Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Travelling Abroad to Fish? Fail to prepare, prepare to be frustrated!

Whilst we all enjoy fishing in our home country, the idea of fishing abroad for some exotic, large, unusual species is very attractive.  These days, tempting, overseas fishing exploits are frequently featured on the box and are continuously featured on YouTube.  This exposure tends to whet our appetite to “pack rod and travel”.  Sadly, sometimes because we have not done our homework until it’s too late, we end up on holiday feeling fed up and frustrated looking at inviting rivers, lakes and beaches without the appropriate tackle, knowledge and license to enjoy the moment.  Having been fishing abroad for more years than I care to remember (I was born when the Dead Sea was only sick) I thought I would share some tips based on what I have learnt the hard way.

1.       Probably the easiest way to successfully fish abroad is to sign up as part of a party led by an experienced guide.  This is costly and does not completely guarantee success. One has heard of salmon trips to the Kolar Peninsular when the rivers are late thawing, or to Tierra del Fuego where it has been so windy that only fishers who brought two-handed rods can get a line out and a fish on. 

2.       If the trip is guideless you need to start preparing for the trip as soon as possible by first deciding the what, the where and the when.  Deciding on “the what” helps fix “the where” and probably “the when”.  But maybe you have the where and the when decided for you by others.  When my brother suggested I took my wife to the Canary Isles last year and she liked the idea, I immediately started checking out the fishing opportunities.  Having fixed “the where” and “the when” that will determine what you can fish for.  Many locations have “closed seasons” for certain species.  Sometimes there is the weather to contend with.  Once in April in Utah I set out to fish a large reservoir up in the local mountains and found my route blocked by a “Road Closed” sign.  On asking a local why the road was closed he responded with the simple answer “snow”!

3.       Local knowledge is worth its weight in fish!  Whilst reading travel books, fishing books and magazines or searching the internet can be helpful, nothing replaces the local knowledge of a fellow fisher.  I use two approaches to obtain detailed local knowledge.  The first is to hire a local guide.  This obviously costs but in my experience usually pays dividends so I usually hire a guide at least once every trip and definitely if I am going to a new location.  This has the following advantages:-

a.       They make sure you have the appropriate license and know the fishery rules (so you stay out of trouble).  In some parts of the world fishery enforcement officers carry guns!

b.      They are going to take you where you are most likely to catch (and you can remember where and save it as a favourite on your Sat Nav for future reference).

c.       They usually provide the transport to places you would never find on your own.

d.      If a drift boat or pontoon boat is needed they will provide that.

e.      They usually provide all the appropriate tackle, flies, etc. and sometimes even drinks and lunch.  When the guide hauls his boat onto a gravel bar, breaks out the stove and starts cooking lunch whilst you carry on fishing you know you are living the dream!

f.        They change flies for you, sometimes very frequently, until you start hooking up.

g.       They show you subtle techniques, like ways for avoiding flies dragging in cross currents.

h.      They keep you safe.  A guide advised me not to try fishing Lake Kariba from the shoreline as the crocs think you are dinner!

i.         Sometimes they even clean or fillet the fish for you and bag them up.

j.        They are good company and you make friends.  If you have had a good days fishing you tip them appropriately. 

4.       The alternative to using a paid guide is to use what I call the “please can you help me approach”.  This involves searching the web for the local fishing club web site and posting a message on their forum.  I put a message like this “Friendly fly fisher out from the UK first 2 weeks of June would appreciate tips and advice on where and what species to fish for”.  I might even mention the species such as bass, steelhead or sea run cuts.  Then I sit back and wait for some responses.  Sometimes I only get advice but on a number of occasions I get invited by a complete stranger to go fish with him.  My first experience of doing this resulted in my receiving an e mail from “Papa Fish” which stated “Meet me in Sultan at the Bakery at 6am tomorrow and we will fish the South Fork of the Sky together”.  The Sky is the Skykomish River in WA, USA and I could not resist an invitation like that.  So that was how I met up with my pal Lonnie and we have fished together every year for the last 6 years sometimes using his drift boat.
     These fishing friends can provide nearly all the benefits a paid guide provides.  I think it important to try to repay their goodwill by offering to pay for fuel, lunch etc.  I also make it clear that if they ever find themselves in the UK I will try to find them some good fishing.

5.       If you cannot arrange a formal or informal “guide” then you should seek out advice from the tackle shop local to the area you will be in.  Most will respond to your email questions prior to your arriving and will offer guiding services or just give advice. When you arrive paying them a visit as soon as possible will help you get on the water with the right kit. Take a notebook and the local map with you so you can record their advice and invest in a few flies etc. to keep them in business.

6.       As my memory is slowly drifting away I find having a written itinerary essential so I know what I am doing and the where and when.  I break each day into three parts, morning, afternoon and evening.  Here is an example of part of an actual one from 2012, the original being filled out in pencil (so I can change it easily as things develop):-

Thurs 9th
Fri 10th
Sat 11th
Sun 12th
Mon 13th
Tues 14th
Wed 15th
Thurs 16th
Fish Money Creek with LB
Fish at Carnation with E and H
Baby sitting and shopping
Fishing trip to Whidbey Island
Children to gym
Plan arrangements for Yakima trip
Get wood for tree house and rod for H
Swimming at Bean’s
Check out Rattlesnake Lake
Snoqualmie Falls with children
Fish Tolt River
Fishing trip to Whidbey Island
Fish Rattlesnake from float tube
Fishing with SD on N Fork Snoqualmie
Watch Avatar
Fish Tolt River

This might seem a bit excessive but it is the only way I can keep track of things (remember that at the start of some overseas fishing trips you are jet-lagged).  Once on a fishing road trip around Utah and Idaho I missed an appointment to drift the Snake River with a friend and his pal who owned the drift boat.  I have never quite got over that!  I also use the itinerary as a log by pencilling in notes on how successful the fishing was.

7.    It is helpful if you know the rules and regulations and many fishery authorities publish these on the web.  In the USA each State issue rod licences and the format of the licence can be a bit complicated. In fact, I think it fair to say that the whole question of fishing in the USA is a lot more complicated than in the UK. This is not surprising as States cover vast areas with a wild diversity of fishing habitat. If you go on the web and look at the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife website you will see that their whole Sport Fishing Rules document is 135 pages long. The fresh water section is 95 pages long and deals individually with each lake and river. You can learn a lot if you have time to read it! On their web site the WDFW also publish the dates when they are stocking lakes.  Now that is very useful!

8.       For reasons already mentioned, I like to have a packing list for my fishing tackle as well as socks and shirts etc.  I really get mad at myself if I forget to take something that I end up needing.  I also tend to take a lot of things “just in case”.  Fortunately my wife usually travels light.  Having once left a rod case in the baggage collection area at Gatwick I only use “travelling rods” that can fit diagonally in a large suitcase.

Depending on the sort of fishing I intend doing, I select appropriate items from my master list (so a lot of it does not go on holiday).  Here is my master list:-

Fishing License
Plastic bags
Eye protection (Polaroid?)
Warm layers
Rods (main and spare)
Landing net
Waterproof jacket
Reels (main & spare)
Fishing trousers
Picnic Lunch
Other lines/spools
Camera + batteries
Chest waders
Sink tips
Map & directions
Thigh waders
Boat seat
Leader spools
Wading boots
Boat Drogue & G clamps
Dry flies
Fishing diary
Wellington boots
Mobile phone
Wets & Nymphs
Bass bag
Fingerless mitts
Filleting knife & glove
Lures/Salt water flies
Stripping basket
Spare clothes
Wading stick
Thick socks
Sun protection
Tool necklace
First aid kit
Insect repellent
Fly line treatment
Permission to fish
Mosquito head net
Cold box (for fish)
Fly floatant
Sat Nav
Wader repair kit
Pen and paper
Leader sinkant
Contact phone numbers
Strike indicators
Personal floatation device
Stool if bank fishing
Various glues

9.       Finally I think keeping a note book or fishing diary is desirable.  You can record your successes and failures and what you learnt.  This can help prepare you for the next trip!

     Yours truly relaxing in his float tube on Rattlesnake Lake, WA, USA.  I trust this post will help your holidays stay relaxing and not frustrating!

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