Hitting the Road
Thinking of taking a major fishing trip this year? There are many things to consider when planning such an adventure, everything from itinerary to packing, and then there’s the challenge of dealing with differing cultures if you’re contemplating a trip abroad. It can be a bewildering undertaking, so we thought we’d ask four of Salt Water Sportsman’s longtime friends and contributors — all major travelers — for their best advice on the subject.
Pat Ford, Miami, Florida
Ford’s first article for Salt Water Sportsman magazine appeared in 1969. Since then, his stories and photos have been featured in a number of magazines, and he’s published quite a few books of his own. Ford has held more than two dozen IGFA world records. A retired Miami trial attorney, he is currently chairman of the Golden Fly Invitational Tarpon Tournament held annually in Islamorada, he’s a founding member of the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, and is on the Board of Trustees of the American Fly Fishing Museum in Vermont. “There are very few places with outstanding fishing that I haven’t been to over the past 40 years,” he says.
Favorite type of trip: I’m interested mainly in photography now rather than actually catching the fish. Whether it’s marlin at Tropic Star, trout in Alaska or flats-fishing in the Bahamas, I’m looking to get that shot no one else has. I like to go with people who are happy to do the fishing while I hold the camera.
What you make sure to take along that you wouldn’t want to be without: Med-evac insurance such as Global Rescue if I’m going somewhere I might get hurt and need to be shipped home. Make sure someone in your group has a sat phone, or rent one. Whenever possible, invite a doctor to join your group. On my last trip, I cut a finger badly and had it stitched up by a veterinarian who did an excellent job.
The biggest avoidable mistake you’ll never make again: Don’t go somewhere that “no American has ever been before.” If no one has been there, there’s probably a good reason.
The common mistakes travelers make: Bringing too much of what they don’t need, not being aware of weight restrictions on the small planes flying the last leg to a lodge, keeping their money and passport together in one place.
Dealing with the battery-charging problem: I now carry cameras that all use the same batteries, thus I get by with one charger. At some lodges you will be lucky to find one wall plug, so bring a multiple-outlet bar. Chargers go in your carry-on luggage.
Bucket-list destination: My dream trip would be to go to Australia for black marlin and reef fly-fishing.
Doug Schlink, Old Lyme, Connecticut
Schlink is a travel agent with Anglers Adventures specializing in fishing destinations around the world. “Over my 25 years in the business, I’ve had the pleasure of fishing in 15 different countries. I love returning to destinations I’ve enjoyed, but there’s a special thrill about fishing new water,” he says.
Favorite type of trip: I most enjoy fly-rodding, especially sight-casting on the flats. I also love plugging, especially with surface poppers. And I enjoy the hunt of pulling artificials or baits trying to raise some big needle-nosed beast!
Favorite destination: I have a special fondness for Andros Island in the Bahamas. The sheer mass of the bonefish habitat is mind boggling. Plus there are tarpon, permit, mutton snapper and blue-water pelagics a half-mile off the eastern shore on the drop-off to the Tongue of the Ocean.
What you make sure to take along that you wouldn’t you want to be without: Your passport! You’d be surprised how many guys leave this to the 11th hour, only to discover it’s in a safe-deposit box in another state, or expired. The day you start planning your trip, locate it, open it up, and check the expiration date. If it’s not valid for six months beyond your return date, renew it today.
The biggest avoidable mistake you’ll never make again: I hope I remember to transfer my ever-present pocketknife to my checked luggage, as I believe I’ve donated six of them to the TSA over the years. I swear I’ll never do that again and then make a liar out of myself.
Must-have take-along: I keep my Tackle Rx kit in a 4-by-7-inch Plano box: tip-tops and guides, ferrule cement, thread, tape, razor blades, reel lubricant, super glue, small screwdrivers, spare reel parts, fly-line cleaner and a lighter, among other things. I’ve used all these items on one trip or another to save the day, or week.
Bucket-list destination: At the top of a long “bucket list” is St. Brandon’s Atoll, Mauritius — it’s all sight-casting for big bones, Indo-Pacific permit, giant trevally and a slew of other species.
Bill Boyce, Saugus, California
Boyce started his international-fishing and -travel habit in 1980, and has traveled the world extensively for photo, writing and TV productions since 1994. An international writer and TV host, photographer and peripatetic angler, Boyce loves “the culture of the places I go, the food I get to sample, the photography I get to shoot and, of course, the fishing adventure I get from doing these trips.”
Favorite destination: Tropic Star Lodge, and Cebaco Bay in Panama, the Azore Islands off Portugal, but my favorite for fishing, diving and culture all put together is Matava Resort, on Kadavu Island, Fiji.
What you make sure to take along that you wouldn’t want to be without: I always take small bills for tips for the folks who make life easier with the amount of gear I have to sluff around with me. I also bring a good smartphone so I can keep in touch with the world when I need it to.
Biggest mistake travelers make: Not making a list of things to bring. I make a checklist in a Word doc and pull it out to check off the items every time I pack for a trip.
Packing tips: Something that is really useful is to find bags with wheels and handles that are designed for scuba or motocross gear. These are typically well built and durable, have ample room for lots of gear, and usually have bold logos or brand names on them and bright colors that make them easily identifiable on the baggage carousel — and to a baggage agent should they get delayed or misdirected by the airlines.
Dealing with the battery-charging problem: I have a small solar charger that works great for phones. I make sure my cameras and GoPros are fully charged prior to departure. I bring a six-outlet electrical strip in my carry-on, and have lots of extra batteries that I can recharge when I hit a hotel, airport or restaurant.
Bucket-list destinations: Patagonia, St. Helena Island in the middle of the Atlantic, and Tasmania.
Rufus Wakeman, Jensen Beach, Florida
Rufus Wakeman, owner of River Palm Cottages & Fish Camp, is a wide-ranging angler. “I have been traveling the world since 1988,” says Wakeman. “I’ve been to Africa, Brazil and Australia, as well as Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, Uruguay, Bolivia, Argentina, Alaska, Bahamas, St. Thomas, Hawaii, Galapagos, Vietnam, Bermuda and Canada. I might have missed one or two, but that’s a pretty good list.” As well as great fishing, Wakeman says the appeal of traveling to fish lies as much in discovery of the unknown and the total experience.
Favorite type of trip: When its my time ‘n’ dime, it’s gonna be with a fly rod. I prefer inshore and flats fishing along mangroves or beaches. Offshore trolling works just fine for me, as long as I can at least toss a spinning rod into some rocks with a big popper or something like that.
Favorite destination: Zambia, Africa, fishing the Zambezi River; Brazil for peacock bass.
Must-have take-along: An Iridium satellite phone is high on the list. We went with a fly-by-night guy in Bolivia once, and thank God for the sat phone or we would have been screwed. Also, I like Hellmann’s mayonnaise and spicy mustard on my sandwiches, so I take squeeze bottles of both; Crystal Light drink mix for the bottled water in assorted flavors; a good broad-spectrum antibiotic, pain medications like Percodan, an anti-diarrheal; and an EPIRB.
Packing tips: I have a camera backpack, and I always get away with three carry-ons because I think they miss the backpack. I take a small roller carry-on with rods, reels, cameras and a change of clothes in case my luggage does not get there.
Dealing with the battery-charging problem: Buy an extra battery or two for the camera. Charge everything to a full charge before you leave. I use the sat phone so little that it keeps a charge. I usually do not bring a computer with me — I bring an iPad and iPhone, so the same charger works for both.
Bucket-list destinations: St. Brandon’s Atoll in the Indian Ocean. Thailand for all the weird inshore freshwater fish: catfish, arapaima, carps and the giant snakehead. Oh, and the food in Thailand is pretty darn good too.