After several years of threatening to do so, a few of our guides – myself included – are switching from store bought plastic water bottles to other methods of transporting and distributing water to our guests. Most guides I know hate the garbage produced by the hundreds of plastic bottles they throw away each year. Costa, Orvis, Fishpond, Patagonia, Yeti and others have directed both consumer and guide “kick plastic” campaigns over the years. Everyone nods in agreement during the presentation, and agrees to switch to “hard” water bottles in the future. But few do.

I do know a few outfitters who provide water and water bottles for their guests, including our friends at the North Fork Crossing Lodge on the Blackfoot. And I suppose outfitters in remote camps in Alaska and Russia have no choice. But by and large, most fishing guides buy dozens of the inexpensive bottled water “flats” you can find in every grocery store and gas station from Forks to Key West. It’s frightening to think of the volume of plastic garbage the fishing industry contributes to Mother Earth each year.

I checked out Ban The Bottle to get a few numbers, and read that the average American throws away 167 water bottles each years. Scary for sure, but I’ll bet some guides come close to that each week during hot weather in July and August!

So, as part of my return to guiding this year, I promised myself I would finally “kick plastic”. Which prompted both agreement and discussion among our guide staff on how to implement that. The two big hurdles for most guides include:

  1. Bottled water is cheap. Probably the smallest daily expenditure for guides. Right behind spit shot.
  2. Customers don’t trust us or our water bottles.

Having guiding for long enough that I don’t really care what my guests opinions of my water bottles are (or much else), I decided to give it a whirl. I did a little research, and combined with my own experience decided on the following 32oz Nathan water bottle for guests in my boat. I purchased a bunch of these in “paired” colors so each dude can have a couple of the same color.

The first day I broke these out – with a brief explanation as to why they weren’t being served Albertson’s bottled water – I got 1 “good for you” and 1 sideways glance as the customer hesitantly took a sip. That has more or less continued. I’m probably batting just above .500 when it comes to approval/disapproval. Quite a few have asked if it’s “safe to drink from” (seriously?) while others could care less. They’re thirsty.

I understand why anglers who’ve hung around guides for any length of time would be suspect. Guides are not the cleanest creatures. Dirty boats, trucks, waders, coolers and clothes are all part of the package.

But I don’t know many guides who would intentionally hand a client a “used” water bottle from the day before. But I do know a few…

So I am carefully washing mine in our high temperature dishwasher each time they go in the cooler, whether they were used or not. After being washed they are immediately filled and put in the “drinks only” refrigerator at our house. One reason I chose these Nathan bottles is that they have a removable silicone mouthpiece that can be sterilized separately.

So that’s my program, and some of our other guides are doing it differently. Some are sticking to the bottled water from the store. Some are using paper cups and water tanks. Some believe stainless cleans better. Some clients only drink beer anyhow!

My single biggest concern is not that a guest will disapprove, but that they won’t drink enough water during the course of the day.


If drinking out of a clean water bottle that has been used before scares you, then we suggest you bring your own water bottles on a guided trip (at least 2 x 32oz). Even if your guide is carrying store bought water you will be reducing the amount of plastic waster that your boat produces. And if your guide doesn’t care about the environment, you will at least be saving him 2 or 3 bucks. Believe it or not, you can also buy a water bottle in our shop!

Note: This blog post is available as a live and loud version from our shop manager and kick plastic queen Sara Roholt. 

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  • I dig it.

    I’m curious (I’m a DIY guy). Is the cost of buying HH branded re-useable water bottles en-mass so prohibitive that the cost of handing out two to each client for the duration of their time with you is a non-option? That way, when they leave they take the bottles with then and can reuse the water bottle everywhere they go and remember the kick ass time they had with you on the Mo. I don’t really expect an answer I’m jus’ sayin’….

    Keep up the solid work HH.

  • My Own Party
    May 26, 2017 9:36 am

    I like it. I will have our guys bring water bottles this year.

    We will still bring our beer in bottles. We can only take this so far.

  • Carroll Jenkins
    May 26, 2017 9:41 am

    Go John!

  • Carroll Jenkins
    May 26, 2017 9:47 am

    Go SARA ! The most progressive shop manager in Montana!

  • Good call guys….good leadership

  • Good call guys….good leadership

  • Ben Eisinger
    May 26, 2017 10:05 pm

    love it! stick with it John just good karma. Just say no to plastic and bananas? Its guaranteed to help catch more fish and bigger fish. I have been trying for months to find an alternative at my work to plastic water bottles thinking by now someone would produce paper/cardboard water options but no luck. Great invention if your looking to hang the oars up….

  • David Bender
    May 27, 2017 6:11 am

    Check out S’well – created for exactly the same green reasons.

  • I saw this in the store the other day. I’ve never tried it so I don’t know if it’s good or crap. Just an idea/alternative:

  • I’m in the “Good for you!” camp. Maybe add it to “list of things to bring” — sunglasses, hat, REUSABLE WATER BOTTLES…

    Or you could run several cases of empty reusable bottles up to McDonald Pass, fill them with that tasty (best water I’ve ever tasted or brewed beer with) spring water, then sell full reusable water bottles of pure Montana spring water (probably laws against selling the water, so just sell the bottle which happens to contain the water).

    Also, a quick diluted iodine soak (Iodophor) can get the sanitizing piece done quickly and effectively, just go light so you don’t stink up the bottles.

  • Yet almost all products that come from Simms, Patagonia, and a various other amounts of vendors in the fly fishing industry come in plastic… Don’t get me wrong, I am hypocritical for buying their products. We all got to look at the bigger picture, plastic water bottles aren’t going to make a difference when you’re throwing away twice the amount of plastic on a monthly basis(during peak season or yearly) from the shop. So where is the reasoning in that?

    • Trying at every juncture my friend. Going to more paper and less plastic at the shop again this year. Details forthcoming. We are trying. Hard to reason tho Ant. And our water bottle reduction does make a difference Ant. Last year we figure over 10K. So put that in your pipe and smoke it! We are looking at the bigger picture. Yup.

  • Awesome! Making a difference in the day to day of a Fly Shop is great. Yet as a fly shop, you all/ the industry should hold the vendors accountable and get them to kick plastic. It seems pretty hypocritical of a company to be promoting a healthy earth, yet everything comes wrapped in plastic? So why can’t the industry change what the companies, that capitalize on us anglers, use for their shipping methods? The big picture is, the thousands of plastic pieces, from jackets, waders, boots, tippets, flies, everything…… that new merchandise comes in. So tell me how your water bottles are really making a difference??

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