Livin’ the Dream: Why It’s Rad to be a Fly Fishing Guide in Vail, Colorado

Livin’ the Dream: Why It’s Rad to be a Fly Fishing Guide in Vail, Colorado

Being a fly fishing guide is not a get-rich-quick scheme.  It’s not Easy Street, but it is an inspiring and adventurous career.  At Minturn Anglers, we have at least three traditions that remind me why I love working with the class of fishy, careful, foolish experts (or is it expert fools?) that make up our guide staff.

1. “Craic”

The Irish have a term for sparkling, witty talk around the pub: “Craic” (pronounced “crack”, like the drug).  More coffee-based than Guinness-born, the discussions at the shop before trips in the morning would both fascinate and burn the ears off anyone who is hanging out like a fly on the wall.  Fly fishers are famous for our reserve about hotspots, the hot bugs, or any other secrets we accumulate through luck and hard work.  Minturn Anglers fly fishing guides share more knowledge with each other in a half hour around 7:00ish than a whole graduate-level, semester-long fly fishing class.  I’ve worked in other shops, and this kind of camaraderie isn’t everywhere, but it sure strengthens the whole team.

2. Fishing Together

Fly fishing guides Vail Minturn Colorado
Too much talent on such a short stretch of river
Fly Fishing Guides Vail Minturn Colorado
Fish by feel, if you need to.
Fly fishing guides Vail Minturn Anglers Colorado
Trout respect a fine briar pipe.
Fly fishing guides Vail Minturn Colorado
Duane hooked up, of course

Had a good day?  Let’s go fishin’!  Tough day on the river?  How about we hit that new spot I found last week?  Getting married/divorced/a tattoo/circumcised/out of a relationship/off work?  Let’s wet a line.  That’s how it is around the guides in this shop.  A week or so ago, I fished one of my favorite stretches with three colleagues, two of whom had never seen that spot.   Of course, age and treachery (ahem, experience) beat youth and skill, and I got to witness both.  Duane hooked upFrom Duane, who fishes with a pipe clenched in his teeth and knows more dirty secrets than a garbage collector, to Mandy and Tom, who are far too good for their years, I learned a bunch in that hour-and-a-half.  More importantly, we all laughed with (and at) each other throughout the experience.  Sharing tips and tricks in our off hours makes the squad more deadly too.

3. “The Game”

A recent tradition has been to harass each other, and the fish, out back of the shop in a cut-throat game between guides.  The rules work like this:

  • 5 bucks for 10 casts
  • Flub a cast or miss a fish, and you’re out.
  • Take turns, from oldest to youngest (age does have its privileges)
  • You may only walk 20 steps from where the last guide handed over the rod
  • Most inches of fish wins the pot.
Fly fishing Guides Vail Minturn Colorado
Part 1: Negotiating the Rules
Fly fishing guides Minturn Anglers Vail, Colorado
Nice cast on that 3-weight.

Oh, and by the way, we fish a size 2 fly, usually on a 2-weight fiberglass rod.  There’s definitely competition out there between fly fishing guides, but the folks at Minturn Anglers channel and temper it through generously sharing knowledge, giving a pat on the back (and sometimes lower and harder) when necessary, and livin’ the dream through play.  Be careful: taking the guide school course can start an addiction.  You have to earn your passage, but it can be the ticket to an amazing career.

Fly fishing Guides Colorado Vail Minturn Anglers
Mend or the rod won’t bend!

It’s time to nail down your 2024 fly fishing trip with Minturn Anglers.

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Justin Nolan

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