Fly fishing like other niche sports is a sport in constant conflict. If the sport grows the resource becomes too crowded, if it declines rivers become at risk of development. Every time there is a surge in the sport, a cry of despair goes up from the old guard claiming that the new crowd is going to ruin it. Generally, guides are stuck directly in the middle of this conflict and get hated on from everyone.
Growing up in South East Idaho in the 90’s I learned how to fly fish from a group of retired military men that disliked most forms of competition on the river. From day one I can’t recall an outing on the river that didn’t include “look at this jackass” or “that sonofabitch is going to fuck it up for everyone”, meanwhile 10 year old me secretly wanted nothing more than to be a jackass guide fucking it up for everyone. Guides in my mind were the keepers of the river.
Having had the opportunity to guide off and on for past 10 years I understand that most guides work incredibly hard to make a living and leave a lasting impact on their clients and the waters they guide on. But I also know that buying a Tacoma, slapping a rod vault or three on top, and being able to fling an indicator out is pedigree enough for some in Troutbro, USA. The only legacy that seems to be cared about is a practiced Instagram pose and a matching hat/buff combo with little regard to the health or longevity of the fishery.
I’ve got nothing but respect for the guides that are worth respecting, and the ones that aren’t won’t be around long enough to worry about. There is a lot of user group conflict out there, and a trip to any popular tailwater during peak season can be anything but peaceful. However, guides shouldn’t be the enemy and hopefully will be an example of stewardship as they benefit the most from educating the public and conserving the resource.
The “no one cares that you’re a guide” sticker is a chance to laugh at our ourselves and have a little fun, most people get that. For the small percentage of people that don’t get it--whatever.