Our Philosophy, Curriculum, & Itinerary


The Montana Fishing Guide School philosophy is simple: guide education, time on the water, and hard work result in the best experience for guides and clients. The recipe for a successful fishing guide starts with a strong work ethic, patience, and the desire to work with people. After that, it's equal parts teacher, psychologist, naturalist, entomologist, business owner, and safety consultant.



Our curriculum was honed through years of guiding and outfitting, business management, and working throughout all levels of the outdoor education industry. Our curriculum is constantly changing and we always innovating new teaching methodology, fishing techniques, and ways to put better guides on the water. Just like being a better guide requires innovation, at Montana Fishing Guide School we are innovating as well.

Guide and Client Relations

Guide and Client

Understanding the reasons people fish is paramount to being a great guide. Being able to understand and read your clients is arguably the most important aspect of any guide. People fish for many reasons: to catch big fish, learn a new skill, as part of a bucket list, to introduce a friend, offspring, or spouse to the sport, and the list goes on. For many, catching the most or biggest fish may not be the yard-stick of success, rather a successful day on the water may be just that-a day on the water. For you, as the guide, how do you know? Through our unique experiences we will help you hone these very important skills.

The Business of Guiding

Guiding is both a monetary and emotional investment. It requires long, seasonal hours away from family and friends. Did you also know things like liability insurance coverage, Worker's Compensation insurance, and self-employment taxes are part of guiding? The necessities are also expensive: a boat and trailer, a rig to haul boat and trailer, full-functioning gear, and more. There is also the initial investment of time on the water.

Then, once you get a season or two under your belt, there is managing your finances and accounting to make the money you made get you through to next season. This part of the course will cover all the business aspects of guiding. We even have an accountant and financial advisor come to talk about keeping most of what you make and planning for the future.

Marketing Yourself and Your Services

Success in this business hinges on being good at what you do. There is also a lot to be said for knowing the right people in the right places. We are firm believers in that success breeds more success. If you are doing a great job on the water, work will come your way. But how do you get your foot in the door and ensure fly shops and outfitters know your name? We know the tricks of the trade and through our broad experience in the industry, we know most everyone.

Managing Your Book of Clients & Your Personal Calendar

Repeat clients and client referrals are the lifeline of a career in guiding. Guiding weeks in a row is a fact of life. There are several ways to build your list of repeat clients and also get them to make referrals. This is a year-round endeavor. We've developed some solid guidelines for managing your client base, your booking calendar, and working with various shops and outfitters.

Garrett rigging in the rain

Rowing A Boat To Catch Fish

There are two ways to row a boat: to get from put-in to take-out, and to get your clients into fish. Our course is weighed heavily on using the boat as a tool to catch more fish. Guides must be comfortable on the oars, doing everything from getting safely down the river to rowing at the right effectiveness to catch fish. Time is spent on rivers with rapids up to Class III rapids and learning the ability to read, navigate, and understand the ever-changing environment of a wild river. Our on-the-water, on-the-oars course curriculum is demanding. You will be challenged in your ability to put your boat onto fish. But this philosophy will give you confidence when you are on the river with your first pay-load. Discussions on the type of boat will als be important-whether you need a raft or hard-sided drift boat.

River Safety and Water Rescue

Safety is the most important, yet most often under-appreciated aspect of guiding. Our instructors are whitewater experts, life-long river users, and have faced nearly every wilderness situation. Our understanding of safety on the water will help you guide with confidence and help you feel comfortable in any sitation.

Technical Guiding Fly Fishing Aspects

Guides have to be the best on the water in rigging gear, knowing how to teach casting, and adapt all fishing skill levels to the most effective methods. The core of our technical fishing instruction lies in the following:

  1. Fly casting instruction methodology
    A focus on the various ways people learn: Some by feel, some by words, most by some combination of both.
  2. Knot tying
    Guides must be able to rig all types of leader and fly set-ups . . . and do it quickly. Learn the tricks of our pros so you can spend less time rigging and more time getting your clients into fish.
  3. Snowy reel
  4. Means of fishing
    In-depth instruction and practice in the following methods:
    • a. Deep nymphing
    • b. Shallow water, sight nymphing
    • c. Dry fly head-hunting to rising fish
    • d. Dry fly prospecting, for example casting to structures rather than prospecting
    • e. Two-fly dry-fly fishing
    • f. Deep water streamer fishing
    • g. Small stream streamer fishing
  5. Trailer backing and boat ramp procedures
  6. Tips from the pros
    • a. Packing a cooler
    • b. Packing your kit bag
    • c. And more

CPR and First Aid Certification

These two credentials are required for nearly any professional guide's license in any state. We have an on-staff instructor. Insurance companies also require guides to be first-aid certified. Incorporating this into the class also streamlines your state's guide license application process.

Landing Your Dream Job - Finding Guiding Jobs and Getting Into the Biz

XXX Guide School works with fly shops, outfitters, and lodges. Graduates of our school will find they have a leg-up in competing for these coveted jobs. We will help you develop and polish your resume. We will also offer our personal recommendation and put you in touch with the outfitters, fly shop owners, and lodge operators. Our success depends on your success.

Streamside Ecology and Riparian Education

What makes a great trout stream and why should we protect it? Questions like these are the focus of our habitat coursework. You will learn and understand the vital elements of a healthy river and its environs. A basic knowledge of river geology is important to guiding. Discussions on human interaction and effects on streambeds and riparian habitat help you gain confidence in working with clients and local residents. You'll learn what makes a river tick; change from year to year; learn the pros and cons of factors like high-water, low water, tailwater fisheries; and more.

Entomology and Fish Feeding Habits

A PhD s is not required to catch fish or guide. But, a thorough understanding of trout foods, their feeding habits, and insect habitat is essential in being a confident and competent guide. Our instructors are entomologists and trout food and habit experts. Get down and dirty with what trout eat.

Double-rainbow at Varney Bridge

Fly Tying

An understanding of tying flies is crucial to guiding. Whether you are a beginner or experienced fly tier, you will learn to tie some of the basic flies. We will teach you to tie nymphs, streamers, and dry flies for catching trout and a few other species.

Employment, Job Placement, and Industry Networking

Our graduates find work doing what they love: Guiding! A core part of our curriculum is helping you find a job. We work with the West's best fly shops and outfitters to land you your dream job. Upon completion of the school, you will receive a diploma and letter of recommendation along with a list of the shops and outfitters in the area of your interest.

Course Itinerary

  • Day One: Sunday
    • Arrival in Big Sky by 9 a.m.
    • AM: Classroom session: Introductions; First Aid and CPR training
    • PM: On-the-water session: River Safety, Water Rescue, and Entomology for catching fish
    • Evening: The Business of Guiding
  • Day Two: Monday
    • On-the-water sessions: Spring creeks or small freestones, your pick � Paradise Valley Spring Creeks or Gallatin River; Walk-wade fishing; Streamside Ecology and Riparian Education; Casting instruction practicum
    • Evening: Guide and Client Relations; Fly Tying
  • Day Three: Tuesday
    • On-the-water session: Large freestone - Yellowstone or Madison River float-fishing
    • Evening: Day's evaluations and Marketing Yourself and Your Services
  • Day Four: Wednesday
    • On-the-water session: Spring creeks or large freestones; Paradise Valley Spring Creeks, Yellowstone or Madison float-fishing
    • Evening: Day's evaluations and Managing Your Book of Clients and Your Personal Calendar
  • Day Five: Thursday
    • Arrival in Helena by 9 AM
    • On-the-water session: Tailwaters or large freestones - Missouri River, Land of the Giants, or Blackfoot River
    • Evening: Day's evaluations and Landing Your Dream Job: Finding Jobs and Getting Into the Biz; Job Placement and Networking
  • Day Six: Friday
    • On-the-water session: Tailwaters or large freestones - Missouri River, Land of the Giants, or Blackfoot River
    • Evening: Day's evaluations, class summary, evening off to finish resumes
  • Day Seven: Saturday
    • On-the-water session: Final testing on the Missouri River and critical evaluation
    • Evening: Graduation Party with dinner and guest speakers

Pat Straub, MT Outfitter Lic.# 7878