I was a river guide for 13 years and put clients on more fish than they could catch, and received no tip, and been skunked and received great tips. To me, a guide's job is to educate, present enjoyment to our clients, and to hunt for fish for the clients to catch. Many fishermen's enjoyment is measured by the weight of their stringer at the end of the day. Others get a kick out of just being outside learning new tricks and seeing beautiful scenery.
As a guide, we always try to put the clients on fish. Fighting one is a bonus. Yes it's great if they land them. As the day progresses, I always am asking myself, are my clients having fun, are they learning something new, and am I doing my best to find fish? If the answer is yes to all, I knew the trip was successful. I never expected a tip. Heck, I was already getting paid to take people fishing. If I didn't like my pay, I could always get another job.
In areas that are nice enough to attract visitors, and those visitors have enough money to afford fishing guides, then the market can support a guiding industry. Okay, so in some areas guides may not make a ton of money. But, they all live in areas where the economy is good enough to support the luxury industry that they are in. If the guides are not making enough money, then they can get supplemental employment or get a different job.
The purpose of a tip is not to provide compensation, their fee is for that. A tip is simply a gesture of gratitude for exemplary service or a method of sharing the clients enjoyment of the day. The form of a tip can vary with the needs or interests of the guide. If he(she) was particularly attracted to your pliers or some other gadget, that's a good tip. If you think that the guide is poor as dirt and is not making any money, then cash is very valuable as a tip.
About 17 years ago, I guided the Valentine boys (Valentine fly reels) salmon fishing in Upstate New York for salmon and steelhead. We fished for 3 days with only 1 fish hooked, and subsequently lost. We fished hard and saw several fish. They learned how salmon behaved during spawning migrations, and learned what I refer to as, how a salmon thinks. As we said our goodbyes on Sunday afternoon, they said to me, "We have never salmon fished before in our lives. We have been all over the nation trout fishing, have done a fair amount of saltwater flyfishing, and have designed a fly reel for what we thought would be good for salmon. Here it is as our thanks to you for taking us fishing."
That was my tip, a one of a kind custom fly reel. I have caught several thousand salmon and steelhead on that reel. And tomorrow I'll be taking it to AC to go bonefishing for the first time in my life.
Tip your guide, even if it is the last warm beer in your cooler. Cash is always appreciated, but any thanks will do.