Monthly fishing trips, spring through fall, are at the heart of the High Plains Drifters fly fishing club. It is the reason many members join our group. We eagerly look forward to these trips throughout the winter. For many, the trip calendar and its world-class destinations provide motivation at the fly tying vise as we await the arrival of spring. Most importantly, our trips provide opportunities for camaraderie, chances to establish and maintain the social bonds that make us human.
HPD had an amazing slate of trips planned for 2020, ranging from Pueblo, CO to Fort Smith, MT. Of course, none of these events came to fruition because of the ongoing COVID-19 situation. Most of our members have continued to fish throughout the pandemic, however, either individually or in small groups. If you have fishing buddies with similar levels of risk tolerance, it isn’t a bad time to plan and implement an amazing fishing journey of your own. If you don’t think a small group trip, or travelling in general, is worth the risk, then you can always plan now and implement later. Trip planning, in and of itself, can be a lot of fun. Following are some things to consider when planning your next epic fishing adventure. You could always just throw your gear in the vehicle and go, but a little planning time goes a long way in ensuring a fun trip.
Things to keep in mind when planning a fishing trip can be lumped into a few broad questions: Why? Who? What? When? Where?, and How Much? Such questions and their answers are obviously interrelated. Nonetheless, it is helpful to consider them separately.
Begin by asking yourself why you are planning this trip. The answer to this question greatly influences all of the other things you’ll want to consider. Do you want to fish all day, every day, and catch boat loads of fish? Would you rather catch fewer but bigger fish? Or are you looking for a balance of size and quantity? Do you really just want some time to decompress with friends? Do you want to make it a family trip, perhaps with the underlying motivation of getting the kiddos hooked on your favorite pastime? Asking such questions early will provide much clarity throughout the planning process.
If you are planning a solo adventure, your planning efforts will be much simpler since you alone are influenced by your decisions and any changes to the plan are exclusively yours to accommodate. It is safe to say that most trips that require the level of planning discussed here, would include other anglers. So, who should they be? Does everyone you have in mind share similar motivations to those that were exposed when you asked yourself why you are planning this trip? Does everyone want to fish dawn to dark? Are some folks happy with just fishing a couple hours a day? If you have some of both types of angler, is the trip location amenable to such varied preferences? If you are planning to float fish, is there a good number of rowers and potential shuttle drivers? Is there enough space on the boat(s)? The other questions you’ll consider (what, where, and when) are also important here. Does everyone in the group want to fish for the same species? Do they agree on the planned location? And do they have adequate time available in their schedules? It sounds odd, but be sure to invite anglers that actually have fun fishing. This is a recreational fishing trip after all, and fun should be what it is all about.
What type(s) of fish do you want to target on this epic fishing adventure? For many Colorado fly anglers, trout are the obvious choice given the abundant regional opportunities and long-standing fly fishing tradition associated with these fish. Keep in mind, however, that there are many other fish that can be the primary objective of a grand fishing trip, or could serve as a complementary target on a trout-centric trip. Other species that are great fun to pursue with a fly rod and can be found within a day’s drive of Denver include northern pike, tiger musky, common carp, sunfish, walleye, and several species of bass. If you and the other anglers in your plan find it interesting and affordable, why not plan a more distant trip for fish you have always wanted to target? You could hit the gulf or southeast for redfish and sea trout, Alaska for salmon, or California for stripers. Giant taimen in Mongolia, anyone? For some of these, you would likely need some specialized tackle. For others, the gear you already own would work just fine.
The question of “Where?” is most influenced by the type of fish you wish to pursue. Certain fish just live in certain places. It is important to know your target(s) before choosing a destination. If the chosen destination is a place you and/or your fishing buddies have fished before, that makes everything simpler. If you want to figure out a new place to go, consider your goals and the places that are most likely to help you meet them. For most of us, this could simply mean picking a place that is known to have lots of fish. If you want to be more detailed about it and your destination is in the U.S. of A., check the websites of state wildlife management agencies. These agencies typically make available detailed fisheries information. Sometimes state-to-state comparisons are apples-to-oranges, but the data will still help you make an informed decision. It is also a good idea, especially for places or times of year with which you are unfamiliar, to check for the presence of local fly shops and/or guide services, be aware of seasonal weather patterns and fishing conditions, and to know when the mosquitos are thickest.
When do you and the others in the group want to go on this trip, and for how long? This is perhaps the most difficult part of trip planning, and the question is usually more about capability than desire. First, simply throw the question out there for everyone included. When can you go? Ask for multiple options, and hopefully there will be some overlap when everyone can go at the same time. It can be easier just to pick a time and then invite people, but many of the folks you hope would make it on the trip may drop off. As you are deciding when, consider the trip location and targets. Or figure out a time that works for everyone, then decide on species and location. Being flexible about your target(s) and destination will be very helpful when trying to nail down the trip timing. As mentioned before, there are many interrelated factors at play here, so it is okay if the planning process is more circular than linear.
This is where the rubber meets the road, literally and figuratively. You’ll want to know a ballpark figure for trip expenses. No one wants to go on the fishing trip of a lifetime and then come home to bills they have no money left to pay. Transportation, lodging, and food are the obvious expenses. What about guide service, flies, tackle, and perhaps other helpful or necessary gear that you may not own? If budgets are tight, you can save quite a bit on lodging, and even guides, by planning your trip for the off-season. You can also save big money by choosing lodging accommodations that allow you to prepare some of your own meals rather than dining out. Drive, camp, and make your own meals, and you are looking at a very inexpensive trip that can be the most fun you’ve ever had.
Enjoy planning your next epic fishing adventure!