Many anglers that book a salmon fishing holiday in Scotland ask what the difference is between a ghillie and a fishing guide. Some people have the misconception that a ghillie is the same as a fishing guide but of course this is not the case.
When salmon fishing in Scotland, almost all the private beats come with a ghillie, especially on the bigger more prolific rivers. Depending on the beat, there may be more than one ghillie. The ghillie will usually look after all the anglers that are fishing the beat. So, he will be at hand to give advice on what flies and lines to use as well as pointing out the likely lies in the various pools. The beat ghillie is unlikely to be at your side all day, as he will also be giving advice to the other anglers that are fishing on the beat. So, for example, if there are six anglers in total fishing on the beat, he may spread his time equally amongst them or spend more time with the people that are new to the water. The ghillie may also use the boats to take guests across the river and attend to any other general duties.
A salmon fishing guide on the other hand provides a specific one to service for the angler. He would do everything that a ghillie does like giving advice on what tackle to use and also pointing out the best lies in the pools, but he would also be with the angler for the entirety of the day. A fishing guide would give advice on casting technique if needed as well as on different tactics.
If you are new to salmon fishing in Scotland and don’t know the beat or river that you are fishing on, then hiring a fishing guide can pay rich dividends, especially if you are going to be fishing for a few days. Some anglers will hire a fishing guide for the first two days as often their local knowledge on tactics can be priceless. They then have the confidence of fishing under the watchful eye of the beat ghillie for the rest of the time.
So as you can see the role of a beat ghillie and a fishing guide is quite different when salmon fishing in Scotland. The beat ghillie divides his time efforts between everyone fishing on the beat where as a guide provides that unique one to one service. At the end of the day, they both have the same goal, to ensure that you have a great time and to increase the likelihood of hooking some hard fighting Scottish silver!