PODCAST: The Ethics of Guiding — More Harm Than Good? — S11, Ep3

by | Apr 28, 2024 | 15 comments

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My friends join me for a tough discussion. What are the benefits of guiding? What are the good things? How does it help anglers? Does it actually help people and make our sport or this fishing scene better, or does it just put money in the guide’s pocket and put more pressure on the trout?

Also, what kinds of guided trips are there? Different types of guided trips are offered across the country. Some cater to the first timer, introducing new anglers to the fly rod. Other trips feature education first, with a strong focus on refining the tactics for more experienced anglers. Many guides sell the river itself. Others sell trips by promising big trout. Some guide for clubs with stocked and fed fish, sometimes catering to lodges with clients that are not anglers, but vacationing guests where fly fishing is just another highlighted activity.

When does guiding trout water do more harm that good? There are no right or wrong answer to all of this, but we’re here to work through a few things — to think about all of it and to have the conversation that others might avoid.


READ: Troutbitten | Respect the Spots! A fisherman’s perspective on friendship and spot burning
READ: Troutbitten | Fish Hard
PODCAST: Troutbitten | Angler Pressure TWO — What It Does to the Fishing

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Season Eleven of the Troutbitten Podcast continues next week with episode four. So look for that in your Troutbitten podcast feed.

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Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky


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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.


  1. Just read the lead, havent listened yet. One of the biggest benefits of guiding clients is the accumalative affect of increasing the awareness of a particular river or stream, which in turn can increase the number of people willing to protect that resource. The archaic thought process of keeping fishing spots secret to limit exposure has proven many times over to be the beginning of its demise because there simply werent enough stewards to fight for it.

    I would rather see more anglers using a resource even at the expense to my own success day to day, if it helps increases the number of people who can help protect it.

    • Unfortunately, the unrestrained access to the finite number of wild trout found in any river or stream, inevitably produces far more people who will overuse the resource than those willing to protect it. In this sport, one can find numerous examples of what is often referred to as, the Tragedy of the Commons, as we watch guides and their clients. relentlessly pounding the same fish, day after day after day. Proof lies in the fact that few if any guides would be willing to restrain their use of the resource (i.e. limit trips, limit fish counts, limit methods, etc.)

      • Rick, above, speaks my mind. I and all the non-guides I know think most desirable trout running waters are generally ‘crowded’, whereas 10 or 30 years ago they weren’t. We think it is a matter of population growth, increased leisure time (flex hours, out-of-office work), ‘A River Runs Through It’, advertising, and guiding. Magazines and fly shops promote guiding, and guides, wanting to make money, take customers to the better convenient waters. I think it would be more ethical to not guide, but do casting and fishing classes on the least desirable water, or private water, then let people find their own way to better water, or not. I also think it is very big of you who guide to open this subject. Good podcast!

      • I agree with most of that, Rick.

        However, I’ll mention that increased catch and release angler pressure does not diminish the population. We talked about this in our podcast about Angler Pressure Part 1 — What It Does to the Fish. Most people think more angler pressure means fewer fish. But with catch and release, that’s not true. And there are no studies that support the assumption.

        Angler pressure does, however, certainly affect the fishing — the habits of trout and the fishing experience. And we talked about that in the podcast Angler Pressure Part 2 — What It Does to the Fishing.

        Overall, I do think guiding is adding too much pressure to some of our resources. As we talked about in the podcast, I would likely be in favor of restrictions.


      • Would you be in favor of limiting access to these same resources for yourself? Or just guides?

        Would you support banning fly fishing competitions that dramatically increase localized pressure?

        For example, in the UK trout season is end of March through September. Do you think PA anglers would be more or less inclined to abuse their privledges with these restrictions? I can tell you the answer….

        • Give this episode a listen. We talk about some of that.

          I will say,I don’t think a high percentage of anglers are abusing any privileges. I think we have to be careful not to put the mistakes of a few on the many.

          • Sorry Dom- that was actually a reply to Rick. But, I see the people in the Facebook groups in NJ and PA- (and being a land owner in PA I deal with a seemingly endless number of poachers and trespassers every hunting season) and I can assure you- the anglers of PA would go BALLISTIC if any of these measures were considered and passed. They would have no issue keeping their limit every time they fished because they can. I see it in NJ…..we have lab grown shitty stocked trout- and these rubes will catch and keep every fish they are legally entitled to (and sometimes more), simply because they can.

            I do have a question for you- I love your articles but I’m not a podcast listener. Is there a way to convert podcasts to text?

          • Thanks, Dan. There are ways, yes. But with the cross talk of 6 voices in one podcast, the automatic transcriptions become very, very messy. I simply don’t have the time to type out the transcriptions myself, so for now, no text podcasts. Thanks for asking.

      • I primarily fish the Upper Delaware system where drift boat traffic has reached ridiculous levels. And it is a common practice for drift guides to anchor up on spots, sometimes for an hour or more. I would like to see minimum flow restrictions for drift boat use as some western rivers do and wade angler only reaches established. I am also in favor of implementing “Rest the River” days which would close a river from any and all angling, perhaps four days per month. The other solution to fishing pressure would be restrictions that make it harder to catch fish, such as one fly only. Some of these ideas may seem radical but the alternative (status quo) is unsustainable.

  2. Enjoyed the podcast today. 35 yrs of living and fishing MT. As a wader/floater, I continue to find the guide community very pleasant on the water and the group the practices the best etiquette. It’s those new and the crusty old ones that we need to encourage to practice friendly fishing practices. The Golden Rule works pretty well as does just talking to others to figure out how to coexist on the water.

  3. The first time I hired a guide I knew next to nothing about fly fishing. I didn’t catch a fish that day. I didn’t even see a damn fish that day. But I learned a ton and I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever had 8 hours fly by so fast. Like Dr. Smith, it gave my learning curve a huge boost.

    A couple of years later I tried to hire the same guide but he had retired from guiding due to health issues and had sold his business to a younger guy. I went out with this guy for a day. I caught 4 very nice lake run rainbows (or steelhead if you prefer) but didn’t learn a damn thing.

    Now which day do you think I enjoyed more?

  4. “Dom, your podcast is exceptional, possibly one of your finest. I believe fly fishing guides have had minimal impact on the surge of interest in fly fishing. The real catalyst emerged in the late sixties and seventies, as middle-class individuals gained better-paying jobs, granting them the time and resources to embrace outdoor pursuits. Previously, only the affluent could indulge in fishing and hunting at such levels. The advent of professional bass fishing in the early seventies, both nationally and locally, propelled the growth of freshwater and saltwater angling across America. The era’s mom-and-pop garage lure makers have since been absorbed by conglomerates catering to retailers like Bass Pro and Cabela’s. At seventy-seven, I’ve witnessed this transformation firsthand. As a nation, we must focus on managing these burgeoning crowds. Effective strategies must be implemented at the national, state, and local levels to safeguard our natural resources while ensuring outdoor enthusiasts’ satisfaction. Having spent my life fishing, I retired at fifty-eight in Virginia and relocated to North Central Arkansas, where I became a trout fishing guide. My upbringing involved fishing for brook trout and smallmouth bass in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia and Virginia. Later, I ventured into saltwater fishing in the Chesapeake Bay and pursued largemouth bass on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. My diverse experiences have provided me with a comprehensive understanding of our outdoor realm.

  5. Dom – I appreciate you and your friends addressing this overcrowding problem. You have correctly identified the sources of the issue. A burgeoning human population, increased interest in outdoor pursuits, intense marketing by outfitters, and more of these outfitter businesses cropping up in our fishing areas. The one constant is our rivers and trout habitat. Those are fixed. There are no easy answers. I dipped my toe into the guiding waters for one season, and then moved on to fishing only with friends. As you all stated, it is rewarding to help inexperienced anglers polish their skills and enjoy their day on the water. Creating new friends along the way is excellent also. We may need some regulations moving forward to manage the thundering herds of human anglers. There is another issue that I wish guides would embrace, and that is taking care of the resources that we have. Some guides in my area do this; others do not. I am talking about strict catch and release, using barbless hooks, and practicing fish handling techniques to ensure those fish released are healthy and will bring a smile to another angler’s face in days to come. There are many guides in my area that use shrimp, worms, corn, etc. and every fish caught goes into the live well and later a client’s ice chest. Also, I had one guide tell me that the main priority for him and his friends is to make money and support the ever increasing businesses catering to vacationers and guided fishing trips. I firmly believe there needs to be more emphasis placed on preserving the resource for both guides and individual anglers.

  6. you can’t complain about spot burning if you’re advertising trout routes.

    • Ah. Not fair at all. Please look into it. Don’t make assumptions. TroutRoutes is NOT a social media app. It is NOT like Fishbrain or other similar apps. TroutRoutes just consolidates maps, weather data, access and water data. That has NOTHING to do with spot burning.

      Check into it. Then repost here. Let me know if you still think it’s spot burning.



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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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