How to Plan a Special Fly Fishing Trip

Dreaming about the fly fishing trip of a lifetime? Read through the suggested planning tips by Fly Fishing Expert Robert Levin to be well-prepared for your dream trip.

A man stands on the flat banks of a wide river and fly fishes. The mountains behind him are low and snow-dusted.

Owen's River, CA. Photo by Robson Hatsukami Morgan

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If you are one of those fortunate souls that can plan a fishing trip to any exotic location around the globe any time you choose and stay as long as the fish are biting, what I have to pass along here might not be that helpful. On the other hand, if you want to take that special trip to one of the places you have read about but just can’t go there on a whim and want to be able to take advantage of all the opportunities, you might find some helpful suggestions here.

One of those places to fly-fish that has been on or near the top of every fly fisher’s list is Alaska. I have been lucky enough to do that and here are a few things I have learned that may help you if you make the trip!

The author's watercolor shows a person in a hat fly fishing while sitting on a log in the water.

Painting by Robert Levin

Plan Ahead

Make your plans well in advance. Good lodges and outfitters fill their spaces early. Many clients rebook for the following year when they visit. They are primed for another adventure. Do your homework. Decide when you would like to go, the species you would like to target, and have some idea, even if it is vague, what a budget will look like. Let’s put this aspect in perspective. Most of the best places to fish are in the bush. Getting you and your creature comfort items, food, equipment, and all your other belongings out to the bush is done mostly by plane. Flying is expensive. This is the reason it is appropriate to turn on some calming music when you sit down to check the pricing of your trip.

You will have options for float trips, full-day trips, or half-day. If you are a beginner, you will need instruction. Don't be afraid to ask if that is available. No lodge owner, outfitter, or guide can control the weather so even at what might be a substantial cost you may spend some days under GORE-TEX. Besides your rods and reels bring good quality rain gear without fail. Do this and you will still be able to have a high degree of comfort no matter what the weather. Some lodges provide waders and other equipment. Ask about that when you inquire. Costs will vary depending on the accommodations provided for your stay. Lodges remain in business with happy clients. They typically do everything they can to make that happen. If you have any special needs, be sure to tell them when you book, especially something like a food allergy.

If you want to keep costs down and plan on booking a stay at a remote tent camp, keep in mind this will not be like a motel room in the woods. If you are an experienced camper, no problem. If that kind of accommodation is what you expect and need, stick with a lodge. Just be in shape for this experience. Even with fly-out lodges, there can be a bit of strenuous walking from where you are dropped off to where you will fish. Being prepared is paramount for having an enjoyable experience. Lodges and outfitters will typically supply a checklist of things to have with you. Follow their advice especially with things like sunglasses, sunscreen, and insect repellant. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. The bottom line, if you have not been to Alaska, make this trip. Save up for it if necessary. Much of Alaska is a wild place. The wildlife and scenery are incredible. If you are an outdoor-oriented person, you will savor this place and your memories of it when you leave.

Consider Where To Go

The river in Island Park, ID has crystal clear water which allows you to see the river rocks at its bottom.

Island Park, ID. Photo by Robert Levin

Some of our western states may be on your list of places you want to fly fish. There is any number of storied places like Yellowstone National Park, the Snake River in Idaho and Wyoming, the Bitterroot in Montana, and the Green River in Utah to name a few. A well-established truism is this, “The easier a place is to get to for fishing, the more crowded it will be.” Many of these storied locations receive very heavy fishing pressure. Other anglers will be there. They are well known and used and, in some instances, very strictly protected and rightly so. The trout in places like Big Springs on Henry’s Fork in Island Park need to be seen to be believed! If you think you’re interested in fishing in a national park, read “A Guide to Fishing in National Parks” for more information.

Maybe you want to pursue cutthroat trout in some tributary. Going green on your own to places like this is foolhardy. Studying the local regulations and finding the best spots to fish can take days in a new area. All these prime locations will have a Guide’s Association, local fly shop, or individuals who advertise in magazines. You need to connect with one of these individuals. The question is which one to pick. Checking to see if they are Orvis endorsed might be a start but that is limited. Keep this in mind. If they are recommended by a local fly shop and that shop has gotten feedback from their customers that the guide did a good job, accept that. Make contact and reservations as early as possible. The shops will generally recommend their best first, because they want to keep them busy and because they see the guide as a reflection of their business and happy clients are good insurance for continued business. Locations where there has been a long list of successful trips will be very busy. Get on mailing lists of lodges or accommodations at locations you are interested in fishing.

Now for the best travel tip I can pass along, consider this. Most of us use a local resource if we are planning a long trip. We may stop in at a local travel agent and make arrangements for our trip. What happens if there is a problem with those arrangements when we go? We have to wait until we return home or try to call the agency from our trip location assuming we can reach them. The trip is over when we get home. Arrange your trip at an agency at the location you are going to. If there is a problem when you are there, the agency can correct it and answer to you before the trip is over since you are both there.

A man fly fishes on a lake in NZ that is still and perfectly reflects the surrounding hills.

Lake Selfe, Canterbury, NZ. Photo by alstewartnz

Another location for fly fishing high on the list is New Zealand. If you are interested in visiting there, contact this guy. He operates a travel agency in California but is the only non-New Zealander to be a member of the New Zealand Fly Fishing Guides Association. I don’t think anyone knows the place better than him. He has been fishing there for twenty-six years and has made over 70 trips. Whatever your budget considerations are, he will work with you.

For fly fishing in all of the places I have mentioned so far, and just about every other place in the world where fly fishers wet a line, I would be remiss if I did not include this outfit I have done business with. Out in Redding, California is The Fly Shop. A major part of their business is organizing, implementing, and offering fly fishing opportunities worldwide. They have for many years investigated and studied prime fly-fishing destination options around the globe. Besides culturing and offering a number of Northern California’s fly-fishing hot spots local to them, their teams have visited endless lodges in numerous exotic locations where you can fish for bonefish or permit. Maybe you want to go to Patagonia in Argentina for Steelhead, or Chile for Rainbow Trout, or Mexico for Peacock Bass—they have compiled their travel offerings in an excellent catalog format which is worth obtaining from them. It comprehensively covers everything you need to know about fishing these exotic locations and is a great fly-fishing travel reference resource. It is available online here.

Show Appreciation

The last tip I would like to offer is this: the folks that work the lodges or with outfitters whether as guides, kitchen staff, house cleaners, etc., work hard to make your trip a pleasant experience. Be sure to include a gratuity for these folks in your trip cost calculation. It is very embarrassing if you are caught short at the end of your trip's closing meeting, not to mention the futility of any expectation of returning there again someday should you want to.

If you have any questions or want to get all suited up for your trip, reach out to a Fly Fishing Expert here on Curated. See you on the water! Tight lines!

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Written By
Robert Levin
Robert Levin
Fly Fishing Expert
I have been an avid fisherperson since my teenage years. Caught the bug from my dad who fished exclusively with a fly rod. Not that he ever fished with a fly on that rod, he trusted the weight of the fly line as it would not break when he pulled a five foot Chain Pickerel out of the lily pads in the...
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