be a bigger deception. And ya what you think might be an 8 hour day probably started 2 hours before you got there and continues 2 hours after you leave. If you feel good about yourself leaving your waitress less than 20%, then you’ll prob do it with your guide. Eat a few less cheeseburgers and you’ll have enough to tip a good guide whats hes worth for abusing his body to make sure you have a smile all day and a sore arm at the end of the trip.

    • Dan

      Yeah, and the sport got up 2 hours before arriving at the river, too, and probably spend about that much time cleaning up his own gear afterwards, so what’s your point. Tipping waitresses has nothing to do with tipping guides, totally different industry and purpose. I think the waitress provides a more valuable service than a guide does, anyway, so yeah, I tip her big. The “body abusing” fishing guide, not so much.

  • 3fins

    and self employed(meaning it costs him more to to get and take the trips because hes doing his own advertising, and has more overall costs. A guide for a shop had less costs!

  • Casters Fly Shop

    I am a small business owner. I own a fly shop and am an independent Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide. I don’t expect a tip for my knowledge, advice and service (loading reels, rigging, etc.) in the fly shop. I have worked in the fly fishing industry for over 26 years and feel that guides/instructors deserve some sort of gratuity for their services. But (and a big but), only if we meet the anglers needs and provide them the best experience possible. I, personally, don’t expect one if I didn’t meet these expectations.

    I am providing a service and I take great pride in what I do. Most of my days consist of roughly 8 hours of service on the water including a grilled, (somewhat) gourmet stream side meal. These meals require several hours of prep time the day before each trip plus I tie flies and prepare in any other way I can. I try to be prepared for the aspects that are under my control This preparation is key to a great experience regardless of how the fishing is. The fish always have their own agenda so I cant control the “catch rate.”

    When its all said and done, each of my full day “guide/instructor” days consists of roughly 15 hours (including prep time, tying, research (weather, river levels, etc.), drive time, guiding/instructing, lunch and clean up). I love what I do so I wouldn’t do it any other way.

    Nice read, Marshall.

    • Dan

      The gourmet lunch is nonsense, in my opinion, which is why I would never book a trip through an Orvis guide, though I do use their equipment. So if you waste two hours preparing marinated salmon to serve up to some rich sport and his wife or mistress along for the ride, then that’s your choice. Orvis and guides like you are catering to a much different crowd than real fishermen, who prefer the solitude, adventure, and challenge of traveling to a new place and catching fish on their own. I see guiding as a form of babysitting, and I certainly don’t need another grown man to oversee my activity fishing. The whole “tipping scene” is a big reason not to use guides, in my view. Just charge your rate, whatever it is, and let that be that. If it takes you 15 hours to prepare for an 8 hour date on the river, then so be it. As a former teacher I used to spend at least 4-6 hours preparing for every hour of classroom time. And for that I wasn’t expecting a tip from the students. I think guides in general have a really skewed view of the service they provide, which other than transporation or when babysitting a true novice or moron, can probably be covered in about 30 minutes. Use this fly or lure, here’s how to rig for local conditions, etc. I don’t need 8 hours of that nonsense and would much rather not have a guide breathing down my neck anyway! I get more good info from 10 minute conversations in tackle shops when buying local flies and I still slam the fish all day long.

      • Casters Fly Shop

        I don’t make marinated salmon. Lunch takes a total of 45 minutes from set up to fishing again. Plus, the anglers get to fish for 25 minutes while the lunch is being prepared. It’s also an option not to have lunch. I’m glad to see our youth are in good hands and that you take time to prepare your lesson plans.

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  • Rob Heal

    I’ve been guiding for 20 years and have worked both independently and with a service. The fact that you have an entire page dedicated to “How to tip” tells me something. A tip or gratuity by definition is an arbitrary bonus based on the servers, or in our case, guides performance and should reflect that.
    But this is the reality; If you regularly receive a good tip it’s because you do a good job and clearly take a great deal of pride in your craft. That is contagious to your sport and they will typically compensate with a fair gratuity. But if you occasionally receive one that is not to your standard, it doesn’t necessarily reflect your performance on that day and is more than likely a case of ignorance on the sports side or, that particular sport was frugal (cheap). We can’t do anything about that.
    You know when you do a good job.
    If an individual guide feels that they don’t receive the gratuities that they deserve on regular basis, they may way want to make a new game plan, like carrying the proper baits, artificial lures, rods, reels, etc. and not make excuses.

  • erparf

    If I like a guide and feel that he has worked hard i always tip well even if the catch is poor (as long as I think the guide didn’t give up or cause the low catch). The only guides i have not tipped well are the two assholes, one who laughed as he manhandled fish on the end of my line (only fished with him once) and the other who was rude, crude to the point of being offensive and screamed unnecessarily foully at me for missing a hook set on a tarpon. He seemed to forget that it was my vacation and that he was working for me. I’ve been fishing 54 years, 60 days a year and know a good guide from a has been. I also think guides should bill their days for what they are worth and get beyond the tip culture that perhaps only could then have a place with guides working for a lodge.

    • Dan

      100% agree.

  • Steve

    Great article , Marshall.

  • Twitch

    Hi, I have waded through figuring out what to tip guides in our Midwestern. Luckily, the guides I have hired have done a very good job & appeared happy to do it. I tip them well. However, what still leaves me a bit confused and on edge is when the guide suggests meeting for breakfast (very common) and/or having supper afterward. Does the client offer to pay this or not? How does this work in relation to the tip provided from the actual fishing experience? Occasionally it is clear what to do, but many times it is not. Very nice and helpful article – thanks!

  • Larry Tullis

    Great article. Im a guide, writer, photographer and have helped produce many videos. Something not covered in the article is visiting non-paying guests of the lodge. Writers or video production crews invited to hopefully help promote the lodge or service should not be expected to tip at all. Instead, the owner should pay and tip the guide, and mark it down in the books as advertising costs, or do the guiding themselves. Same thing with invited politicians, dignitaries, stars etc., who’s presence may help the business.
    Another non-tip situation is traded trips. Guides often trade fishing trips with each other in other regions. No tips should be expected but costs are often split down the middle, just like buddies fishing together and both of you fishing is expected.

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  • Justin

    In Japan tipping is considered rude, you are essentially saying “you dont know how to do your job well enough, maybe with this extra money you can figure it out”.

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  • Rick Bannerot writes: “Very nicely done and comprehensive story with excellent nuances and variations one often encounters. Would add the thought that you should let the guides know you are tipping at the end of the stay, not daily, so there is no early disappointment or questioning before the second day’s trip. Guide egos can be fragile, as can their motivation.”

  • Tom. Moran

    What about when the guide is also an owner of the shop? In this case he is getting the entire amount of the trip. In some other service industries I know of owners don’t get tipped .

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  • Great article