When Neil Luehring and Robert Younghanz began to design the Colorado Fly Fishing Guide Academy, they posed a question that guided their thinking: “What is a professional fly fishing guide?” Guides don’t merely take people fishing. So what is this role that combines fly-fishing expertise, coaching, teaching, and fosters a passion for fly fishing? Oh, and you have to be able to make a great lunch, too.
|Mission Statement: The mission of the CFFGA is to develop fly fishing guides who emphasize a culture of safety, provide excellent customer service, possess knowledge of their craft, serve as ambassadors to the sport of fly fishing, and operate on the premise that every trip is a special adventure for their clients.|
As they detailed out the Academy, which includes nearly 40 hours of training spread over five evenings and two streamside days, they designed a course that helps anglers understand what guiding is and enables them take the first step into being a professional fly fishing guide.
Neil and Robert know that an angler who participates in the Colorado Fly Fishing Guide Academy (CFFGA) has to already be a competent fly fisher -- the course is not to develop the angler’s own techniques or skills in fly fishing. Of course, if a fly fisher signed up for a guide school in the first place, he or she would probably see themselves as having a skill set in the many elements that make up fly fishing: finding fish, reading the river, fishing with dry flies, nymphing, throwing streamers, and fishing in different conditions.The co-designers of the CFFGA knew that in 40 hours they would not actually be teaching fly fishing.
Fly fishing guides don’t merely “take people fishing.” That’s what moms and dads do. Buddies take you fishing. Your brother and sister take you fishing. Over the 40 hours of instruction, the CFFGA would “teach people how to teach” Neil says, and “move them into being fly fishing coaches.”
How do you make that happen? The course syllabus looks like this:
Day 1: Guiding is a Business
Day 2: Anatomy of a Guide Trip
Day 3: The Guide as Teacher and Coach
Day 4: Safety, Photography, and Marketing
Day 5: Home Waters and Entomology
Neil and Robert realized that they have a gold-mine of expertise around them in fellow guides at Angler’s Covey and recruited different professionals to teach different parts of the course.
David and Becky Leinweber, owners of Angler’s Covey, taught the business side of the role; Jon Easdon, Angler’s Director of Services, discussed guide-client interactions (initial contact, gathering information about the clients’ interests, etc.). Paul Martinez walked participants through the anatomy of a guide trip. Anthony Surage gave participants a foundation in the guide as teacher and coach, and Earl Hecker provided the perspective through the eyes of a new guide. Jon Kleis taught a session on fly fishing photography so that clients end the day with those snapshots that support their bragging rights for landing a nice cutthroat. Of course, Robert “The Bug Guy” Younghanz provided the expertise on aquatic entomology. Oh, and about those streamside lunches. Dave Herber provided a low-down on recipes and preparation to keep the clients well-fed.
The course content, though, is just part of the picture. Guides have to be effective at communicating with their clients. They have to be confident in meeting people, quickly build a rapport with their client, and be flexible in their approach to the day on the water. Fly fishing guides have to assess skill level, weather conditions, and be responsive when other anglers are fishing in the initial destination. They want their customers to walk away at the end of the day having “a great Colorado experience” and being better anglers.
Neil and Robert raised the expectations in the Academy when they realized that the guide academy would be a way to impact the culture of the sport through guiding. As they designed the course, they were sensitive to the perception, at large, of the fly fishing guide. The Academy has the opportunity to have longer-term impact – and they want their mission statement to guide each class and shape the thinking of each participant.
“Guides are ambassadors to the sport and stewards of the water,” Neil says. That’s a pretty tall order and the Colorado Fly Fishing Guide Academy is getting it done.
The 2016 Academy will happen beginning April 25th through April 29th for the lecture classes. On April 30th and May 1st, participants will be in the streamside classes. For more information on the Academy and to register go to Colorado Fly Fishing Guide Academy.
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