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Unsung Heroes: Fly Fishing Guides

by Bob Mallard

Long before the sun rises, hundreds of hardworking, skilled, and dedicated workers head off into the darkness to ply their trade.  I’m not talking about farmers or ranchers, construction or service sector workers, government employees, or businessmen, I’m talking about fly fishing guides, the unsung heroes of the outdoor recreation scene. 

Before they pick up their clients, fly fishing guides trailer their boats and load their trucks.  They check the weather and water flow to determine where to go and what to plan for.  They talk to their peers about the prior day’s fishing to increase the odds of success and decrease the likelihood of failure.  They arrange shuttles and pack their coolers with ice, lunch, snacks, and beverages. 

Arriving at fly shops, lodges, and boat launches across the nation before most of us have gotten out of bed, fly fishing guides prepare for eight or more hours of rowing and pulling on anchor ropes, wading and helping others do so, rigging lines, untying accidental knots, unhooking flies from unintended targets, netting and releasing fish, taking pictures, and otherwise keeping their clients fed, hydrated, safe, and happy.

Fly fishing guide clients show up after much of the work is done: Well-rested, well fed, and with nothing to do but fish and enjoy the scenery.  Guides then drive them miles to the water, launch their boats, load their gear, get everyone situated, and begin the second and arguably hardest part of their day: Trying to get their clients fish regardless of skill level and conditions and keep them safe.

Guides Bob Mallard and Emily Bastian getting well caffeinated before they launch

At the end of the day, fly fishing guides trailer their boats, load everything back into the truck, and drive their clients back to where they found them.  They empty the trash from their truck and boat, wash out their latter so it is ready for the trip, drain and rinse their coolers, and head home as their clients sit down for dinner.  And many guides tie flies for the next day once they get home.

Few people work longer and harder than fly fishing guides.  They often work 10-12-hour shifts, and it isn’t unusual for them to work ten days straight, and in many cases two or three times that.  Their day starts before most of us have awaken and ends after many of us have gone back to bed.  They deal with unpredictable weather and water flows, and even more unpredictable clients and fish. 

While their clients eat a relaxing breakfast at the lodge, stop by the local coffee shop, or fire up a casual pot of coffee at home, guides jump out of bed, fire up their trucks, and hit the streets before most businesses are even open.  Without the time to address their own needs, many guides either go without their morning coffee or wait until they get to the lodge or shop to get one.

Planetary Design has a solution for the nations fly fishing guides coffee woes.  It’s found in their suite of grab-and-go coffee press products. 

First is the Big Sky Bistro. This 16 oz. plastic mug with large handle and built-in press is affordable, simple, and rugged.  Next is the Steel Toe, a heavy-duty insulated stainless steel travel mug with integrated press that will fit in your truck or boat console.  And for those who like a second cup, try the Double Shot.  This insulated stainless steel mug has an integrated press and sealed storage compartment for addition grounds.

Hats off to the nations fly fishing guides.  Few work harder or do as much to make our time productive, and even fewer are as good a steward of the resource we all love.  And hats off to Planetary Design for providing high-quality outdoor-centric products for those of us on the go.           


BOB MALLARD has fly fished for forty years.  He is a former fly shop owner and a Registered Maine Fishing Guide.  Bob is a blogger, free-lance writer, author, fly designer, and native fish advocate.  He is the Publisher, Northeast Regional Editor, and a regular contributor to Fly Fish America magazine; a dual columnist with Southern Trout online magazine, and a staff fly designer at Catch Fly Fishing, and founding member and National Vice Chair for Native Fish Coalition.  Bob has written two books and contributed to several others.  Look for his books, 50 Best Places Fly Fishing the Northeast and 25 Best Towns Fly Fishing for Trout (Stonefly Press.)  Bob’s next book, Squaretail: The Definitive Guide to Brook Trout, is due out summer of 2019 (Stackpole Books.)  He can be reached at www.bobmallard.com, info@bobmallard.com or 207-399-6270.

Guides Andy Brust and Emily Bastian exchanging fly-tying tips