“There will be days when the fishing is better than one’s most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. Either is a gain over just staying home.” ~Roderick Haig-Brown
Few of us who enjoy flyfishing are fortunate enough to have a home water, loosely defined as a great fishing spot close to home or even better, flowing just past our house. Most good flyfishing requires travel, either long hours in the car or a trip to the airport and several plane changes along the way. Destination flyfishing has become a multimillion dollar business and sportsmen go to the end of the earth (literally when the destination is the Rio Grande River in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina) to fish blue ribbon streams and prime saltwater destinations.
Having twice fished the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia (check out Google maps), the famous salmon rivers of the Ponoi, multiple times in Alaska, the Amazon River basin, Scotland for Atlantic Salmon, Africa for Tiger fish, Belize for Tarpon, flyfishing in Iceland with Jack Hemingway, the Los Roches islands off the coast of Venezuela, the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, Cape Cod for Striped Bass, and many great rivers and lakes in the western US, I consider myself a somewhat experienced destination travel flyfisherman. My globetrotting fishing has spanned nearly 40 years and over that time the world of travel has changed dramatically, in some ways for the better and, unfortunately, in many ways for the worse.
The Good News
Being a hopeful person (but not quite an optimist) I like to begin with the positive side of the equation. There is no denying that more and more remote flyfishing destinations have become accessible due to the rapid advancement of aviation and globalisation. The days of Hemingway traveling for weeks or months to fish or hunt are over. Nearly every part of the globe, no matter how remote, is accessible within a few days. I can be home in London on Friday and flyfishing on the Rio Grande river in Tierra del Fuego on Sunday. My brother can be at home in Sandpoint, Idaho and in just two days be floating down the wild Zhupanova River in Kamchatka.
The other great news is that the infrastructure for destination flyfishing has dramatically improved, with more and more groups setting up destination flyfishing lodges in more and more remote locations. For example, in the 1990’s to fish the Rio Grande river, travellers would have to stay in the town of Rio Grande at a hotel, then local guides would pick them up early in the morning and drive them to the river, an hour-plus drive over rocky dirt roads, eat lunch on the river (sandwiches etc.), fish into the early evening, then take the hour plus bumpy drive back to the hotel. Today there are several lodges right near the river, Kau Tapen, Despedida Lodge, Villa Maria Behety and the Maria Behety Lodge, just overlooking the Rio Grande river, and the drive to the fishing areas is now a mere 15 to 20 minutes away.
And many destination lodges cater for American, European and global guests with well stocked bars, elaborate wine cellars and excellent cuisine. Most have internet Wifi access so we can send pictures home of our big catches. On the Aqua Boa River in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest we stayed for week on a houseboat, with a cook, maids and local Indian guides to take us fishing for Peacock Bass. And this year the American Fly Fishing Trade Association will be held in Las Vegas and has more and more lodges from around the world promoting their special destinations. Destination flyfishing travel is definitely a global industry.
But perhaps the best thing about destination flyfishing is the people you meet. Flyfishers are fascinating, with a strange mix of DNA, half loner an the other gregarious, with a “healthy” attachment to beer, scotch and fine wine. And most have fascinating life stories. One person I met at a lodge had left college to live with the indians in the Amazon for three years. Another was a Wall Street financier with an Ivy League pedigree. The common bond was fishing and a respect for the deep mysteries of Nature and flyfishing. And destination fishing brings one into contact with many different cultures of people. Unless you are a self-centered zombie, it is impossible not feel wonder and respect for the diversity of the human species. Whether on an Amazon river, an Alaskan river or a Caribbean island, we all laugh at jokes, tell stories, and have an innate distrust of big government.
Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends. ~Maya Angelou
Tight Lines . . .
PS: Next post, the Dark Side of Destination Travel
John R Childress