So, you’ve thought it out, saved some money, and have decided to take a trip with the specific goal of fishing new water. But where do you start? With a new region, new species, new waters, and new fish looming ahead, it can be hard to get everything ready beforehand, especially if you’re not entirely sure on what you should be ready for. But preparing for that once in a lifetime trip doesn’t have to be stressful or time consuming by following this simple guideline, whether your floating down the Yellowstone in Montana or stalking the flats in the Bahamas.

- Know the laws and regulations ahead of time. This is absolutely the most critical bit of research you need to be doing. Laws can vary greatly from different countries, different states, and even different bodies of water. From barbed versus barbless hooks, types of hooks, legal public access, and even to where you can put split shot on a rig and the material your boots are made of, some places have special regulations on just about anything. Know the laws thoroughly before you step foot in the water. Nothing will put a hamper on your trip like receiving a hefty fine and even having your gear confiscated, even if you intended no wrong doing.
Some laws and regulations can be confusing, and we aren’t all lawyers, so if you have any confusion or questions, do not hesitate to call the local game wardens office (or equivalent) of where you’ll be fishing if you have any questions. Fly shops and guides can be helpful too, but with every changing law and regulation, it sometimes can be confusing to even them, so I always prefer to get the answer directly from the source.

- Make sure your fishing gear is ready. Now is the time to clean and lube fly reels. Clean and treat your fly lines. Inspect everything. Make sure your rods guides and ferrules look good, and nothings cracked. Clean the rods and apply fresh wax to the ferrules. Seal any leaks in your waders ahead of time, and make sure your boots and studs are in good shape. Having to leave the water early due to preventable gear failure is not fun when you’ve traveled so far.

- Call ahead to the local fly shops and guides. They will know the conditions better than any google search. Find out what is working and where. Prepare by tying twice as many of the suggested flies you first thought you might need. Another good way to gather information from afar is via forums. Find a good local forum, or national forum that has members that live where you’ll be traveling to. Don’t go asking for or expecting to receive the local honey hole locations, but good solid info on what the fish will be feeding on where will help you figure out what to expect to tie on before you even arrive.

- Create an inventory list of everything you will need and check it off as it gets packed. Include absolutely everything on it, no matter how simple or mundane it seems, including rods, reels, lines, leaders, tippet, waders, boots, vests, fly boxes, etc. This helps insure nothing gets left behind.

- Seriously consider hiring a guide, even if for only a half day. This may be especially important if you’re going to be fishing differently than you normally would (a trout fisherman going on a trip to saltwater flats, for example). It’s one thing to call and email ahead of time and get information on what’s working, but actually being with and instructed by a good seasoned guide on the water will bring your fishing to a whole new level, and help ensure you don’t waist precious time from your trip just trying to even figure the fish out.

- Enjoy the life and culture away from the water, too! Fly fishing destinations exist on more than just the body of water. Visit the local fly shops, eat at the local restaurants. Catch a show. Have a drink at the local bar. Who knows, a few drinks may loosen a local’s lips and leave you with a hot new lead to explore!

- Even though you’re visiting, be a good steward! Don’t litter. Don’t trample through areas off-path. Always pack out more than you pack in. Don’t crowd out other fisherman, and always be polite and thankful with the locals. Let them know you appreciate and are thankful for their area, and they won’t resent or become short with the visitors.

- Last but certainly not least, HAVE FUN! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and try not to get your hopes too high for a trophy fish or rare species. Slow down, take a deep breath, and immerse yourself in the surroundings and experience, even if the fish aren’t biting. Take time to sit on the bank and enjoy the view when not fishing. Make notes of all the new sights, smells and sounds you don’t get to experience at home. Bring a camera and take pictures of everything! Remember, this is a vacation, not a contest, and is meant to be enjoyed, not won or conquered.

Traveling to a new location can be stressful, but is meant to be enjoyed. Hopefully with the aid of this simple checklist, you can feel a little less stressed and focusing on enjoying your trip. Good luck and tight lines!

June 20, 2017 — Alice Wang

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