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Tips for a Successful Fly Fishing Trip

Tips for a Successful Fly Fishing Trip
Photography by Keith Rose-Innes

This article was featured in the 2020 Destinations issue of Fly Fisherman. It was originally titled "Watery Wonders: Travel tips to make your trip safe and successful". 

There’s probably no better way to see this planet than with a fly rod in your hand. You can’t get into the Louvre Museum or the Vatican carrying a 9-foot 5-weight fly rod, but if you want to get away from the well-traveled paths of billions of other people, fly fishing will take you away from what man has created, and show you the natural wonders of this planet. It’s a deeply immersive way to experience river/lake/ocean ecosystems around the world, learn what makes them tick, and just for a moment, be a part of it. Your visit can even sustain and protect these places.

Being a peripatetic fly fisher is also a wonderful way to experience the “real” people and culture of a country—not the ethos of the cities or all-inclusive tourist resorts, but the people who live in harmony with their natural world and can give you a glimpse at it if you’re willing to listen and to learn. We created Destinations to help you find their special places and experience these watery wonders of the world.

Here are a few additional tips to make your trip successful:

Use an agent. Travel agencies charge a commission, but that is paid by the lodge, so it doesn’t cost you anything. Good agents visit the venues they book so they can provide you with expert advice. Fly Fisherman is proud to partner with the best fly-fishing travel agencies in the world: Angler Adventures, Frontiers Travel, The Fly Shop, Tailwaters Fly Fishing Co., and Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures all helped to sponsor and produce this magazine, and in fact in many instances we relied on their knowledge and expertise for certain locations.

Timing is everything. In my story on the Iliamna Lake region (page 66 of the 2020 Destinations issue. ) I described catching big rainbows feeding on sockeye salmon eggs in small streams. You should understand that most Alaska fishing lodges open in late June and close at the end of September, and that the sockeye spawn lasts for two weeks or less on some streams. Getting a prime week isn’t just a consideration, it should be your primary concern. To get the best dates, plan your trip at least a year in advance, go through an agency—they often have some of the best weeks booked for their own clientele—or consider going with a group. Hosted trips are often booked on prime dates a year or more in advance, and you can get in on these dates by piggybacking with a preexisting group.

Medical evacuation insurance. If you fall sick or are injured in a foreign country, the first thing you want is to get back to a U.S. hospital as soon as possible. I use and recommend Global Rescue. Annual coverage is surprisingly inexpensive, and if you have a life-threatening medical emergency—whether that’s a snakebite, broken pelvis, or heart arrhythmias—they will evacuate you and get you back to your home hospital.

Guide advice. Follow your guide’s advice. Learn their techniques and heed their instructions. I used to be a guide, and the worst trips were always with fly fishers who thought they didn’t need expert advice. They were intent on fishing dry flies, upstream only, no matter the season or the water conditions, and they needed me only to row them to the good spots. The greatest part about fly-fishing travel is what you can learn, and the guides you meet on their local waters are the most sincere, observant, and experienced watermen in the world. If you want to find out what makes their home waters special, all you need to do is listen and learn. 

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