I've put together a list of Guides and Fly Shops that are related to the regions shown on the maps. When traveling to a destination, this will give you a selection of the nearest Fly Shops and Guides which serve that area. I have also included a list of Fly Fishing Clubs. They mostly meet monthly and welcome guests. It's a great way to meet fellow anglers and get local information to enhance your flyfishing experience.
How to select a Fly Fishing Guide
Using a Fly Fishing Guide can be a very enjoyable experience. Guides will not only introduce you to their favorite waters but will show you how to properly fish those waters with instruction on casting, selection of flies, presentation, and choice of rigging. Guides are useful regardless your experience or skill level. You can choose an independent guide, a guide service, or a package deal that will provide room and lodging. There are a number of ways to select a great guide.
How to Tip a Guide
Using a Guide can be a very fulfilling experience when you explore a new area. They will not only show you how to fish local waters but will be a full day instructor on many of the finer points of flyfishing such as selection of flies, rig set-up, and presentations. As in most service industries, tipping can be an integral part of the income for a Guide. This can be even more important when the guide belongs to a service or lodge which holds a large percentage of the fees. Within the Sierra Nevada, budget for about 15% of the entire fee as a normal gratuity. 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. But not tipping is almost always insulting. If you have a bad experience, it is best to discuss this with the guide or service but leave a tip anyway.
Many of the best guides value the experience of the day's fishing with the client's behavior. If a client is enjoyable to fish with, tipping almost becomes irrelevant. If a client has been a pain all day long, no amount of additional compensation improves the outlook of the guide with that client. Here are a couple of other non-monetary suggestions for treating your guide well and letting them know you appreciate their efforts:
Etiquette on the Stream
A California flyfishing guide, Neal Taylor, once told me about fishing the Lower Owens River in the early 60's when he was a teenager. He watched an older gentleman nymphing the stream without an indicator and catching fish after fish in areas that he had earlier tried to no avail. Neal went around the gentleman and asked if he could fish a few hundred feet upstream. The gentleman said, "Sonny, this is the first time I've ever fished in California and you are the first flyfisherman on this stream to show me the proper etiquette on the water. I'd like to thank you!" The gentleman was Ray Bergman, a reknowned flyfisherman from the midwest, and he showed Neal the finer techniques of nymphing.
Flyfishing is an activity to catch fish. However, it is also an activity to achieve a peace and solitude. This peace and solitude can often be disturbed by the actions of another flyfisherman. Here's a few tips to remember to keep flyfishing an enjoyable experience.
Catch and Release Techniques
With the increased popularity of fishing, there is a great pressure upon the fish resource of the Sierra. We have tried to assist the fish resource by developing fish hatcheries and planting trout throughout the Sierra. The result has been a further reduction in the numbers and quality of wild trout. Hatchery trout compete for the available food within the stream, often they do not have the ability to survive past one season. The current trend is to eliminate fish stocking programs and enhance the wild trout stocks. This cannot be accomplished without effective Catch and Release Techniques using the following elements:
Use Barbless Hooks
Barbless Hooks are much easier to remove from a hooked fish. Using barbless hooks will not reduce your ability to land the fish once you learn how to apply proper line pressure. You can purchase flies that are barbless, tie your own, or mash down the barb with your hemostats. Many areas require barbless hooks. If you use the mashing technique, test it with a piece of tippet across the mashed barb. If the barb still catches the tippet, it is not legally barbless.
Play the Fish Quickly
Once you hook a fish, the fish will fight to get away. This exertion builds up an oxygen deficit with the fish which causes stress on it's organs. If you fight a fish for too long a period the stress levels will become too great to recover and death will occur. Things that you can control to reduce stress is to choose the use of a rod, line, and tippet that will allow you to play the fish for a shorter period of time. For instance, using a 5 weight rod with a 4X leader will allow you to bring a sizable fish to the bank much faster than a 2 weight rod using a 7X leader. If you feel that the fish you are going to catch will reach a certain size, choose a larger rod and rig rather than a lighter one. As you play the fish, once the fish's head comes out of the water and it no longer sprints off or makes a run, it is just fatigued enough to bring in and let it go.
Remove the hook and handle the fish gently
Once the fish is brought to the bank, leave it in the water to remove the hook. Keeping the fish in the water will help replenish lost oxygen. Usually you will hook the fish in the jaw and using a hemostat will allow you to grip the hook and make a quick removal. At times, the hook may get swallowed or get hooked in a more sensitive area. In this situation, cut the tippet close to the hook and the hook will rust off within a short period of time. If blood is coming from the gill areas, the fish will die shortly and you may prefer to take the fish home for consumption. Unfortunately, some regulations demand that the fish be released immediately.
Fish have a protective slime coating that protects them from fungus and parasites. If this slime coating is removed, the fish will have difficulty in surviving. Wet your hands prior to picking up a fish and, if you use a net, use a net with a seamless mesh and a shallow bag. Many times, these nets are marketed under a "Catch and Release" moniker.
You can temporarily immobilize larger trout or other species by gently grasping them around the belly and turning them upside down. Then use the other hand to remove the hook. Never squeeze a fish, you may damage it's internal organs, particularly the air bladder that it uses for buoyancy and to keep itself upright.
Revive and release the fish
During a long fight, handling and hook removal, a fish can become exhausted and starved for oxygen. This final stage of Catch and Release can mean the difference for the fish's survival and death.