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What to do when your fly-fishing trip unravels before your eyes?



Part 2 of a 2-part series

By Patrick Straub EBS Fishing Columnist

I wrote the first series in this two-parter eager to step off my crowded commercial airliner, get whisked through customs in a busy Honduran airport, and board a private helicopter for a two-hour flight to a group of saltwater flats called the Faraway Cayes that’s seen fewer than twenty anglers, ever. I had less than five days to plan, as I was invited to fill a spot left vacant by a last-minute cancellation. 

Thankfully, when my stateside flight was delayed 90 minutes and the helicopter left without me because flying in the dark to a deserted tropical island is neither ideal nor safe, I’d only had five days for the anticipation and excitement to build. When given the choice to return home with my tail between my legs or make the best of an unexpected curveball (and I don’t even play baseball), I chose to stay and roll with it. 

The owner of the Faraway Cayes helicopter fishing operation also operates a destination lodge in a much more developed area, in and around the island of Guanaja, Honduras. Here’s some advice to help turn a turd-sandwich into something more palatable—and in my case, the crème de le crème. 

Choose your destination wisely. This appears obvious, but had the helicopter trip been the only option to fish, I would have wasted two days of my life in airplanes and airports. Whether you’re headed to saltwater flats or casting to steelhead or trout, carefully vet your destination for a variety of fishing options should you need to adjust. In our area, if the Gallatin River becomes muddy from a localized rainstorm, the Upper Madison or waters in Yellowstone National Park will be fishable. 

Trust your hosts and local knowledge. As I stood in the Roatan airport after 14 hours of travel, bags in-hand, and listened to the PA ramble in Spanish, a moment of calm acceptance occurred: I could remain frustrated that a flight delay foiled my eagerly anticipated plans, or give in and let others handle my best interest. I chose the latter and within an hour I was on the deck of the Fly Fish Guanaja lodge with a cool drink in hand watching the sun set behind the tropical island of Guanaja.

Weather is what weather is. As a lifetime fly-fishing guide, my fretting over the daily weather forecast is compulsion-worthy. I check several forecasts a day in a range of geographic areas. In a new location, fretting over weather is wasted energy. If it’s wet, it’s raining. If the trees are moving, it’s windy. If your guide or local sources seem unbothered by the weather, embrace that attitude. 

Weather is a factor, but whether or not it gets under your skin is ultimately up to you. I had four days of relentless wind on Guanaja. But because I trusted my guide Eduwin and my hosts, we worked hard to find places to fish where the wind was not a factor. In the evenings, the wind kept any no-see-ums away and the sound of the waves breaking on the reef lulled me to sleep each night. 

If you love something, set your love for it free. The goal of the helicopter trip to un-fished flats was for me to land my first permit on a fly rod. But the fish gods did not see it the same way, causing me to miss my flight. However, by choosing to give in, trust that others wanted exactly what I wanted, and taking my self-imposed expectations out of the equation, my trip ended in grand fashion. Eduwin chose the right fly and spotted two cruising permit, I made a cast in exactly the right place at the right time, and found a permit willing to eat. An hour later, yet ten years in the making, Eduwin grasped my first permit on a fly. 

Fly-fishing travel, whether to saltwater destinations or mountain trout streams, often feels like high stakes gambling. But what’s at stake, and the reward, is entirely subjective and ever-changing. Although the goal may be a fish on the end of the line, the disconnect from the daily routine and journey of the unfamiliar must outweigh tangible results. 

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. Pat has traveled the world fly fishing, catching trout, steelhead, tiger fish, tarpon, bonefish and snook along the way. And he finally caught a permit on his most recent trip. 

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