March 30th, 2009

Trip Planning
By Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona

As the days of winter begin to wane it's time for many anglers to begin to dream about making a trip somewhere this coming season to wet a line for a few days. Some anglers return to the same location every year, but if this is a new adventure for you or you are planning to visit a different area this season it's now time to get busy doing your homework.

Due to the economic conditions across the nation it may require a bit more planning this season even for those anglers who are accustomed to returning to the same area. For most of us fly-fishing is recreation, but for fly shops, outfitters and guides it's a business, and they have not been unaffected by the current economic situation. Don't presume the fly shop that you have depended upon every year is still in operation, or the motel where you stay, the café where you eat, or the guide you use is still available. It's time to make a few phone calls to make certain that things are as you remember them.

If this is a first time event or if you are planning to go to a new place it is even more critical that you begin to solidify your plans as soon as possible. Unless you are independently wealthy I would presume that in this current economic period you will want to get the biggest bang for your buck so advanced planning is critical to assure you achieve your objective.

The first step to planning a successful trip is to check with your fishing buddies to see if they have been where you are planning to go. There is nothing like firsthand information from someone you know. If you strike out with your fishing pals then a check of one of the fly fishing bulletin boards like the one on FAOL will likely produce much helpful information. You will want to know about such things as: when is the best time to go, accommodations, fly shops, and perhaps the name of a good outfitter if you need the services of a guide. Armed with all the information you can gather you are ready to make your plans.

Now it's time to plan your trip. What type of fishing do you hope to do? If your interests lean toward dry fly fishing make certain that normally there are hatches happening when you intend to arrive at your destination. Obviously no one can guarantee a hatch of flies on a specific date or time but you can increase the odds by planning your trip to coincide with the date when hatches are anticipated. Ideally you will select a location that has several possible angling venues so if one spot is experiencing a dearth of hatching insects you will have other readily available locations that may produce some action.

If you plan on booking a trip with an outfitter make certain you tell them what type of angling you are looking for. Be specific. Do you want to wade, fish from a boat, hike in, fish only streams or are you willing to fish stillwaters? Are you an accomplished angler [be honest] or are you a beginner? Do you want a guide who only rows the boat or do you want a guide who can row the boat and teach you something new? Do you need equipment or will you be supplying all your own gear? Are you bringing your spouse, and, if they don't fish, will they be accompanying you when you fish? Ask what you should bring, what weather conditions should you expect; in short anything and everything that will enhance your experience. I don't like surprises, especially when it might compromise my vacation.

Finally, don't wait until the last minute. The economic downturn will certainly affect the number of people that will be traveling this season, and you might presume that will mean that there will be no shortage of open accommodations. Unfortunately, the downturn has resulted in the closure of many tourist oriented venues, and so there may actually be fewer accommodations in some areas. In some states even State Parks and other state run recreation areas, including campgrounds may be closed due to a shortage of funds. If you are planning on utilizing these facilities a quick check with the proper state officials might prove to be a wise decision before you arrive in the dark of the night only to discover the campground is closed. Fortunately, at this time, I am unaware of any similar situations in National Forests or National Parks, but that could change without much notice.

On a positive note because of the continuing economic downturn overall this might be an opportunity to spend time at a prime location without having to deal with the crowds or advanced reservations. If you have the dollars this might be the time to check on your dream fishing vacation destination. Who knows, you just might get a great deal.

Part of the fun and excitement of outdoor recreation is planning a trip. The anticipation of making a trip, especially to a new area, and the things you will do when you arrive adds to the overall enjoyment of the experience. Some advanced planning can help assure that your dream vacation doesn't become a nightmare. ~ The Chronicler

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