Destination fishing trip should be on every angler’s ‘bucket list’ (column)
Belize, Mongolia, Bolivia, Russia, the list goes on and on. These are a few exotic locations that I dream about one day fishing.
A destination fishing trip should be on any angler’s bucket list. Catching a fish in the ocean on a fly rod is unlike any experience and can be very addictive. Many of these destinations do not have a lot, if any, local fly shops, so it is always important to gear up stateside before heading out.
Getting the Right Gear
The ocean is a huge place and so are the fish that live in it. The most common fish targeted for fly-fishing are bonefish, tarpon, snook and permit. Other species include roosterfish, stripe bass, false albacore and redfish. All of these types of fish will fight much stronger than the majority of freshwater fish and will require special fly-fishing gear to get the job done.
Saltwater fly rods are much stiffer than most freshwater rods. Typically they will be 8-14 weight rods and 9 feet in length. The stiffer rod will help cast into the wind (which is common when fishing on the flats) and fight larger, stronger fish. These rods usually will have a fighting butt to assist in the long battles with these fish.
The reel in saltwater fishing is much more important than in freshwater fishing. Saltwater reels have sealed drag systems to prevent corrosive salt water from getting into the inner workings of the reel. The drag on saltwater reels have much more resistance than your common freshwater reel. Many times the fish in saltwater will make long runs before they are ready to be brought to hand and the drag on the reel helps slow down these powerful runs.
Fly line companies have created lines for practically every species of fish you might chase with a fly rod. Doing some research will help determine what type of line you will need for your destination.
Most saltwater lines are designed to withstand the warm water that you will encounter on your tropical locations. They are also created in a way that makes them easier to cast in the wind. I always look for a good all around line rather than a species specific. I like this better due to the possibility of chasing a number of different species in different settings.
Finding a Guide/Research
When I look for a guide in a new location, I always ask my co-workers and fellow guides first. Chances are that someone has already been to the location that you are traveling. Stop by your local shops and ask around. Even if no one has been to where you’re heading, they will have some recommendations to check out. Doing a simple online search for fly-fishing guides in the area you’re visiting is good as well.
I also like do some research to see if I can do any D.I.Y. fishing while I’m there. I love using Google Earth to look for easy access to coves and flats that might hold fish. Renting a paddleboard or sea kayak can open up more options.
I encourage anyone who is going saltwater fishing for the first time — or the first time in a while — to pick up that 9 or 10 weight rod and do some casting. Casting a heavier weighted rod is much different than the 5 or 6 weight trout rods that we’ve grown attached to.
I like to go out to a park that has picnic tables and cast from the top of those to replicate casting from the platform of a skiff. Practice making 70-80 foot casts and if there is wind, try casting against it. Wind is one the major factors when flats fishing and having some practice with it can help you land more fish.
Having the right type of clothing and sunglasses is a true game changer when it comes to fishing in the ocean. There are a lot of options out there now for shirts and pants that offer some level of protection from the sun’s harmful rays. I like lightweight hooded shirts to help protect my neck and head. Sunglasses are crucial for sight fishing and protection from the sun reflecting off the water all day.
Remember that most destinations that fly anglers go to don’t have shops to pick up last minute necessities, so make sure you gear up before heading out. Come into the shop and we can help get you set up for a trip of a lifetime.
Ray Kyle is shop supervisor and a guide at Vail Valley Anglers. He can be reached at 970-926-0900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.