Tips For Saltwater Anglers

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Tips for Newcomers

General issues

Take a photocopy of your passport details, or at the very least write down the relevant details - dates and reference numbers - and keep it (along with your travellers cheque numbers) away from your passport. You don't need to be in Rome to have your pockets slit open with a razor to have your papers and money stolen (all inside 10 minutes of your feet hitting the pavement).

If you are on any medication split it into two packs and keep them in separate bags. At least you may have some time to get replacements if one bag goes astray. Hand luggage sometimes goes for a walk in the airport if you don't keep a close eye on it. It is worth taking a repeat list of your medication as well, together with your doctors name and address - just in case. It may also help if you get funny looks from customs if you can show they are prescription medication.

Do not rely on travel agents being up to date with health recommendations. Try The Medical Advisory Service For Travellers Abroad (MASTA) at The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London. They provide worldwide health risk information for travellers; it is updated daily and gives comprehensive vaccination, malaria and preventative advice. There is a Travellers Health Line 09068 22 41 00 The traveller is asked to leave details of their journey and a health brief is then dispatched. Apart from the cost of the call (calls charged 60p at all times) this service is free.

Make sure luggage is labelled - it cannot find you if the handlers do not know where it should be going. Put a separate address card inside in case the outside label gets lost.

Do not put your home address where it can be read by strangers - lots of people might like to know your house is empty.

Do have some small change in the currency of your destination. It might grieve you to give a large note for a tip and then find the porter/handler has no change!

Remember to confirm your flight home. Unlike holiday charter flights, specialised fishing trips often use standard flights. Frequently these are over booked and those who have confirmed their seats will be given priority. If you are lucky and do not have to be back at work as soon as you arrive home, there are often offers of free flight tickets and accommodation if you will give up your seat, as they do not have enough seats for everyone.

Beware of the effects of long haul flights - and coach journeys. Popularly known as tourist class syndrome, this is the effect of having your legs down for a long time. Ankles swell and blood may even clot in the veins of the calves, so keep them moving. A regular walk up and down the corridor and a few knees bends will help.

Look at staying near the airport if you have an early flight. Holiday insurance will not cover you if you are delayed by traffic jams; only if you have an accident. You may find that staying at some of the airport hotels will include car parking for your holiday so it may not prove much more expensive.

Fishing Tips

Do take a spare rod and reel. In our last two trips we have seen 5 or 6 rods break, and one reel dented by dropping it. Whilst you may almost certainly be able to 'borrow' some flies or leader, you may well find it difficult to do the same for a rod and reel. Most lodges have tackle for hire, but still we continuously get reports of the poor quality or inappropriateness of it. You could end up sending away for tackle which could take 3 days to reach you, not fishing at all, or using an outfit really too heavy for your target species - 12wt for 3lb Bonefish??

Consider 2 reels per set of 2 weights - i.e. using fly line boxes you can use the same reel for 2 different weight lines within reason. i.e. your 8 and 10 wt floating and sinking lines will fit on 2 reels. This gives flexibility of approach - 1 rod with 8 float, one with 10 intermediate. If one reel gets dropped you can still fish on, though with only one outfit, but least you are fishing. If you are feeling very wealthy try 3 reels at the same size - this really opens up the combinations!!

Do get your tackle early. It is very frustrating for both you and your guide if you are getting used to your tackle when the fish are heading straight for you. Casting a heavily leaded pattern requires different timing and a large offshore popper is nearer to casting half a chicken than a fly, so unless you are a died in the wool and accurate lead-head man, practice first. Set up rings on the grass and get somewhere to give you position ( 12 o'clock is the bow) and distance and try getting the fly on target first time - frequently there won't be a second.

Don't rely on getting tackle out there - even en route. Every so often it will be out of stock, and guess which patterns will be sold out at the lodge. Take the essentials with you, then you can enjoy drifting round the shops without the pressure of having to get 'some 8lb fluorocarbon and half a dozen blind Charlies (because the fish are so spooky, you cannot use leaded flies), or whatever else is essential for the trip. Don't rely on tackle shops keeping something back for you -sometimes they do. Often they don't.

Do check with the airline about rod tubes and flies. Some of the airlines are clamping down on the longer tubes in the cabin - even if they will fit in the overhead locker. Some have decided that fishing hooks- even with flies on them - are classified as dangerous weapons and must be part of the hold luggage. Where possible take travel rods and your reels on board the flight. Don't risk losing maybe half your holiday as you are in Alaska while your rods are in Amsterdam as happened to a party in April 2000.

Do make sure you take a waterproof sunblock - high factor - or preferably total block. Skin cancer is on the up. Wear long sleeved shirts on the boat and a good hat with a good peak and neck protector. Look for a hat with a dark underside to the peak. It will marginally help your vision, and any margin is worth having. Get a clip for it so that if it does come off whilst motoring out you are not doubling back for it in the wake before it sinks - and don't let it fly out behind you on the cord it will either pull right off or if it has chin strap may twist and throttle you (yes we have seen both of these happen).

Get good polarising glasses, that way you will see the fish only 5 minutes after the guide - and not 10 ! Make sure they have side shield to block light coming in from the gap between the frame and your cheek. Beware cheap clip ons if you wear prescription lens as they often warp and may cause headaches. Put a strap on them - they are no use to you if they fall off into 60 ft of water and your face may be slippery with sweat and sun block. For those who would like prescription lens in polarising sunglasses, think hard first if you are considering bifocals, or varifocals. When wading on the flat you need to look where your feet are going. With variable or double focus lens, the lower part is usually set to a reading distance. This can be very disturbing if you are trying to look at the ground through them, however changing from varifocals to single focus lens can make depth perception difficult initially - the ground is further from your feet than you think until you adjust.

One or two eminent flats fishers are now suggesting that bonefish have better 'hearing' than was thought. The noise of a clicker on your reel could be enough to frighten off wary fish - hence our option of silent reels.

As well as loud noises frightening fish some believe that loud clothes will do the same. Bright reds and yellows may make you feel on holiday but alert the fish to your presence.

Leather boat shoes are fine at times, but some skiffs and offshore boats are wet. Look at a pair of canvas type deck shoes that will dry more quickly, or consider a pair of wind surfers boots - the sole can be sensitive enough so you know when you are treading on your line, but hopefully soft enough not to damage it. However check first that the sole will not leave coloured marks all over the boat. Remember though that soft shoes are fine for the boat, but you need a proper sole if wading - sea urchin spines will penetrate a long way. Shuffle your feet if wading, sting rays do not like being stepped on.

Speaking of lines, do get a warm water line - some times it feels like hot water. The coating of cooler water lines is designed to make them supple at lower temperatures, in warm water they go very floppy and you lose distance and presentation, and presentation is everything when casting to shy fish in crystal clear shallow water. On our last trip we ended up drifting a channel and casting to fish in 12 " of water on either side of the boat.

Beware the effects of saltwater. Nothing corrodes tackle as fast - except may be dipping it in battery acid. After each day, tighten up the drag on the reel and wash the whole outfit down with fresh water. Remember to ease the drag off when you have finished so you do not compress the drag washers. It is even worth loosening the reel foot in its mount to get the seat properly cleaned. Once you are home clean the rod thoroughly with warm soapy water and a soft cloth and a soft toothbrush around the rings and reel mounting. The fine side of a plastic pan scourer used gently on the corks will bring them up almost like new. Let it dry before putting it away in its bag - and give the reel seat a spray of WD40.

Whilst away tighten up the drag and wash rod reel and line liberally with fresh water and dry off with a towel. Remember to ease off the drag when you have finished to allow the washers to expand and prevent nasty shocks in the morning.. When you get back: To care for the reel and line, strip off the line onto a line dryer ( do make sure the dryer won't collapse in use, 500 yards of tangled Superbraid is a disaster - and wash the spool in warm soapy water. Be careful not to immerse the drag and bearings, even though most bearings are sealed units, rinse it well with clean fresh water. Pay particular attention to the crevices around reel feet etc. - out with the toothbrush again.. Allow to dry in the airing cupboard before applying a light coat of WD 40. Remember to store it with the drag off. Wash the fly line in warm soapy water and allow it to dry before applying line conditioner and polishing with a soft cloth. You will be amazed at how much dirt comes off and how much better your casting will be the next time you use it. It is worth taking conditioner and a soft cloth with you to treat the lines mid trip. Any fly box that has been opened on the trip should be rinsed out - you are never aware of the spray that has splashed in while you have not been looking until you see what it has done to your stainless hooks.. Allow the flies to dry naturally, unless the hackles have been considerably deformed in which case steam may restore an otherwise defunct fly.

Knives, Multitools, nips etc will all benefit from a wash and scrub and spray with WD40. Many zips are aluminium or brass and not nylon - and saltwater will eat 'em up for breakfast. Rinse them off and even give some of them a squirt with WD40 - may be not on your best case though unless it has been soaked by spray on the boat out to the camp. Don't forget your sunglasses - back to the warm soapy water and soft cloth - beware of scratching the lens and make sure you rinse the lens well. Any thing that has been near the salt will corrode if given half a chance.

Finally do use the flash on your camera. Although there is often a lot of light, much of it is coming as back light and the picture of your best fish will be in shadow. Most modern compacts have fill in settings as well as auto-flash and flash. Auto flash may well not fire because of the amount of light in the background, so set fill in or even full flash. If you want to get pictures of fish jumping then an auto-focussing camera is often too slow. We have lots of pictures of splashes but no fish. Use a camera with an override - or a fixed focus lens. Don't forget big game boats back down very hard and fast sometimes. Just as you are trying to get a picture or video of a fish for someone else a wave may come over the transom. I have seen one auto-focus high definition lens take a wave full force. It soon stopped working.

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