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Victor, Idaho - Jackson, Wyoming
Kevin is a passionate fishing guide and photographer who specializes in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

December 31, 2009

Which path will Jackson Hole take?

By Jonathan Schechter, Jackson Hole, Wyo
Published: Dec 29, 2009

Tis’ the season for retrospectives, stories cataloguing the highs and lows of the year. This year’s added bonus is stories looking back over the decade.

Who cares?

While I firmly believe in Santayana’s maxim that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” most “year in review” or “decade in review” stories are essentially empty calories, little more than recitations of occurrences. My preference is for stories that try to connect those occurrences in such a way that trends emerge, providing a sense of what the future may hold. That’s what I hope to do today; let’s start by figuring out where we are and how we got here.

Until last year’s financial collapse, Jackson Hole’s economy during the twenty-aughts was essentially a continuation of its economy during the 1990s. Until around 1988, our economy was driven by tourism. Following a four-year pupal stage, we emerged as a community which, while continuing to believe it was a tourist town, was actually something different; a community whose economy was driven by lifestyle.

Graphs 1 and 2 show this shift. Graph 1 compares how the U.S. and Teton County earned their income between 1970 and 2007 (the most recent data available). In it, each line represents a measure of Teton County’s income divided by that of the nation: The purple line is per capita income; the black line is investment income as a proportion of total income; the green line is tourism-driven income (retail, restaurants, and lodging) as a proportion of total income.

The take-away is how flat all three lines were during the 1970s and 1980s. This is because, during those two decades, the changes affecting Jackson Hole were not much different than the changes affecting the nation.

In the four years between 1988 and 1992, however, Jackson Hole began changing much faster and more dramatically than the United States as a whole, a pattern which continues today. The net result was our current economy, one which took hold in the early 1990s and crested in 2008. As Graph 2 suggests, this is an economy driven not by tourists, but by people of means who can live anywhere, and choose Jackson Hole. With their money came the rise of our lifestyle economy.

Jackson Hole was not alone in this embrace of wealth and excess, but for three reasons we were able to ride this wave to astonishing heights:

• our relative lack of development (which, for quite a while, made Jackson Hole cheap compared to many other resort towns);

• our extraordinary natural resources and complementary man-made amenities (which made Jackson Hole truly distinctive among communities competing for the well-to-do); and

• Wyoming’s lack of income tax (which tipped the balance for economically-driven zillionaires looking to relocate to a resort community).

By 2000, these patterns had been in place for nearly a decade; during the twenty-aughts, they became more dialed in. As they did, the valley’s demographics shifted with similar force. Those who relied exclusively on income earned in Jackson Hole found it harder to live here; as lower-income workers were forced out, our Latino population boomed. Those displaced from Jackson Hole flocked to the Star Valley and, especially, to Teton Valley, Idaho, and developers rushed to duplicate Jackson Hole’s real estate patterns in the surrounding communities.

So that’s where things were until about 18 months ago. For three reasons, however, while the twenty-teens will build upon what’s happened the past 20 years, this coming decade is going to be different than the past two.

The first reason is the economic meltdown. With it came a new, more conservative approach to lending, and it will be a long time before credit becomes as loose as it was. As a result, it will be a long time before we return to the consumption patterns of the last decade or so. This, in turn, will mean lower prices and slower growth.

A further result is that many of the investments made during the last three to five years will never pay off. Until those out-of-whack pro formas and balance sheets get cleaned up, Jackson Hole’s economy is going to drag, and the economies in surrounding communities will suffer even more.

Construction collapse

This leads into the second reason the twenty-teens will be different: the just-getting-started collapse of our previously vibrant construction economy. Between high demand, easy credit, and a relative abundance of land, the last 20 years has seen a huge amount of construction, and with it the growth of a large, talented, and successful building trade. Yet of the three factors that produced the rise of this trade, only high demand remains. Not only will tighter credit markets make it harder to finance everything from home purchases to development projects, but Jackson Hole is essentially running out of developable land: at the rate we’ve been developing land, we’re down to about a 10-year supply of raw land. After that, it’s basically in-fill and re-development.

Combined with the slowdown in consumption, this slowdown in construction means that the economy of the twenty-teens will have a different feel than the one we’ve known the last two decades. Since 1990 or so, our economy has had three legs: investment income and professional services, activities related to tourism, and construction. All three were boosted by relatively easy credit and an ethic of conspicuous consumption; all three will continue, but not to the same degree of excess we’ve known. As a result, the economy of the twenty-teens will be more modest, focusing on quality more than quantity. Successful businesses and economies will be those which provide consumers with not only a great deal of choice, but – and this is the most important point – true and lasting value.

Fortunately, Jackson Hole is well-positioned to provide that, for our environmental quality gives us a true distinction, and therefore a true competitive edge. However, our success in this new, humbler economy is not guaranteed – we’ll have to earn it by first letting go of the consumption-driven mentality we’ve embraced over the last two decades. This reality leads into the third reason the twenty-teens will be different than the last two: the coming imperative of sustainability.

Big picture, there are two reasons Jackson Hole will continue to grow and thrive. One is that population will continue to grow, and all those folks will have to live somewhere. The second reason is that, no matter how badly we screw ourselves up, our public lands guarantee that our environment will continue to be healthier than most other places’. This, in turn, will continue to make us attractive. As a result, we’ll continue to hold the aforementioned competitive advantage over most places, which will continue to make us a reasonably solid investment.

What’s not at all clear, however, is how readily we’ll transition to the new, humbler economic reality. If we act quickly and decisively to embrace this reality, in 2020 we’ll look back and say that the most significant trend of the twenty-aughts was the emergence of a sustainability ethic, one which came into full flower in the twenty-teens.

Dodging denial

However, I can also envision a scenario where, over the next several years, we’ll go into a state of denial, and channel our collective energies not into embracing the future, but into trying to re-create the past. If we go this route, the cause will be the very real economic concerns facing many of us – the retail and building trades, the investors and high-end tourism folks – who, after years of doing well, face significant hardships today. These folks will no doubt turn to local government for help, urging measures ranging from loosening land-use regulations to devoting large amounts of public funding to stimulating the tourism economy.

These measures won’t really work, for underlying both our boom and bust have been macroeconomic factors not susceptible to local economic development efforts. But that reality won’t matter much to people struggling economically, and they’ll likely support candidates in the 2010 and 2012 elections who position themselves as “pro-growth.” This, in turn, will create a minor class war between the well-to-do and those who are struggling.

And this is where sustainability is the key. The great challenge facing Jackson Hole in the next decade is to figure out what true sustainability means, and then find the courage to act on that knowledge. To do so will require all of us to act differently, to leave things on the table, to compromise in an era marked by increasing polarization. Dyed-in-the-wool environmentalists will have to recognize that economic health is part of true sustainability, for a true community consists of more than just independently wealthy individuals serviced by people commuting from the ‘burbs. Similarly, dyed-in-the-wool free-marketeers will have to realize the great lesson of the financial meltdown of 2008: Unregulated markets invariably collapse under the weight of their own greed. By extension, if we don’t pay close attention to our environmental health – again, the only thing that truly distinguishes us from every other similar town in the world – then we’ll not only ruin our environment, but the economy which lies on top of it.

The opportunity at hand is that no one has figured out what true sustainability really means, much less how to do it. Things were similar 20 years ago, at the dawn of the lifestyle economy era. Jackson Hole was well-positioned then to take advantage of that trend; it’s similarly well-positioned today to take advantage of the emerging sustainability economy. Whether we’ll choose to recognize this is not at all clear; even less clear is whether we’ll choose to act on it. If we do, though, we can look forward to a period every bit as successful in its way as the last 20 years have been in theirs.


Jonathan Schechter, whose column appears every other week in this spot, is the executive director of the Charture Institute, a Jackson-based think tank. Complete versions of his columns, including graphics, are available at E-mail him at

December 29, 2009


No new H2O invasives

By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
December 28, 2009


Surveys of watersheds in Teton County and on the Bridger-Teton National Forest found no new populations of invasive aquatic species this year.

A coalition of partners funded the surveys, which were conducted by members of Portland State University’s Center for Lakes and Reservoirs during a two-week period in July and August. The surveys cost roughly $30,000.

The technicians looked for non-native species such as New Zealand mud snails, zebra and quagga mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and saltcedar, which can outcompete native species or clog waterways.

Jeanette Langston, lead river ranger for the Bridger-Teton, said fortune may have helped keep invasive species at bay given the number of out-of-area users attracted to the region. The key to keeping unwanted invaders away is teaching people to keep their gear clean, she said.

“I think it’s just more that we’re lucky right now,” she said, explaining that anglers and boaters are crucial to keeping rivers healthy. “We can’t prevent these without people cleaning their equipment,” she said.

Langston said the Snake and the Gros Ventre rivers are especially challenging, because they attract boaters and anglers from across the country.

“A lot of use is guided, and we have been working with guides to make sure they know about aquatic invasives,” she said, explaining that people coming from the South Fork of the Snake River are particularly prone to spreading New Zealand mud snails. “The big thing is to clean, inspect, dry every time you come into contact with a body of water.”

Installations designed to prevent the spread of invasives include six scrub stations on the Snake River and one at the head of the Granite Creek drainage near the Hoback River. The forest also recently purchased a high-pressure washer. Langston is hopeful the forest can hire a seasonal technician who would tow the washer to various boat launches in the Jackson Hole area.

Populations of invasive aquatics already exist in the region.

For instance, New Zealand mud snails can be found in the Snake River as it runs through the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway. The main transport for these species is people, especially boaters and anglers using contaminated gear.

The partners participating in the survey included the Snake River Fund, Trout Unlimited, the Jackson National Fish Hatchery, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Teton Conservation District, Teton County Weed and Pest, Grand Teton National Park, the Bridger-Teton National Forest and various outfitters.

“If we didn’t have all these partners, we wouldn’t have accomplished anything on the forest,” Langston said.

While those partners fund and implement a variety of programs designed to prevent the spread of aquatic invasives species, Langston said those measures only go so far.


People who are interested in more information about aquatic invasive species can visit People who wish to report a possible invasive species population can call 1-877-STOP-ANS.

December 5, 2009

What does the Future Hold for the Teton Watershed?

The Cleanest Line
Weblog for the employees, friends and customers of the outdoor clothing company Patagonia. Visit to see what we do.

What does the Future Hold for the Teton Watershed?

Patagonia owners Yvon and Malinda Chouinard joined Friends of the Teton River this summer on a trip down a wild stretch of the Idaho waterway. Their trip commemorated a float the Chouinards had taken down the same stretch of river 35 years ago, before construction of the notorious Teton Dam. Unfortunately, the trip was not a celebratory one - Friends of the Teton River's Amy Verbeten explains:

[Preparing to float the Teton River in protest of the original dam, Yvon Chouinard, Mary Hutz, Jana Craighead, Malinda Chouinard, and Ted Major, Jr. rig boats before winching them down the canyon wall in 1974. Although more accessible put-ins exist, the infamous “Bitch Creek slide,” and the whitewater below it, makes for the most adventurous trip down Teton Canyon. Photo by Frank Craighead.]

Thirty-five years ago, biologist and early Wild and Scenic Rivers advocate Frank Craighead, his son Charlie, Patagonia founders Yvon and Malinda Chouinard, photographer Jeff Foote, and others, organized a multi-day paddling and fishing excursion in Teton Canyon. Photographs from their trip were some of the last taken before the canyon was inundated by the ill-fated Teton Dam.

The original Teton Dam, authorized by Congress in 1964, was protested on the water and in the courts, but this had little effect on slowing construction. Geology and weather provided a far greater challenge. On the morning of June 5, 1976, as rapidly melting snow filled the reservoir for the first time, water began to gush from the porous rock abutting the sides of the dam. Within hours, the entire structure collapsed. Eleven people perished, entire towns were destroyed, 13,000 head of livestock were killed, and tens of thousands of acres of farmland were stripped of topsoil. Congressman Leo Ryan, chairman of the House subcommittee which held hearings on the disaster, described it as "one of the most colossal and dramatic failures in our national history."

[Above, right - Teton Canyon: Rapids formed when the Teton Dam collapsed. These rapids now provide some of the best habitat for Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Teton Canyon, August 2009. From left to right: in raft, Malinda Chouinard, guide Derek Hutton, Yvon Chouinard; in kayak: FTR Executive Director Lyn Benjamin; in raft, Lisa Rullman, Charlie Ross, Charlie Craighead. Photo: Gabe Rogel.

In August 2009, staff and friends of Friends of the Teton River joined Yvon, Malinda, and Charlie as they returned to the Teton Canyon for the first time since 1974. Although Frank Craighead passed in 2001, his spirit touched this trip, which took place on what would have been his 93rd birthday. The purpose of the float was not of celebration of the power of nature to restore itself, nor was it merely one of remembrance. At a time when news about dams is more frequently about removal than construction, the Idaho Department of Water Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation are investigating a rebuild of the Teton Dam.

There is a marked contrast between approaches to water management in the lower, previously dammed section of the river versus the upper watershed. In the upper watershed, Friends of the Teton River has built a 10-year legacy of collaborative, science-based watershed management. Since 2000, we have worked closely with our community, and with local, state, and federal agencies to make great strides in restoring clean water, healthy streams and abundant fisheries in the Teton Watershed, using sound science as our guide. We have found that water can have the power to unite the seemingly divergent interests of irrigators, anglers, developers, policy-makers, and conservation groups. Collaboration allows us to build bridges with our neighbors, and find creative, locally derived solutions that benefit the watershed and the people who live and work within it. Our stakeholder-driven, watershed-scale approach has been widely recognized as innovative and effective by the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, the Idaho Governor’s Office of Species Conservation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, 1% for the Tetons, and many others.

We are currently at a critical juncture for the Teton Watershed. At the same time that Friends of the Teton River and our partners are making huge strides in restoring the upper watershed, a rebuild of a dam on the lower river would decimate one of the last strongholds for the native Yellowstone cutthroat trout we have worked so hard to protect. At a time when we are making great progress in restoring habitat and removing barriers to trout migration in the upper watershed, we could lose one of the last truly wild river canyons in the Western U.S. Frriends of the Teton River and other conservation groups such as Trout Unlimited are building strong coalitions between previously antagonistic stakeholders, and finding new and effective water management strategies that support adequate water for both agriculture and a thriving native trout fishery. We have found time and again in the upper Teton watershed that a local community can work together to create a place where water supports a vibrant and diverse local economy. It is time for us to move forward, away from an era of dam-building, and toward an era of innovative solutions that meld ecology with economics, and that involve local communities in creating a sustainable future.

Above, left - What does the future hold? At the site of the failed Teton Dam, the takeout for the 2009 float, FTR’s Anna Lindstedt shares information about the probable impacts of a new dam on native Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Left to right: Anna Lindstedt, Yvon Chouinard, FTR Executive Director Lyn Benjamin. Photo: Gabe Rogel.]

We need your help. Please join us as we work together to make the entire Teton watershed a model for democratic, science-based watershed management. Give your support to Friends of the Teton River as we work closely with partners such as Trout Unlimited, Idaho Rivers United, American Rivers, the Henry’s Fork Foundation, and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition to ensure that the scope of the dam study is expanded to include innovative, stakeholder-derived, non-structural alternatives that meet actual, quantified water needs. Additionally, as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) considers Wild and Scenic designation for reaches of the Teton River and its tributaries, Friends of the Teton River encourages you to share your input.

November 30, 2009

JAHTROUT Video. Where Hope Resides

A video from the boys at Snake River Angler, in Jackson Hole, Wyomnig. A guide service I work with. Support their new adventure and check out this video.

November 28, 2009

Pebble mine VS Environment. It's effect on salmon fishing in Alaska

Stay involved and educated. This is just a glimpse into the potential.


1/2 boy 1/2 man

If you read this, you WILL forward it on.
You just won't be able to stop yourself.

The average age of the military man is 19 years.
He is a short haired, tight-muscled kid who,
under normal circumstances is considered by
society as half man, half boy. Not yet dry behind
the ears, not old enough to buy a beer, but old
enough to die for his country. He never really
cared much for work and he would rather wax
his own car than wash his father's, but he has
never collected unemployment either.

He's a recent High School graduate; he was probably an average student, pursued some form of sport
activities, drives a ten year old jalopy, and has a
steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when
he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away. He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and a 155mm howitzer.

He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he
was at home because he is working or fighting
from before dawn to well after dusk. He has
trouble spelling, thus letter writing is a pain for him,
but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and
reassemble it in less time in the dark. He can recite
to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must.

He digs foxholes and latrines and can apply first aid like a professional.

He can march until he is told to stop,
or stop until he is told to march.

He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation,
but he is not without spirit or individual dignity.
He is self-sufficient.

He has two sets of fatigues: he washes one and wears the other. He keeps his canteens full and his feet dry.

He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never
to clean his rifle. He can cook his own meals, mend
his own clothes, and fix his own hurts.

If you're thirsty, he'll share his water with you; if you
are hungry, his food. He'll even split his ammunition
with you in the midst of battle when you run low.

He has learned to use his hands like weapons
and weapons like they were his hands.

He can save your life - or take it, because that is his job.

He will often do twice the work of a civilian, draw half the pay, and still find ironic humor in it all.

He has seen more suffering and death than he should have in his short lifetime.

He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in combat and is unashamed..

He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning desire to 'square-away ' those around him who haven't bothered to stand, remove their hat, or even stop talking.
In an odd twist, day in and day out, far from home, he defends their right to be disrespectful.

Just as did his Father, Grandfather, and Great-grandfather, he is paying the price for our freedom. Beardless or not, he is not a boy. He is the American Fighting Man that has kept this country free for over 200 years.

He has asked nothing in return, except
our friendship and understanding.
Remember him, always, for he has earned our respect and admiration with his blood.

And now we even have women over there in danger, doing their part in this tradition of going to War when our nation calls us to do so.

As you go to bed tonight, remember this shot. . ..

A short lull, a little shade and a picture of
loved ones in their helmets.

Prayer wheel for our military... please don't
break it Please send this on after a short prayer.

Prayer Wheel

'Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands..
Protect them as they protect us.
Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they perform for us in our time of need. Amen.'

When you receive this, please stop for a moment and say a prayer for our ground troops in Afghanistan , sailors on ships, and airmen in the air, and for those in Iraq , Afghanistan and all foreign countries.

There is nothing attached...
This can be very powerful...

Of all the gifts you could give a US Soldier, Sailor, Coastguardsman, Marine, or Airman, prayer is the very best one.

I can't break this one, sorry.
Pass it on to everyone and pray.

October 27, 2009

Why Do We Have To Tip Fishing Guides?

MidCurrent Fly Fishing
Why Do We Have to Tip Guides?

Have a question you want answered? Email it to us at

Question: The question of how much to tip a guide has always plagued me, and that got me thinking, “Why do we have to tip at all?” I don’t tip my auto mechanic or the plumber who comes to fix my sink. They charge what they have to charge to stay in business, and if they do a crappy job, I hire someone else the next time. Why can’t guides operate like that?

Charlie G., Eureka, MO

Discount Flies

Answer: This is a question that often comes up during discussions about tipping guides. The truth of the matter is that many people don’t like being forced to make a financial decision based on a nebulous “value” such as the quality of guiding. There are simply too many variables involved. For instance, on a tough fishing day, a guide might work his ass off to put you over just a couple fish, whereas some days you’ll catch 20 without the guide breaking a sweat. Which guy deserves the better tip? What makes a guide good, anyway? Is it just a numbers game, the quality of his shore lunch, the entertainment value of his conversation?

When you’re tipping a waitress, all you have to do is look at the bill and do a little financial calculation. When I was a waiter, however, I came to believe that 99 percent of diners don’t tip based on actual performance, unless your service was exceptionally good or exceptionally bad. People are just either “twenty-percenters” or “fifteen percenters” by nature. And since a guiding tip has not traditionally been tied to the cost of the trip—which can vary widely by destination—anglers are left to figure out a more complex calculation.

Marshall Cutchin’s excellent article on tipping offers some good general guidelines to help anglers negotiate this frustrating process, but I’ve talked to many folks who would like to simply remove the “tipping angst” from the process altogether. If the guide would simply charge more and not expect a tip, they argue, everything would be easier and above-board.

So I asked several guides what they thought of the idea, and here’s what they had to say. The names of the guides have been withheld to protect their identities. We’re talking about their livelihoods here, after all.

Outfitter/Guide #1: I'd like to think that guiding follows your auto-mechanic example, but it doesn't seem to. You'd think the guides who are rude or incompetent or totally disorganized would eventually lose their clientele and drop out of the business, but I see a lot of those guys in the field year after year, and they appear to be just as busy as everyone else.

I have had people in the industry suggest that better or more experienced guides should just charge a higher rate—that clients would be willing to pay the extra money, and this would allow the guide to dispense with tipping. But I don't think many of us have enough clients who recognize our value to pay this kind of surcharge above the going rate. And I don't think that would play well within the guide community. I imagine plenty of the excellent guides who do trips for my outfitting business would be offended (or pissed off or at least peeved) if I charged more for my trips than I do for theirs, just because I have 20 years of experience on them.

Guide #3: You may have a point, but the custom of tipping is now doctrine—and a good doctrine, in my eyes. Few things feel better than a hard-earned tip from somebody who noticed and cared. I also think that a tip is how you get paid for all the work you do when you’re not on the clock—scouting, learning an area on a day off, or otherwise enriching the basic guiding experience.

Guide #4: I work for an outfitter who already charges $550 for a full-day float in peak season, so it would be hard to raise the price even higher to make tipping unnecessary. That said, the tip should never cross your mind until you hit the burger stand on the way home or buy flies the next morning.

Guide #5: I would not take tipping out of the question, and here is why: I already get paid the rate I need to make the trip time worthy. Tipping is just a way for the customer to say you did your job above and beyond and this is a little something extra. But a tip is a nice way for them to say we would like you to restock the $6.00 Crease Flies we lost (all 5 of them) or the $15.00 Lucky Craft lures we broke off (all 3 of them). That is NOT priced in the fee I charge.

Guide #6: I couldn’t raise my price to cover the tip because the guy down the street will keep his price at $450 and undersell me.

What do you think? Would you be willing pay an extra $100 to get the guide with 20 years experience instead of the fuzz-lipped kid who’s trying to make money for college? Or do you figure that the fishing is easy enough on the Yellowstone or the Frying Pan that you don’t need that extra knowledge?

Writer Phil Monahan is a former Alaskan guide and was the long-time editor of American Angler magazine. You can email your fly fishing questions to Phil at Copyright © 2009

How to tip fishing guides

How to Tip Fishing Guides

by Marshall Cutchin

The difference between a meager tip and an excessive gratuity is a puzzle to many traveling fly fishers. Read this guide to accepted practice before planning your next trip.
How to Tip Your Fishing Guide
photo by McNair Evans

A STORY I like to tell about tipping involves a gentleman known among his friends, appropriately, as Wild Phil. Phil used to place a $100 bill in plain sight on the console of my skiff, and whenever he jumped a tarpon, he would get down and hand me the hundred dollars. One day, after we had jumped 9 tarpon in just a couple of hours, I was struck by the relative absurdity of this relationship, and I said, "Phil, you don't need to be so generous."

Phil thought about this for a few seconds, then said, "You're right. I want you to know that I'm grateful. But I don't want you to think I'm stupid."

And so it is with tipping and fishing. Understand a little bit about how your guide, or lodge personnel, or captain are compensated and, within general expectations, follow your instinct.

General Guidelines

In all cases, if you are using a booking service or know someone who has fished the location before, ask. You'll avoid uncomfortable moments like a bartender in New Zealand refusing your $10 tip ("Why don't you just buy a round for the bar, mate?").

With the amount of traveling fly fishers do, it's surprising that there aren't well-publicized standards for tipping guides — something like the $1-to-$2 per bag "rule" for airport skycaps and hotel bellmen in the U.S. But just as guides and lodges in different parts of the world charge different rates for the same services, they can also have very different expectations of what makes a fair gratuity.

You may have some fixed rules of your own, like 15 percent for service people, or 20 percent if they've done an outstanding job. But following those rules in all foreign countries may do a disservice to other anglers and to lodge management. And what do you do at a lodge where half a dozen people are involved in ensuring the quality of your visit? Or maybe you've heard that in some parts of the world, T-shirts and fishing lures are more meaningful than cash. And what about that obnoxious bass guide in Florida who didn't like fly fishers because he couldn't tack on his normal "backlash" fee? ("Wind knot fees," you suggested under your breath.)

The short answer to these questions is that tipping etiquette in the fly fishing business follows the same general rules that apply to all service industry workers in a given country. In the U.S. for example, gratuities of more than 20 percent mean you were extremely happy about the experience; tipping less than 10 percent means you were dissatisfied, but communicates to the service provider that you know tipping is customary.

In all cases, if you are using a booking service or know someone who has fished the location before, ask. You'll avoid uncomfortable moments like a bartender in New Zealand refusing your $10 tip ("Why don't you just buy a round for the bar, mate?").

Is tipping discretionary? Tipping amounts — even in the U.S. and neighboring countries, where gratuities are often taken for granted — should always reflect quality of service. But not tipping in an industry where gratuities make up a considerable portion of the incomes of the lower-paid staff is almost always insulting. Discussing the source of a bad experience with a lodge manager while you are on-site, for example, is far better than leaving without tipping.

Guidelines for Tipping Independent Guides

First, let's clarify what we mean by "independent guide." Florida skiff guides and light-tackle offshore guides, New England and California striper guides, Texas bass and coastal redfish guides, and trout, salmon and steelhead guides not part of a lodge setting — whether booked by an outfitter or not — should all be considered independent guides, as far as tipping is concerned. What sets them apart is that they generally run their operations and provide service individually, absorbing the attendant overhead, and if they do accept bookings from a retail shop or outfitter, they generally have to pay a commission for that service.

As a rule, you should plan on tipping $40-50 to a bonefish guide for day of work in the Bahamas or around the Caribbean and Central and South America. In Iceland, on the other hand, you should plan to tip a salmon guide $50-100 per day.

If you are budgeting for gratuities, figure in 15 percent for an average level of service from an independent fly fishing guide, but not less than 10 percent. Guides get a large percentage of their income from tips. Some top-tier guides expect a sizeable tip, and won't find future openings in their schedule for new clients who don't tip 20 percent. And regularly tipping more than 15 percent can get you access to peak-season slots that suddenly "come open."

Of course if a guide makes an exceptional effort — fishing an extra hour or three beyond the norm or working especially hard to put you on fish — tipping well makes good sense. Being stingy after a remarkable effort punishes the guide and the anglers who follow you. Not happy and don't plan to fish with the same guide again? It's still a good idea to tip something, even if it's only 5 percent — it's not worth saving a few bucks and risking having it become known among the other guides that you don't tip.

One somewhat special case worth mentioning regards tipping independent Bahamas and other independent foreign guides. It's hard to know what to tip independent foreign guides because in many cases their rates are considerably lower than independent guides in the U.S. As a rule, you should plan on tipping $40-50 to a bonefish guide for day of work in the Bahamas or around the Caribbean and Central and South America. In Iceland, on the other hand, you should plan to tip a salmon guide $50-100 per day.

Guided Fly Fishing Trip

All that being said, keep in mind that many of the best guides in the U.S. would fish with their favorite customers even if they never tipped. When I was guiding — especially in the early years when I had little choice over my clientele — I believed that there was no amount of money that could compensate me for the pain of dealing with lousy customers. But I would have guided my best clients for free; tips from them were the icing. Here are a couple of other non-monetary suggestions for treating your guide well and letting them know you appreciate their efforts:

  • Show up 5-10 minutes early. Don't make your guide wait, especially early in the morning.
  • Be pleasant company and fish well. Can't fish well? You can try hard, and that's all a good guide expects. Don't get angry or frustrated to the point where it is interfering with the experience. Don't talk on your cell phone while tarpon are sipping crabs from the surface 20 feet in front of the boat. And don't strip all of your backing onto the floor of your guide's rig on the way to the river.
  • Don't treat taking your guide out to dinner as part of the gratuity. Most hardworking guides consider the opportunity to spend precious evening hours with their clients part of their work day, not a bonus.

Teton Canyon -- A Wild Legacy at Risk

Help save this wild and scenic resource in our Teton Valley backyard. We can not allow another geologic disaster to occur a "second" time.

July 23, 2009

Snap, crack, ping, OMG did you see that?

We had the most amazing day on the river. I spent the day with return clients Jacob (age 11) and his father David. The day was filled with big fish. I mean really big! So big that, David hooked into a (small dog) Brown trout well over 20". Well, we're not really sure since we never landed the fish. However, in a 4 second time frame, David casted out and hooked the "pig". In an instant, the "pig" ran straight under the boat and...... that's when the rod snapped at the mid point. There was nothing we could do except smile, pick up our jaws and start to giggle. WOW! That was really cool.

July 19, 2009

Grays and Browns

A wonderful day on the river with old friends, PBR, Gray Drakes, Brown Trout and Maya dog. We put in on the river some time after 2pm and hit the take out well after dark. What a day, and a new big fish for TAD.

July 17, 2009

Central Wy, Brown Trout

Jim with a nice Centrel Wy Brown Trout. This was his first fish on his hand crafted 9ft 5wt rod. Note, that Jim built this rod 12 years ago. Nice work, Jim. Don't stop now.

May 30, 2009

Bass'n in the land of trout

Took a break from fishing for trout this afternoon. Well sort of. Today was mostly a bass fishing day. Though I happened to land bass, trout, crappy and had chances at Kokonee Salmon too. 

May 28, 2009

Road Trip'n

Ah. The simple pleasures of a road trip. Visits with old friends, travels with the wife, new beers
to consume and of course the FISH. But, of course. In 96 hours time I tasted the Rio Grande, San Juan, Taylor river and Frying Pan River. The brute (24" 9 lb) came out of the Taylor River. As you might imagine from the picture, the CO state record rainbow came from this watershed. 

I will be back!

San Juan River
Dream Stream. 
South Platte River

April 13, 2009

Fishing season opening report

Jackson Hole Fishing Report: 
Courtesy of HCF
April 3, 2009
Snake River
For better or worse the traditional April 1st fishing opener has come and gone without much fanfare here at High Country Flies. Not so many years ago the local fishing community fervently awaited April 1. Now with virtually year round fishing on the Upper Snake the excitement has diminished for the Cowboy State’s General Fishing Season Opener. Just another sign on how the face of fly fishing is changing. Fly fishing has become noisy. It is taking on the look of the Bassmasters or NASCAR, with tournaments, self promoting Hey, look at mevideos; you can’t catch a fish unless the fly is made of soulless foam and rubberlegs. Whatever happened to just the water, the fish and one’s self? Sorry, this is supposed to be a fishing report not a pulpit. Maybe I just needed to get the winter cobwebs out??
In early March we had warm weather and fishing on the Snake had picked up considerably. Lately we have been experiencing repeated snow storms resulting in inconsistent fishing. The good news is this usually is a great set up for the Spring Skwalla Stonefly hatch.  Springs that start with warm weather, then a cold snap, followed again by warm weather, are generally just the ticket for a good Snake River Skwalla hatch. So theoretically, the next fixed warm spell should really make them pop. Again, this is in theory, we will see how it plays out.
In the meantime, for dry fly action, it is Midges and our little black Stoneflies (Capnia) that will be of importance. As far as we know, there are no commercial patterns tied for the little black Stones, but small dark Caddis and some black Midge imitations can cross over and work quite nicely for this interesting little Plecoptera.  With the Midges, look for reproductions tied in colors of black and gray, or with peacock herl. Red is also a midge color that should never be overlooked. For the individual style flies, try sizes 18 through 24. For the cluster style Midge Patterns (Griffith’s Gnat or version’s of) you may be able to get by with 16’s, but 18’s and 20’s will be the norm.
Even though the dry-fly Skwalla fishing hasn’t really started yet, the nymph of this insect will be very active. So, imitations of Golden Stone nymphs in size 8 and 10’s can be very effective. A plain old Hare’s Ear, Red Fox Squirrels, Golden Epoxyback, and Tungstone are all applicable. A two nymph system, one stone nymph and one midge imitation, can be a great searching technique. For dries, many patterns can work, from Stimulators to Parachute Hoppers, but we think you will find low-profile patterns like the Bullethead Skwalla and Brukholder’s Skwalla will be most effective once the adults are on the water.
For general Nymphing don’t over think it. Your favorite underwater pattern in the early season can always be productive. Your pet creations in 14’s and 16’s should work fine. Of course Midge larva and pupae imitations will also work but many times you won’t necessarily need to fish that precise or small of patterns. More times than not, fishing the right water can be far more important. 
As many resident Chuck Duckers already know, early season Streamer fishing can be deadly, and every spring we see quite an array of new streamer prototypes that locals have developed over the winter. Many years, one of these new designs can become a hot fly. Sometimes it turns out to be the fly for the season, and now and then it will become a fly box standard. Most of us have our favorite streamer or streamers and most springs they all work to varying degrees…take this as you will…don’t overlook light grays, tans, and white. After talking to many spring Strip and Rip fishermen, the pattern didn’t seem to be as important as the color.
The release from Jackson Lake dam is 477cfs (as it has been all winter), and Jackson Lake is 77% full, Palisades Reservoir 76%, and American Falls Reservoir 97% full. We would have to go some to have a better fishing season than 2008, but with a snowpack water equivalent of 103% and the Minidoka reservoir system in the best shape we’ve seen in years, we are online for 2009 to also be a great one. Unless we experience some kind of freakish weather event in April or May, water flows shouldn’t be an issue this season.  At the very least one would think the Bureau of Reclamation will have a lot of flexibility with water releases. If you are planning a trip this summer to Jackson Hole, we are expecting a traditional run-off season. Area tributaries should start fishing by early July and the Snake River itself fishing with good consistency by late July or early August.
 High Country Flies asks all those fishing in the early season to be especially sensitive of the fish. Remember, most of the Snake River Cutthroats have not yet spawned. Possibly, if a fish is aggressive enough to take your fly (be it dry, nymph, or streamer) in early season conditions, it just may be the gene pool we want to procreate. Please take into consideration how long you play a fish and how it is released. At times you may need to break a fish off or cut your fly or take whatever means is necessary for its survival. You will always have another day to fish, the fish may not have that luxury. If there is ever a question of this extraordinary creature’s survival, let the fish win.
Until next time, good fishing,
Howard Cole
High Country Flies 

March 26, 2009

Spring cleaning will have to wait! Delayed by 12" of fresh snow . WHERE THE HELL IS SPRING?

I guess I'll have to go skiing, seeing there's another 12" of new snow in the front yard. 

The cleaning will have to wait a few more hours.

Streamer Arsenal. Lots of unweighted flies
Spring cleaning the fly boxes.

March 23, 2009

Busted by the Warden. Almost!

Lesson #1 Read the fishing regulations
Lesson #2 Be honest with the Game Warden
Lesson #3 Pray that the Warden doesn't have enough tickets and warnings in their possession

The snow had melted and the sun was shining. Given the snow conditions on the previous days ski tour, we thought we'd be better off fishing the Henry's fork today. The Warm River stretch seemed like a good location. And it was. We had lots of success catching many small rainbows. Small fish were not what we really wanted though. In order to fix of desire to catch some "nice" trout we decided to try our luck further downstream. "How about the Ashton Dam stretch?" Hammer suggested.

Now, a little back story here is important to fully appreciate and realize the importance of the events that are about to unfold. 

Twice last season, we had our asses handed to us on this stretch. Nada, nothing, zilch. Yep, that's right. Two fishing guides from the area had our ego's battered and severely bruised for catching nothing. 

So it seemed a little weird when we walked up to this stretch and on cast number two I hooked into a heavy trout. 
"Fish on." I thought at that moment, the hex is over and things are different now. Until the fish shook it's fat head and spit the hook. "Damn." 

Cast number three. "Fish on." Holy shit. A real nice fish with lot's of color. This color often comes from...
Oh no. Spawning grounds. 

Just then, a indescript looking genntleman walks over and ask how we're doing? Great! we commented. 

"Did you know this area is closed to fishing during the spawn?" Uh, um....
"Can I see your fishing licenses?" "I'm the Warden."


At this very moment, I'm not sure if a crowbar would have helped to get my tail out of my ass, or, my foot out of my mouth. 
A jack hammer, maybe. If you added a little lube. 

The Warden asks if we're guides?  "Yes"  Wondering why he's asked us this, but knowing that we'd better just be honest. Andrew left his license in his wallet, so the Warden escorted us to our vehicle where the wallet was. As we walked the walk of shame, we submitted to small talk while trying to feel out the situation and in hopes that we might befriend the Warden and get off with a warning and a slap on the wrist. All our hope fell away when both doors of the access cab opened and he reached for the "the clip board". After a few awkward moments, the Warden explains that he only has two tickets and one warning in his possession. "Since I'm off duty and returning from a nordic ski day, I have to be fair" he explains. In the back of my mind I'm thinking that we're going to have to Roe Sham Boe for the warning. Go for the rock, It'll be quicker since my fists are all clenched up anyways, I'm thinking. 

But not to worry. We were set free. And maybe this was the better solution. Our guilt and shame was penalty enough.

After many miles of sulking in our guilt and continued awkward silence, Andrew pipes up. "You guys really are cursed by that stretch of water. Aren't you?" 

March 19, 2009

March 17, 2009

schizophrenia sets in

Come on ma. Make up your mind. Is it winter or spring? Is it going to rain or snow? Should I fish or ski?

March 15, 2009

O.M.D. or just plain stupid?

Over Motivated Disorder or just plain stupid? Hammer, Henry, Luna and I went for a early spring foray on the S. Fork yesterday. 35 degrees, 12 mph wind and ice floating down the river. The dogs didn't even get wet. They had the right idea and Henry was sure to let us know that he was not happy about it one bit. Hammer took the dogs back to the shelter of the vehicle while the knuckleheads forged on. After a few hours of freezing our fingers, seeking shelter out of the wind and slipping on ice, we did start sticking the NATIVES. Whitey after whitey. We were able to get a few nice trout too. All in all, a nice first day back on home waters.
"It's good to be home."

March 3, 2009

iPhone App Usage Drops Off

iPhone App Usage Drops Off
A study has shown that less than 5 percent of consumers still use their free iPhone applications a month after downloading them. What do you think?

Chris Feyen,
Sales Manager
"Yeah, I stopped using the 'Dial Phone Numbers and Talk' application like two days after getting it."

Katy Heller,
Snowplow Operator
"If I were interested in anything free, I wouldn't have an iPhone."

Duane LaRocco,
Forms Developer
"I got that Obama iFan app, but about a week ago I got really bored with Obama being president."

Kevin Emery,
Fishing Guide - Want To Be Blogger
"I got the iPhone so I could follow the blogs of all the other bloggers who follow blogs, so I could start my own blog."