From "pencil pusher" to 100+ days guiding for GRG: Mike Donaldson on guide school January 23 2016


Mike Donaldson has been fly fishing since he was a child and his dream was to live in Montana and be a fly fishing guide. That's exactly what he did and it all started with guide school.  After years of working at an office job he moved to Montana, signed up for a guide school and the rest is history. He's been guiding for the past 5 years at Gallatin River Guides and hasn't looked back. 

Mike shares how guide school helped prepare him for a very successful career as a fly fishing guide who has been with Gallatin River Guides and Montana Fishing Outfitters for 5 years. Mike's story is a great example of how guide school can give you the edge you need to get your foot in the door. And the Montana Fishing Guide School can help you get there. 

How long have you been fishing?
I started fly-fishing when we were little kids, probably around 10 or 11 (I am currently 34). My dad is a really good fisherman and started taking me out with him, we used to have a little cabin on a trout stream. It was just something that I grew up with and was apart of my life.

When did you attend guide school?

I attended guide school about 6 or 7 years ago.

Why did you sign up for guide school?  Did you want to be a guide when you signed up?

I signed up for guide school because I was interested in becoming a guide and figured that was the best place to start. I was interested in learning more about fishing, but really just wanted to know what it would be like to be a professional guide. I was curious if it was the type of career that I would be happy doing.

What made you want to be a fishing guide?
I was unhappy with my career at the time and was looking for something totally different. The idea of getting to do something you really love as a job got me looking in that direction. It seemed like this grand challenge at the time and something that I would enjoy doing everyday. I was also naive enough at the time to actually believe I knew what I was doing out on the river. So that motivated me, little did I know.

What was the best lesson learned from guide school?  Best memory?
The best lesson that I learned in guide school was the teaching side of guiding. That guiding was not just taking people out on the river and putting them on fish. That in order to have a successful day on the river it would take a lot of coaching and patience with clients. The majority of people that hire guides are not the best fisherman, thats exactly why they hire guides. If they already know what they are doing, why are they paying me to take them fishing? Even experienced anglers want to learn something new from there guide, its just a part of the job. You are constantly demonstrating and teaching your client how to become a better fisherman.

My best memory from guide school has got to be the actual fishing. We did our class on the Big Horn in the middle of July and the fishing was fantastic. It was so good we all honestly thought we were going to be superstar's. I got a very rude awakening when I started guiding on the Madison everyday.

How many days a year are you guiding now?
I have been guiding for 5 years now and am working 100+ days a year on the river.

Do you still keep in contact with friends made in guide school?  Still fish with any?
One of my closest friends here in Montana I met in guide school, we were paired together on the first day and have been friends since. We both started guiding around the same time and in the same area, but for different outfitters. We run into each other all the time when working on the river and fish together whenever we get the chance.

Why would you recommend signing up for guide school?
Guide School is an excellent starting point for anyone that is thinking about guiding professionally. Having instructors that are actually guides can provide students with invaluable knowledge and information that can take years to learn. Even if you're not interested in guiding going to a guide to school will make you a better fisherman, it could just be a fun learning experience that allows you to get to know the rivers and the people that fish them. Guiding in this area of Montana is also a very sought after profession and is getting more and more competitive. Having graduated from a guide school will show initiative and look pretty good on your resume when you go out looking for work. It's not an easy profession to get started in and having a good recommendation from a guide school could give you the edge to get in the door.