Written by: Kaitlin Groundwater, Madison Valley Ranch
As a lifetime traveling fly angler, who now works in the fly-fishing travel industry, I have both experienced and observed several situations that can easily make or break a fly fishing trip. Here are five key lessons I’ve learned along the way that can make your adventure as exciting and enjoyable as possible. Happy travels!
1. Don’t buy a lifetime worth of flies in advance
An upcoming fly fishing trip is a thrilling prospect. Many eager anglers will do anything they can to ease the anticipation that builds between booking a trip and boarding the plane. This most frequently comes in the form of poring over “what’s working” blogs in order to stash up on the perfect selection of fish-fooling flies in advance. However, the savvy traveler saves the fly selection for those who experience that particular fishery every day, such as the guide or local fly shop. A lot can change over the course of several weeks, or even days, and what you thought was the perfect selection may end up being an unused box at the end of your trip. Things to stash up on in advance are the basics—such as leaders, tippet, strike indicators, and the like — which if unused during one particular trip can always be useful during a future day on the water.
2. Get to know your host or lodge manager
A great alternative way to channel your pre-trip enthusiasm is to remain in contact with the lodge or guide you will be visiting. There are several things that, if communicated before your arrival, can turn a great trip into a truly unforgettable one. For example, if you have a particular piece of water that you would like to fish, let your host or lodge manager know in advance. Some special spots, such as the remarkable spring creeks in southwestern Montana, are privately owned and may require a reservation in advance as well as a rod fee. Don’t let the fishing opportunity of a lifetime fall by the wayside and discuss with your lodge your fishing options before you arrive!
3. Check-in with the lodge in advance to see what gear they can provide
We all love carrying our rod tube off a plane. It is a badge of honor signifying to the masses that you have arrived for more than just sightseeing. However, after many incidents of frantically dashing back onto planes to reclaim rods left in overhead compartments, I have learned a vital lesson. I now always opt to save my personal rods for local fisheries and instead use lodge or guide equipment when I can. Not only does this save the traveling angler from potentially being out several hundred dollars of lost gear, but also provides him or her opportunity to test run different rods. (Say, a Helios 2, for instance.) This is an easy way to minimize stress and focus on your strike indicator rather than your luggage.
4. You can’t over pack when it comes to layers
With all the space you now have in your suitcase from leaving gear at home, focus your packing on having the proper clothing for any weather incident. Here in Southwest Montana the sun may shine on Monday, snow on Tuesday, and rain on Wednesday. While the weather forecast can give you a pretty good idea of what you will need to bring, you will never regret having that extra base layer on a chilly Montana morning!
5. Have fun and make memories
When you’re traveling a long distance with the intention of catching fish, the occasional, but unavoidable slow day can be disheartening. However, there is lots revel in during a fly fishing vacation, whether it be the fizz of a local microbrew being cracked at the end the day, conversation with friends and fellow anglers, or the anticipation of a new day on the water. Don’t sweat the small stuff or small fish…enjoy every step of the way.
Kaitlin Groundwater is the Assistant Lodge Manager of 2015 Orvis-Endorsed Fly-Fishing Lodge of the Year Madison Valley Ranch, in Ennis, Montana.