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Plan a destination fly-fishing trip right for maximum enjoyment



Part 1 of a 2-part series

By Patrick Straub EBS Fishing Columnist

I’ve spent a lifetime fly fishing our local waters. Trout and Montana’s rivers are my first love, but I’ll take just about any opportunity to travel to far-off places to cast to fish other than trout. My passport has been well used: for trout in South Africa and Chilean and Argentine Patagonia; tigerfish in Botswana and Zimbabwe; bonefish in the Bahamas and Belize; tarpon and snook in Mexico; steelhead in Alaska; and now fly fishing for permit in Honduras … and using a helicopter to do so.

Whether you live in Wyoming and travel to the saltwater; live in Brooklyn and are headed to Montana; and are fishing with guides or going it alone, a trip to a distant fly-fishing locale requires some pre-planning. In my case, my helicopter-flats-fly-fishing trip popped up on short notice, leaving me fewer than five days to pack and plan. Thankfully, I’ve had 20-plus years of experience to draw from. You may not. Here’s some help.

Up-to-date passport. This seems obvious, but you never know when you might get an invite. Always ensure your passport is valid. And since most, if not all, countries (including Canada) now require United States citizens to have passports, don’t be left out. A few years ago a friend was invited on a free fully guided Elk River trip due to a last-minute cancellation. He couldn’t go because he let his passport lapse.

Gear—know what you need and what is provided. If you’re planning to fish with guides or stay at a destination lodge, do your research ahead of time and know what is provided and what is not. Sleuth it out—all the way down to flies and tippet. For example, flurocarbon has proven very effective for saltwater flat fishing and many guides in international destinations will be very happy if you arrive armed with fluorocarbon. Many western trout guides provide gear like rods and reels, but it’s rare for a saltwater guide to supply rods and reels and flies.

Attitude makes the difference. Keep a positive attitude throughout the trip, from planning to on-the-ground-fishing. If you’re hiring out your fishing and lodging, trust your hosts to have your best interests at heart. If you’re going it alone, be prepared for changing conditions and putting forth extra effort if curveballs occur— locally, the one we see most often is the Gallatin River being blown out due to rain in the Taylor Fork. Flexibility and a “roll with it” attitude are important.

Communicate ahead of time and during your trip.  Having honest and open dialogue before your trip regarding your expectations and goals is crucial. If fishing dry flies to rising trout is important, you must communicate that to your guide or ask local sources if that will occur during your visit. If tarpon are your target, be sure to ask if it’s likely that they’ll be around. Will your fishing be mostly on foot or out of a boat? What will happen if adverse weather affects fishing conditions?

Take your health seriously. This is an often overlooked component of any destination trip. It might seem like advice from a nagging grandma, but it’s actually pretty darn crucial. Sunscreen, hydration, proper clothing for hot or cold climates, eating right and getting sleep all add to the success or failure of a trip. Don’t spend time and money to travel only to spend a day hungover or sun burnt. Drunk and sick might be fine back home, but not when tailing bonefish are within casting range.

Be honest with yourself about your ability. Don’t spend thousands of dollars traveling across the globe if your 30-foot cast won’t cut it. An honest look at your own skill level is the first step in deciding where to travel and what species to pursue. If you’ve always wanted to catch a bonefish but can’t cast 40 feet and further on a consistent basis, you should practice more before investing in a trip.

Traveling to fly fish is one of the many joys of the sport. From the planning to the anticipation to stepping into new water for the first time, fishing a new destination is an added bonus of our chosen pastime. But, before you make those first false casts on a first-time trip, do your homework so you ensure there will be a second time.

Pat Straub is the author of six books, including “The Frugal Fly Fisher,” “Montana On The Fly,” and “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing.” He and his wife own Gallatin River Guides in Big Sky. He also co-owns Montana Fishing Outfitters and the Montana Fishing Guide School. He has traveled the world fly fishing and caught trout, steelhead, tiger fish, tarpon, bonefish and snook, but has yet to catch a permit.

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