If you are anything like me, you take the words “family vacation” as an excuse to bring a rod. Sometimes those trips turn into unforgettable days of unplanned fishing but more often than not, they turn into a nice day on the water. These aren’t your go-to angling destinations like Belize, Christmas Island or the Florida Keys. I’m talking out of the way, resort and hostel based areas with no fishing lodges and few guides who know what fly fishing is. Here are a couple of my go-to methods to boost chances and minimize “boat rides”.
- Talk to more than one guide.
Don’t jump on a boat with the first guide you meet down in front of your hotel. Chances are they will take you out, troll around for a couple hours and blame the fishing on a phrase something parallel to “well that’s fishing some days you get ’em and some days you don’t”. Talking to more guides can help you weed out the better options.
- Tell them what you want to do and let them know your ability.
My go-to for setting expectations for a trip is letting the guide tell you all about their service and the fish you might expect to catch. Once that’s over, with information you’ve armed yourself with (do some homework on the area prior to your trip) ask them if its possible to chase a couple of those species with your fly rod. Let them know that depth is generally an issue, you can’t cast a fly as far as a popper or Rapala, and that actively feeding fish are the best target. Watch out for the guides who give false promise and use phrases like expert, professional, always, or seem to have every way to accommodate your interests. They like you for your wallet!
Fish like Jack Crevelle or even Bonito aren’t highly sought after sportfish such as mahi mahi, yellowfin tuna, or bonefish but if you are looking for a fish that you’ll most likely have multiple shots at and will eat a fly, those two are a pretty safe bet. Bonus: they both pull hard on an 8 or 9 weight.
- Take a look at their equipment.
If they have their boat at the beach or marina while you are there, take a look. If you see a half dozen rusted out 7/0 bait rigs, two trolling setups with missing eyelets and what appears to be half a spool of monofilament on each….Yep, you guessed it – probably not your guy.
My last trip to somewhere warm was Playa Hermosa in the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica. First thing I did was research the area and found some key information:
- Pacific Coast location (jacks, rooster fish, mahi mahi, bonito, other tuna species, sailfish, etc.)
- Tide charts (when is high tide, when is low tide, slack tide?)
- There were few if any reputable guides in the area that used fly equipment.
This left me with enough information to pick the right gear, the flies that SHOULD work, and know when high tide was so I could look for fish on the beach. What I didn’t have was any kind of lead on a guide.
- If you don’t speak that language (probably Spanish) then look for a guide with good English.
If you’re telling the guide about your expectations and wishes but they have no clue what you are really trying to say, it’s not going to be the trip you are looking for.
This might be a learning curve for both you and the guide, take it easy and approach things with an open mind. It might not be the most unbelievable day you’ve ever had on the water but it might be one of the best memories once you finally get that fly into the right spot and come tight.
How I ended up picking my guide for a half day was a shuttle driver who noticed me carrying a fly rod to the beach. We struck up a friendly conversation about fishing and he said he had a friend a couple of towns over who guided. I asked what they fished for and he started showing me a couple of pictures of a day they had on the water. What I saw: rooster fish, a seriously nice mahi mahi, and a couple pictures of the boat and crew. A nice boat, good looking gear, and the fact that Brian the shuttle driver spoke great English sparked my interest. The next day I borrowed Brian’s cell and gave Matt a call. As soon as we started talking I knew this was the guy. His English was good, he told me what the half day included, and what to expect for fishing that day. He said it had been a little slow, chances were best trolling for tuna, and that there was still a shot at a rooster fish (even though not optimal) which is what we really wanted.
Skipping forward to the fishing, we saw rooster fish, didn’t land one, started with a half day and ended up booking a second full day, caught other species and had a blast. Successful in my book!!!
~ Zach Southgate is an Echo Pro Team member from Alberta, Canada. Every bit of his free time is spent outside hunting, fishing, hiking or taking photos. Fishing large streamers is Zach’s forte, but he also is proficient in everything from European nymphing to tracking size 20 dries with a keen eye. In a typical year from mid-May until the end of June, you’ll find Zach in Northern Manitoba, then on the Elk River with Elk River Guiding Co until mid-Spetember. The rest of the year he’s studying Ecosystem Management at Lethbridge College, as well as turning out flies for friends and exploring warmer climates.