I have been fortunate enough to fly fish in a number of different parts of the UK and the world sometimes with mixed results. I would like to share with you what I consider to be the most critical thing to do to improve the odds of having a successful, memorable experience when fishing unfamiliar waters. This applies particularly if you are only in the area for a short time. Crucially you need local knowledge!!! And by that I don’t mean a brief chat in the local tackle shop. What I mean is you need a Guide (or if in Scotland a Gillie). Now Guides can come in two forms, the professional ones you employ and the informal ones you just make friends with. I have had positive experiences with both types. The professional guides usually have a web site and they advise you what they charge. Often they will provide tackle, transport, waders and boots but the most important thing is their local knowledge. By local knowledge I am referring to the what, where, when and how! Often you need some of that knowledge before you even decide when you want to make your trip. Let me give you an example. Pink salmon still run up North American rivers in large numbers and they are easy to catch but they only run every other year! So without local knowledge you could spend a lot of money on a pink salmon trip expecting a bonanza and find you have picked the wrong year! Contact a guide before you book your trip and they will advise you as to what fish species are likely to be present, what the license requirements are and equally important whether there is someone available to guide you. Also you can then get a feel for what it will cost you and the advantages of having more than just you in your party. They can also keep you out of prison! For example if you hook a natural steelhead (not a hatchery raised fish) in the State of Washington you are not allowed to take it out of the water, so it has to be unhooked and photographed still partially submerged. Guides are good at that and they know that a hatchery fish will have had its adipose fin clipped off before being released into the river from the hatchery. After having had a guided trip and learnt some of the techniques then there is no reason why you cannot go back to the same location (if you were smart enough to remember it or record it on your sat nav or gps) on your own (or preferably with a pal).
Fishing from a float tube is great fun because you cast out and then gently paddle along trailing the line waiting for a hit. If you hook a biggish fish it will tow you along till it gets tired. After a couple of hours of good sport the fish seemed to go off the boil. So using my maxim of “if you aren’t catching change something” I slipped on a minkie booby fly letting the sinking line drag it down. Almost immediately I was back into the fish. Scott drifted over to see what I was doing and I gave him the fly as he had not seen a minkie booby before (neither had the trout I think) and I felt I owed him for giving me such a good day.
I am a great believer in the idea that giving is better than receiving so I think if one takes advantage of someone else’s generosity one should be prepared to reciprocate. So I am more than happy to try and help a visitor to my area get into some good fishing.