Remember the golden rule of travel…………………..……#*&#@*% happens!!!!!
If you are a regular traveler to far away places you know that almost anything can occur and you need to be ready for lost luggage, missed connections, weather problems, items stolen in transit, targeted by local authorities (Mexican tourist tax), all of which have happened to me at one time or another.
So two pieces of advice:
- Pack as if none of your bags are ever going to find you (believe me it happens), carry on the plane as much as you can including all prescriptions, essentials you need in the sun (pants, shorts, hat, buff, wading shoes, sun glasses) and as much bonefishing gear as the airline will let you carry;
- Relax and stay calm, it will all work out and consider it part of the DIY fishing adventure.
General Trip Preparation
Preparing for a DIY bonefishing trip requires significantly more planning than the usual trip to a full service lodge. It’s not hard or complicated and once you have done it a couple of times you will form your own check list for packing and preparation.
Make sure you have a good travel check list, do as much research on the internet as you can before going. Learn about the country, its people and the geography. Talk to people that have been there. The Fly Fishing Forums can be an excellent source of information.
My number one investigative tool now is Google Earth. When preparing for a bonefishing trip to a new destination I spend hours on Google Earth looking at potential flats, access points, etc. If the internet is available at the destination, Google Earth is a great tool to use every night after a days fishing to help you find new spots. Often the internet is not available at your DIY locations and even if you are told it is available always take a series of laminated Google Earth maps with you……they are invaluable.
There are some very good books available to help you with your planning, here are some of my favourites:
- Bonefishng, Randall Kaufmann
- Fly fishing For Bonefish, Dick Brown
- Bonefish Fly Patterns, Dick Brown
- Fly Fishing For Permit, Jack Samson
- The Bahamas Fly Fishing Guide, Stephen & Kim Vletas
- Fly Fishing For Bonefish, Chico Fernandez
Things To Do Before You Go
- order the appropriate currency in the right denominations from your bank one week in advance
- call your credit card company and inform them of your travel dates and destination
- check that your inoculations are current
- travel and evacuation insurance is up to date and you have the appropriate cards and contact phone numbers in your wallet and photo copies separately in your luggage
- financial commitments are pre-paid and organized..tax filings, bills, children’s tuition payments, etc.
- did you really book during your anniversary, birthday or other important special occasion………you know what to do
- stop the mail and papers
- provide your itinerary and emergency numbers to someone at home
- list and copy all credit cards, drivers license, travel insurance, evacuation insurance and passport and leave with someone at home (what do you do if your wallet is lost or stolen)
- check your equipment thoroughly….take out each rod piece and make sure there are four pieces and they fit together, your reels are greased and working, the extra spools fit the reel you are taking, the reel seat threads work and holds the reel, your backing is secured to your reels, the backing strips off the reel for 200 yards without catching and the connection between your backing and fly lines is solid
When you stay at a lodge the calculation as to the amount of currency to bring and/or how you will pay for the small items is relatively simple, on a DIY adventure it’s different. You are responsible for paying for everything and most places do not take credit cards. Cash is King!!
You need to plan ahead and determine how much you will need for food, liquor, guides, tips, gas, car, household supplies, etc. You need to plan on an emergency fund and unexpected expenses. Don’t count on either a bank or cash machine to help you out.
Once you have figured out how much cash to bring, it needs to be in the currency which is readily accepted and in denominations that are common. Don’t bring large bills, they are not easy for the locals to deal with.
Depending on the currency you may be surprised at the size of the wad of cash you have to carry.
Documentation is straight forward these days, but if you have forgotten something it can be a problem, so here are a few items to check:
- passport, expiration date needs to be at least six months out
- photocopy of your passport located separately from where you carry your passport
- you have a visa from the country you are traveling to if required
- airplane, car and hotel reservations are in hand and the dates are correct
- you have printed off all of the maps (road, google earth) you require to get around your DIY location
- your emergency and contact numbers, credit card info, drivers license are photocopied and placed somewhere other than your wallet (in case your wallet is lost or stolen)
I like to travel as light as possible so I give my clothing selection some careful thought. The actual clothing for your trip is listed in the Travel Checklist section but there are a few things to consider in preparing for a DIY bonefishing trip. Give some thought as to whether there are laundry facilities (or someone to do laundry) at your location. It’s nice to pack light and have your laundry done once during the week. On some trips we just walk into the shower at the end of the day with our shirt and pants on to clean them.
Shirts – make sure the shirts are lightweight, quick drying, long sleeve flats style fishing shirts. Everyone has a preference about this, but I prefer lots of pockets on my shirts. Remember you probably don’t have a boat to hold a fully stocked boat bag…..I like pockets. Careful with your colors, bonefish can spot anything out of the ordinary.
Pants – pants need to be light weight and quick drying. They offer you sun protection and protection from mangrove branches. They must have solid belt loops to hold a fabric belt.
Flats Hat – important to have the right hat, (and I pack a spare). Should have a long bill, underneath is preferably dark, side flaps or wide brim for ears and a cover over back of neck. Remember whatever hat you choose you will most likely be in the wind so it needs a way to button or tie down.
Belt – you need a fabric belt (not leather) that fits through the loops of your pants and has a sold closing buckle. You are going to hang your pliers and other items off the belt so it has to hold.
Wading socks – coral, sand, shells and small rocks somehow magically find their way between your boots and your feet. I like to use the Simms neoprene wading sock with a gravel guard while others just use the thin wading socks and seperate gravel guards.
Flats boots – you are walking in these all day so they need to be broken in and comfortable. On a DIY bonefishing trip you may walk six miles every day. If you have not broken them in you will get blisters and be in agony for the rest of the trip. When wading the reefs in Belize you are around very sharp coral so you will need substantial protective wading boats. On the nice soft white flats of the Bahamas I tend to use something lighter like kayak boots.
Outer wear – I know it is not supposed too, but it can be cold at times, bring a piece of warm outer wear (fleecy).
Rain Wear – it’s going to rain, that is what it does in the tropics. You need a quality light weight, water proof rain jacket with hood and water proof rain pants. Trust me, don’t go cheap on this gear, it will last for many years and you will be thankful that it works when you need it.
Sun protection – bring proper sun gloves (and always pack a spare pair). You will also need a bandana or buff that can be pulled right over your face. I would not fish without a buff any more.
What can I say, you are supposed to practice your casting before you go. Your goal is to cast 60 ft into a light wind with an eight weight and land your fly inside a hula hoop and 40 feet into a stiff wind with your leader fully rolling out and properly presenting the fly.
I live in Canada and the opportunity to practice in January for an upcoming trip is limited. In fact the reason I go to warm places is so I can go outside and cast. Let’s just say you are supposed to practice and leave it at that.
One last thing on casting; you need to cast quickly with very few false casts, bonefish don’t stay still and they don’t like fly lines flicking over their heads. Pick up, one – two false casts and shoot, that is the recipe for success.
Regardless of whether you practice before you go, the fact remains that you will catch significantly more fish if you can cast accurately. Go prepared to cast 60 feet into a light wind and 40 feet into a strong head or cross wind. Remember you don’t have a guide positioning the boat or taking into account your “casting prowess” so you will be casting dead into a strong wind.