From Sales to Oar Sticks: Darren Ward

For years, Darren Ward (holding fat brown trout) worked in an office, made sales visits, and towed the corporate line. He was great at his job, but he felt like something was missing. He loved to fish, enjoyed working hard and feeling satisfied at the end of the day. But each day on the commute home he thought, "there's got to be something out there for me..." Enter the Montana Fishing Guide School. He has his first year guiding under his belt and is looking forward to a fuller 2017!

How long have you been fishing?

I've been fishing since a good friend taught me the basics back in high school. That makes it about 30 years now. I only became proficient enough to consider myself a guide within the last year because I fished hard day in and day out. It was not about catching fish or entomology, or fly selection. For me my fishing eventually became more about feeling like a professional who gave the customer their money's worth for a day on the river.

When did you attend guide school?

I attended guide school March of 2016. One of the best weeks of my life.

Why did you sign up?

Actually, I won the school as part of the Madison-Gallatin Trout Unlimited's annual auction. It was money well spent all the way around.

Why be a guide?

To be a guide was a fulfillment of a wish to do the things I love: fly-fish, teach, and meet great people, and make a bit of money during the process.

What was your biggest takeaway?

The biggest take away was you do not have to be the greatest fisherman on the river to be one of the best guides. It is about professionalism, developing relationships, and working your tail off to make the day as big of a success as you possibly can.

Favorite memory from guide school?

My favorite memory was pulling in for lunch on the Big Mo' and working that extra little bit so my fisherman could catch one in front of the other boats already at the lunch spot. In the evenings hanging out at the bar in Craig and hanging out with Sean were a close second.

Are you guiding now?

Yes. I got a job at Falcon's Ledge Lodge and also work with Utah Fly Guides. I finished guiding in September and the calendar for 2017 is starting to fill. I look forward to winter of fishing and winding down. 

If you are guiding now, what was your biggest challenge in getting started? Did guide school help with that? 

My biggest challenge to getting started was getting the Utah Whitewater Captain license. It required 10 trips down the river I was going to guide, more extensive first aid training and a difficult test. They relented and let me count some of my days in Montana on the river towards the 10 trips so that did end up helping in the end. It was frustrating dealing with the state of Utah and getting them to accept Montana training to count towards a Utah license. I am not sure why they were so obstinate with Montana having so much more navigable water and guides but they ended up trying to help me in the end.

Do you keep in touch with or fish with any friends made through guide school?

I keep up with Barney B. and took him fishing and floating down the Green River. I keep up with a couple of the others on social media. I'm sure it would be different if I lived closer, there were a lot of great people in our class.

Why should someone sign up for guide school?

Someone should sign up for guide school if they spend a lot of time fishing with other people or if they want to guide professionally. The depth of knowledge and skills the instructors passed along has made all of my fishing better, whether it is alone, with a client, or with friends and family. I'm much better at instructing and helping people catch fish then I was before the class. 

What is one piece of advice for someone considering going into guiding?

My one piece of advice is that everything will be relevant so pay attention to it all. Ask questions, take notes, fully take advantage of the wealth of knowledge available at the school because sooner or later you will call on that knowledge to help in your own career.