Many of us will be looking forward to that special fishing trip this year. Hoping to save money and avoid costly mishaps along the way? Dominic Garnett is your guide to a great angling holiday this summer.
You’ve been dreaming about it for weeks. That fishing trip which takes you to a unique destination, far from your usual stomping ground. Whether you’re in search of a new species, the catch of a lifetime or just some much needed time off, you can’t wait.
The prospect of new adventures on the horizon is one of the best things about fishing. But how can you make sure it’s a trip to remember for all the right reasons? Here are eleven useful holiday fishing tips that should set you in good stead, whether you’re off to Cornwall or Canada this summer.
1. Harness local knowledge
When you’re many miles from home, there is no substitute for tapping into local advice. If you know someone who has already made the trip, or can find local shops or guides, don’t be shy, just get in touch! The rules could be completely different to where you normally fish, so be prepared, do your homework and listen carefully.
This may involve eating a bit of humble pie and going against your instincts. If the locals swear by a method that you don’t especially like, for example, you might have to change tack. In many parts of the world local anglers may struggle to get hold of or afford tackle we take for granted such as hooks and lures. It’s worth packing a few extras to give as gifts to locals as a way of thanking them for their help and advice.
2. A good guide is priceless!
Even the most experienced anglers will book a guide on an away trip, especially if it’s new territory. Why? Well, their knowledge of where, when and how to fish could save you a ton of trial and error, or make the difference between an amazing trip and a dud. Even if you like to do your own thing, an initial hosted session is sure to start you off on the right foot. Skinflints beware: many miles from home you are a beginner again and a decent guide is worth every penny, dollar or Euro.
One big tip here though is to tell the guide exactly what you want. In any holiday port, for example, local boat crews will be used to doing everything for tourists other than reeling in the fish! This is obviously not what you want as a keen angler, so let them know early on that you don’t need hand holding.
3. Beware of unwanted hitchers: Check, Clean, Dry every trip!
With anglers travelling more widely than ever, it’s vital that we are all do so safely and avoid transporting anything unwanted with us. Non-native invasive species can be a disaster for fisheries both home and abroad; and all it can take is a damp net or a fragment of weed on your waders to ruin your favourite venue!
The cure is simple: Check, Clean and Dry your kit both before and after your trip! Many fishing destinations now insist on this and, in fact, those going to places such as Iceland or New Zealand are likely to be checked and risk stiff penalties for not following protocol. If this sounds harsh, consider the huge damage that an invasive species could do to your favourite fishery at home!
4. Have realistic expectations
It might sound obvious, but have you asked yourself what you really want from your next holiday? Is it about a beautiful destination, or are you determined to catch something special? Do you want a dedicated angling only trip, or do you have to balance fishing with family time? Above all, keep it realistic and set sensible goals. Catching a different species, trying an unfamiliar method or exploring new waters are more achievable things than smashing a personal best or setting the world alight. Do it for the thrill of adventure, not the big result!
5. Don’t expect the fishing to be easy
Inevitably, the blurb for any destination will hype things up and show you the best case scenario; but just because words like “world class” are thrown about, this doesn’t mean that the fishing will be a piece of cake. Spoiler alert: fishing abroad can be as challenging as it is at home! And similarly, being flexible, fishing early and late, tapping into local knowledge and having a plan B and C can all help.
6. Iconic fishing destination or off the beaten trail?
Some fishing destinations are all about the reputation. The River Test or Florida Keys need little introduction and yes, angling history is rich. Just following in the footsteps of Izaak Walton or Ernest Hemingway is enough for some. But it’s also fair to say that where there is endless promotion, the fishing can become trickier than the brochures suggest (“What the heck?!!” you say, “You mean not every trip involves a blond beauty and a forty pound salmon?”).
The same rules from home apply if you want to beat the pressure, and it’s always worth walking a bit further or seeking out lesser known spots when travelling to fish. The angler who ventures further and doesn’t expect to find success on a plate is often the one who gets the best from a trip.
7. Don’t assume you can buy it while you’re there!
Not every corner of the world (or even Britain) has well stocked fishing shops waiting for your custom. In fact, many locations have few or none at all, while you might find even the best local shop at your destination doesn’t sell the gear you know and love. Whether it’s a favourite lure, spare line or your preferred hook pattern, take it with you and pack spares because there’s no guarantee you’ll find it out there. Making a checklist for your holiday fishing tackle is also an excellent idea that will save those horrible fears of “have I got X/Y/Z?” when you set out.
8. Pack with care
Packing well for a fishing holiday is one of those things you can easily learn the hard way! As a general rule, keep all hooks, lures and tools out of your hand luggage, where airport jobsworths will have a field day. Similarly, rods need to be stowed in main luggage- or you risk being charged a ludicrous extra fee (yes, I’ve been there- thank you Bristol Airport).
9. The best way to stow away rods
Talking of rods, using bubble wrap and then packing inside a hard rod tube is the best way to avoid breakages. Goodness knows what luggage handlers get up to, but they have all the delicacy of a herd of elephants on heat.
It needn’t be a posh rod carrier- I simply mean the type of tube rods are sent in when you mail order one- and these can be cut down to size to fit diagonally in a suitcase. Multi section travel rods are a godsend too, especially those short enough to stow inside a suitcase. These are far better than telescopic rods which remain pretty poor unless you spend big bucks.
10. No place like home?
While many of us dream about catching big game fish in Cuba, or sea trout in Iceland, these trips can cost a small fortune. Realistically, for most of us, they therefore tend to be a once every several years experience if we’re lucky. However, you don’t need to spend megabucks to have an excellent fishing holiday.
With a weaker pound and tougher times for many of us, the UK is where the best value of all can be found. Whether you fish the lochs of Scotland or the coast of Cornwall, there is still great variety and value to be found. And with no expensive flights, vaccination jabs or days on end of travel time required, there are even more reasons to stay closer to home.
11. Make it personal and support local business!
One last tip that applies wherever you travel is to make it personal and support the smaller guy. Wherever possible, go direct to accommodation providers, local guides and other services. These days, the giant booking engines cream a lot of money off hard working hoteliers and independent businesses, who lose a small fortune in commission each season (typically 10% or more of your money goes to these sharks who, unlike small businesses, pay virtually no tax). If you go direct instead, you will be doing the local economy a huge favour. Furthermore, you’ll often get a much more personalised service this way, with better prices and those priceless local tips internet giants won’t provide.