First of all I don't think there is a better time than now to go off on that exotic holiday to warmer climes you have promised yourself for the past few years. I know from your letters that many of you have retired early. In many cases the kids have flown the roost, so no more school fees, pony gymkhanas, school skiing trips and all the other expenses of bringing up a family. And let's not forget the time factor involved in all those activities. Do you remember how you planned that fishing trip to Scotland, only to be told that little Jane, Mary, John or Harry were having their school sports day that week? Having taken early retirement at 55, sold the large expensive four bedroom house, for a nice apartment or small bungalow with no big area of lawn or flower beds to keep looking nice, you have time and money to go fishing.
Where To Fish
It's time to seek out that dream fishing trip. Is it Alaska, British Columbia, The Bahamas, Belize, Christmas Island, South America, Baja, The Rogue Deschutes or Umpqua rivers in Oregon?. Perhaps it's the rivers and lakes of Swedish Lapland or Florida's fresh and saltwater fly fishing environment that you plan to visit, or a combination of foreign venues. Maybe you want to fish closer to home? Why not the limestone Lochs of Scotland or Ireland? Whereever you choose, you need to make sure you have the right gear and a knowledge of the water. If you fish abroad I cannot emphasis how important it is to have a good guide for one or two days.
Without doubt, the most popular location for most travellers has to be the United States and Canada, with the Western States of these two countries probably being the most popular areas. Oregon, Washington State, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Utah. No doubt some of you will have other locations in mind which rival those I have mentioned. The beauty of visiting the USA and Canada is the ease of getting to these countries, the great welcome you receive, the friendship of the people and the beautiful scenery and fishing available. In most cases the fishing is free, all you need is a fishing permit. Don't try fishing without one, not only is it an offence, but we should support the work of the Fish and Game Department in the area we are fishing.
It's not only the trout and salmon fishing out in the West that is popular. Another area of the United States growing in popularity over the last three or four years are the north east and the Atlantic coast States which include Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New England, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and the Carolinas, where the striper bass reigns supreme, it's a magnificent quarry for the fly rodder. The streams and rivers offer excellent fly fishing for trout and bass; hook a smallmouth on a six weight rod and you're having fun. Again, in most cases all you need will be a fishing permit for the State you're fishing in. You must also have a fishing permit for the ocean.
Passport and Visa's
When fly fishing foreign locations you need to take a few precautions so you enjoy the experience. Make sure you have a ten year passport with at least twelve months still available, have a photo copy of your passport details, making sure you keep these details separate from your passport.
Check with your travel agent about visa requirements. Some countries will give you a visa on your arrival, though sometimes they will want to see you have a return ticket out of the country. Where countries require a visa, make sure you send off for it several weeks in advance of your trip, ensuring all the forms are filled in correctly. North America, Canada and the Bahamas make it very easy for the visitor, even after the September 11th disaster.
When visiting EEC countries there are no problems, it's just a cursory glance at your passport. Don't forget to pick up a form from your main post office or the DSS to cover medical attention should you need it while in an EEC country.
Inoculations and Insurance
Check with your doctor what jabs you should have when visiting eastern European countries, South America, Asia and the Far East and get your jabs a few weeks before departure. Most important of all, make sure you have a good travel insurance policy. In fact this should be your first priority. Don't go to the high street travel agent or even think of accepting insurance cover from a travel agent. Get a quote from the company who insure your house and it's contents or check out what is available through an insurance broker. I have a World-wide insurance policy that also covers dangerous sports and cost £80 a year, certainly excellent value for money and peace of mind. (Please note; big game fishing is considered a dangerous sport). I purchased my insurance cover through Backhouse Insurance Brokers Tel 01281-677776 It's with BIBA Protect Travel Insurance PO Box 9 Mansfield NG19 7BL Tel 0845-3108052. I was very happy with their cover and prompt action when it was needed.
It's most important that you become aware of local customs and traditions for the countries you plan to visit before leaving the United Kingdom. If you're going to what is considered a sensitive area, call the Foreign Office and check out the rules and regulations. In many countries it's forbidden to photograph airfields. Remember the problems in Greece with the plane spotters, I felt they were asking for trouble and were very stupid. My advice is, don't take any chances by taking notes or photographs around airports, bridges, ports, docks and military establishments - this includes military road blocks or military personal. If you're not sure, do not shoot pictures or make drawings of locations. Check the facts before you visit. The old saying "When in Rome do as the Romans do" is one worth following.
Always ask permission before attempting to photograph people, many don't like to have their picture taken. For many it's against their traditions or religion - especially ladies in Arabic countries. The first rule is always ask, if you're not sure about the local customs, don't shoot pictures.
On the subject of photography, in the tropics I shoot 56 or 100 ASA, in locations where I have changing weather and light conditions I usually load with 200 ASA, making sure I have some 100 ASA film in reserve. Get a polarising filter for your camera to cut out glare. Many of us today use digital cameras, at present I am using a Canon IXUS V. It's excellent, very small, easy to use, also you can purchase a waterproof case for shooting underwater pictures. Canon also manufacture a 35 mm waterproof film camera. Both kinds of waterproof cameras are excellent, not only for shooting in wet conditions but also on the shoreline or in the desert, where dust and sand are a major problem. A grain of sand in the works of your camera could be it's death knell.
Fishing Canada and The United States
If your chosen fly fishing destination is the United States or Canada for trout, salmon, steelhead or smallmouth bass, then you probably have the tackle one needs, the only exception might be steelhead fishing, where you need a heavier single or double handed rod. If you choose the former it should be a nine foot nine weight. A double handed rod should be 13 or 14 ft in length, rated 9-11 will be ideal. For most of my steelhead fishing I use a weight forward floating line. There are occasions when a fast sink tip line can be very useful. When it comes to choice of flies, consult the local tackle dealer in the area you have chosen to fish.
Book a Guide
The best advice I can give you when fishing abroad at a new location is; book a guide for at least couple of days. The guide is not just there to advise you on where to fish, he will teach you a lot about the fishing, environment, birds and wildlife. Most of the places you will be fishing will usually have lots of colourful history. Your guide will have many interesting stories to tell, he will often keep you laughing for hours on end. Guides can supply all the tackle, flies, food and drink, in fact it's all part of the system. If the weather turns rough, your guide can no doubt fit you up with waterproof clothing and waders. If you're on a guided trip down a river by boat then lunch is a delightful occasion in the life of a fly fisher. Having chosen his lunch spot, often at a picturesque bit of shoreline, he will leave you fishing while he sets up table and chairs and sorts out the food, brewing fresh coffee or tea.
The lunch will usually consist of a big steak with all the trimmings, fresh salad, meats, bread, pickles and much more. As you sit back having a leisurely lunch he will regale you with many fishing and hunting stories. Your guide is a teacher, friend and raconteur who wants you to have an enjoyable wilderness experience, catch some fish, but above all, have some fun. Even your wife or girl friend will enjoy a days guided trip down a river.
I know one English guy who travelled to New York State for his first ever visit. He was advised to book a guide, but he didn't want to pay for a guide. Three days later he left for home having done little fishing. All because he thought he was an expert. Let's be honest, there are no experts - in this delightful pastime we are learning all the time. The definition of an 'expert' is Ex is a has-been and a spurt is a drip under pressure! We will leave it at that.
If you're on your first fly fishing trip with your wife or girl friend, then one location I am sure you will both enjoy is St Lawrence County in upstate New York, close to the Adorandack Mountains. Here you will find some delightful fly fishing for brown and rainbow trout on the St Regis river. On the Grass river you can fly fish for small mouth bass, pike, muskies and salmon.
An exceptionally good guide is Tim Damon who is featured in my video Tightlines Stateside from www.martinjamesfishing.co.uk or call 421 film productions 01524-842421. Tim can organise float trips down the Grass river or 'walk in' fishing trips on the St Regis and Grass rivers. He supplies all the tackle, provides a delightful lunch and makes sure you have an enjoyable day. If you take a liking to a certain rod, he will even build you one in his rod building shop in Potsdam NY
You can find Tim at 19 Market Street, Potsdam NY 13676 Phone/Fax 001-315-265-0174 E-mail email@example.com
For accommodation I can do no better than recommend Joe Babbitt's log cabin on the banks of the St Lawrence river near Ogdensburg. Joe will pick you up at the airport, arrange a hire vehicle for use during your stay and make sure you have an enjoyable visit. These people are so friendly. For further details call Graham Lawrence 01268-520342. I take a few fly fishers abroad each year, if you're interested please E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org