One of the most rapidly growing sectors in the angling market is destination fishing. Here experienced guide and tackle consultant Chris Ogborne takes a look at what’s available and how to get the best out of it.
Destination fishing – or fishing holidays to you and me – is enjoying a massive upsurge in popularity at the moment. It’s hardly surprising when you consider the vagaries of the British climate, plus of course we’re all feeling more confident as the recession fades into memory and there’s a degree of optimism about.
But I think it goes beyond this, as more and more anglers realise that destinations considered ‘too expensive’ a few years ago are actually well within our reach. Coupled with the poor results on many fabled UK salmon rivers, and the fact that more and more anglers are looking for something that’s more of a challenge, and you can see why travel is a definite option.
It’s also true that the whole concept of destination fishing has a certain cachet to it, an appeal that exceeds the expectations we have of fishing in our home waters. It’s actually quite cool now to bore your friends with tales of huge brown trout from Iceland, GT’s from warmer waters, or fisheries where you can expect rather more than the miserable returns on over-priced Scottish rivers or Hampshire chalk streams.
For me the key word always has been and always will be ‘wild’. Like it or not, fishing in British waters is becoming just a bit predictable – some would say domesticated – and pressure on fisheries in our small islands is huge. The whole appeal of going away for a fishing holiday or break is that you escape the confines of our small island and visit somewhere remote and wild. With no people around, a wilderness setting and just the local wildlife for company, it’s absolutely possible to get back to nature. If the fishing’s good as well then it’s almost a bonus.
There are now a load of specialist companies to help you plan your trip. Whilst it’s arguably unfair to select names from the list, I wouldn’t be able to write this article without at least giving a few pointers and I have to say that the following are amongst the very best. I’ve travelled with all of them and their service is simply amazing:
www.aardvarkmcleod.com Saltwater, salmon, char and all fishing in between, these guys do it all. Aardvark McLeod is a company managed by anglers for anglers, and it shows.
www.frontierstravel.com Frontiers are one of the longest established companies and still at the very top of their trade From Argentina to Alaska their trips are the stuff of legend. Immaculate admin and stunning locations.
www.gofishingworldwide .co.uk Great locations, great guides and great attention to detail.
Equally, there’s nothing to stop you saving a few quid and doing it all yourself although I can fully understand why so many anglers prefer to let companies like this do it for you. Travelling with an established destination company gives you security and confidence, and whilst you could arrange it yourself with an evening on the internet, it’s arguably much safer to travel with the experts.
The choice of destination is a personal one, and such is the variety on offer that I simply can’t list all the options here. Have a quick look at any of the websites above to see what I mean. In the end, it will come down to what floats your particular boat, although for many it will be a combination of other things besides the actual fishing. For me, the scenery and the wildlife is just as important, whilst for others it will be the quality and skills of the guides, or maybe the luxury of the accommodation, or even the food and ‘apres fish’ activities. Whether it’s wading in warm water for bonefish, hunting specimen brown trout in Iceland, trophy salmon in Alaska, or huge Grayling in Lapland – for me it’s the wilderness, the remoteness, and the feeling of being unavailable to the rest of the world that really matters! That old phrase ‘far from the madding crowd’ is very relevant!
However, whatever your choice and wherever your destination I do have a some personal tips to offer, borne of long experience and from fishing trips all over the World. Hopefully these will help a little:
Destination: What, EXACTLY what do you want from the trip? If it’s wilderness you seek then maybe a camping trip or a remote lodge is the key. If you want luxury as well as great fishing then consider a decent hotel or lodge as part of the package. If you want variety then choose a destination with multiple fishing options, whereas if you want to target a specimen GT then make sure your chosen venue has that capability. By far the best advice here is to TALK to your trip provider – most of them are anglers themselves and they understand fisherfolk. By doing this you can be sure that your dreams are brought to potential reality – it’s just the bit about catching the fish that’s down to you!
Travel light: I never understand why anglers feel the need to clutter themselves with too much gear, and I know many who aren’t happy unless they can take the kitchen sink with them. My advice is to go light. Take minimum gear but still ensure that you’ve got enough to cover ALL the fishing available at your chosen venue. You may be after Salmon, but do you REALLY want to miss out on those specimen Grayling and Trout as well?
Luggage: Custom fishing luggage is not a luxury, it’s an essential. Airflo produce some of the finest in the form of their Fly Dri range. A combination of the roll top back pack and the 90 litre duffel will give enough capacity for most trips, and the smaller carryall will double as a carry-on for the flight. If you need a huge capacity with the ability to fit in literally everything (and the kitchen sink!) then the 150 litre Fly Dri cargo wheelie bag is the one. This cleverly designed bag is super tough, with more than enough room to accommodate several fly rods, in addition to a huge mountain of fishing gear. All Airflo Fly Dri luggage is made of super tough nylon coated PVC tarpaulin, which is 100% waterproof as well as being rip proof – ensuring they are remain safe from even the most careless airline luggage handler.
Safety: This is my top tip – ALWAYS take your fly boxes and favourite reels as carry-on when flying. It’s a fact of life that luggage sometimes goes astray and whilst you can almost always buy a new rod, your fly boxes are near-irreplaceable. With this in mind and if the worst happens, you can still borrow a rod and go fishing whilst the airline finds your bags!
Rod Tubes: Very few airlines these days will allow you to take rods on board, even the short multi section ones, so sadly you need to consign them to hold luggage. So buy yourself a decent rod case. Amongst the best and most practical is the Multi rod tube. It’s strong enough to withstand the worst that baggage handlers can throw at it, yet it’s still light and very portable.
Clothing: Obviously this will depend on where you travel – you don’t need too many fleeces in the Caribbean. However, whatever the venue you’ll ALWAYS need a fishing vest, so that you’ve got all your favourite accessories to hand. It’s all too easy to think you can manage without it but take it from me, you cant! My Airflo Mesh vest goes with me, everywhere, every trip.
Rods: The most regular question I get asked at shows and Game Fairs is about rods. Is there one rod for all seasons? Probably not, but there IS one rod that comes close – the Nine Foot 5 weight. There is VERY little you cant catch with this and I have my Airflo Elite kit in the boot of my car every single day of my life. If I get an unexpected invite to fish, then I can do so with this kit, irrespective of the where, when and how! It’s very close to the holy grail of ‘all things to all fish in all waters’.