How to Choose an Overseas Fishing Trip or Fishing Holiday
ATOL / ABTA Protection
Cost of Trip
Type of Fishing
Location / Lodge Relationship
Tackle Requirements and Experience
Group / Escorted Trips
An overseas fishing trip is a significant investment, and one that needs to be researched thoroughly, especially in the present climate. So how can you be sure that you are booking the correct lodge / dates / company / guides?
Sometimes it is better to use a reputable / trusted company that can offer you extra levels of protection and has the benefit of access to better flights / accommodation and additionally knows the location very well. You don’t want to turn up at your dream location, at the wrong time of year, with the wrong tackle, fishing methods that you weren’t expecting. If you choose your operator wisely this peace of mind can be gained for a very small premium and may even be cheaper than booking yourselves.
This blog will try and help you get the best trip for your money, and ensure that your dream trip is exactly that, and additionally that you are as protected as you possibly can be in these uncertain times.
ATOL / ABTA Protection
Before looking at handing over any money always ensure that you have checked that they have ATOL / ABTA protection. If a package includes a flight then ATOL protection is essential, this can be checked on the CAA website with either the company name or the ATOL number, which should be clearly displayed on the company website.
If flights are not included then the ABTA Package Tours Regulations apply. A trip becomes a package if it involves a combination of at least 2 of the following : Transport, accommodation, car rental, guiding services. This means that many of the ‘Just add flights’ trips should be fully protected as well, no matter who is offering the trips.
Tour operators spend a significant amount of time and money to gain, and retain this protection to protect you, the customer so please treat this protection as an essential requirement before handing over any money.
The need for this protection is even more than ever given recent events and cannot be overlooked.
Cost of Trip
As if the upfront cost is not painful enough then you need to ensure that you are fully aware of any extra charges that may be applied or incurred. For example some lodges will charge extra fuel for fishing further afield locations, totally unacceptable in my opinion and something we at SFC travel would never entertain.
Ensure that everything that you are likely to have to pay for is documented on the itinerary so that there are no extra surprise charges to dent your tackle budget !
Simple things like do all legs of travel have the same baggage allowance ? It is all very well having a 40 kg baggage allowance for the long haul flight but not so good when you need to board an island hopper with a 15kg weight allowance to complete the journey.
Pay extra close attention to how the trip is priced when comparing operators, it is very easy to massage the lead cost of a trip by quoting for fishing 4 in a boat, less actual a fishing days, removing the free drinks and transfers, national park costs, single supplements, licences etc so ensure that you are definitely comparing ‘like for like’ once you have quotations.
Additionally, also be aware of companies requesting high initial deposits, especially in the current environment. Obviously if the trip is within 12 months then flights etc will need to be booked however for dates in excess of this you should only be looking at a small holding deposit as an expression of interest.
Type of fishing
This is a very important aspect of our fishing holidays. There are fewer more satisfactory catches than those that you have worked for. Sitting in a gin palace waiting for a rod to scream off, before the boat sets the hooks and you are handed over a fish is not the kind of trips that we usually offer. Sturgeon trips are a slight exception to this but these are fought standup and the experience of the boat skippers is needed to drop a 48oz lead, with potentially a huge bait, in a tiny hole with a multiplier!!
We like to sell trips and experiences that we would like to do ourselves, this is one of our core values. There aren’t many angling experiences that can beat seeing a bunch of Roosterfish chasing your popper as you’ve finally worked out the optimum popping retrieve speed. Or tempting a huge Cubera from it’s lair with a well worked stickbait or a suitably plopped and paused popper as that unmistakeable red monster appears from the depths and tries to rip the rods from your hands. A tigerfish on a well casted spoon or small lure is also a joy and one of the highlights of anybodys fishing trip.And there are few more satisfying things than being able to work an SPJ or vertical jig correctly, think standing on a football, rubbing your tummy and patting your head but when it finally comes together it is a great feeling.
Don’t get me wrong a bait caught Cubera or Roosterfish is an achievement but it somehow feels that little bit better if you’ve been involved from start to finish.
Obviously there are some times when you are slightly detached from the end to end experience but this is purely because the deckies are usually far better than us at something like rigging up a belly strip for sailfish and a darn sight quicker.
We have anglers of all ages and our experience of the different styles of angling and environments that they will encounter ensures that anglers and destinations are always well matched.
Location / Lodge Relationship
Always ask how many customers your operator has sent to this location and how many years they have been working with this location. Additionally has anybody from the company actually visited the lodge or country or are they advising purely on what the lodge has told them ? As we all know things can be very different ‘on the ground’ as opposed to what you see in the brochures and local knowledge can be invaluable. This works both ways, not only will you be made fully aware of all of the potential bad points you will have inside information on local customs and more importantly the best restaurants and bars etc!
Some operators prefer to operate with fewer locations and adopt the ‘Do less, but do it well’ approach whereas others will advertise trips all over the globe in multiple locations but may not actually be overly familiar, or haven’t even visited many of the locations.
It makes sense to go for the operator offering less locations as invariably the company will have been sending anglers there for many years. This works well for two main reasons: In the first instance the relationship with the lodge will be excellent and a bond of trust has been established, the lodge are well aware of the operators requirements and vice versa, and the fishing methods and logistical arrangements are already well understood and any issues, which are obviously inevitable, have been ironed out. Secondly, visiting these locations regularly gives the operators preferential dates, and usually prices, which can only be better for the customer in the long run.
Fish Photographs on Websites and Social Media
The first thing to remember is that most of us anglers are not only driven by that trophy fish but the whole overall experience. Some places that you visit are only enhanced by the capture of a fish and just being there is sometimes enough. However, even with this in mind it is great to come back with not only aching arms but also a few good photographs.
This is where we come to one of the most important things when choosing a lodge, or more importantly a tour operator:
It is unfortunately not uncommon for some operators to fill their websites with pictures of fish that have been caught many years ago, or of fish that have not been caught by their actual customers and are just lodge stock photos. This of course is unavoidable if they are introducing a new lodge or location but if it is somewhere that is a regular offering then always ensure that you ask the question ‘Are all of the pictures that you use for advertising purposes of your clients only ?’ The responses to this may surprise you …..
At SFC Travel we use only pictures of fish that have been caught on OUR trips, by OUR customers. I do not believe this detracts from any of our offerings, and our clients have caught some unbelievable fish but this truly sets expectation correctly and means that the company truly understand their lodges and the target species rather than reusing a picture from somebody that didn’t even travel with them and was potentially many years ago. Google image search can throw up a lot of information on pictures posted on a company’s website.
As we all know the fortunes of various fisheries can change dramatically from season to season so recent photographs are essential.
Tackle Requirements and Experience
Let’s be honest here, when it comes to tackle anglers are the worst for wanting shiny things and the best coloured lures are always tempting but are these always necessary?
Having an operator that has actually caught the target species and fished the proposed location can be invaluable and can easily save you spending hundreds, if not thousands of pounds on your pre trip spending. Some places are totally unsuitable for heavy popping, slow pitch jigging yet these are sold as locations that specialise in these disciplines. Just imagine that you have spent thousands on the latest heavy popping rod, reel and huge poppers at £50 plus only to get to your destination and finding out that you will be trolling for 95% of the time. This is where the importance of knowing the lodge / location and target species is essential. Conversely this can go the other way if you end up somewhere with the wrong equipment.
Because we at SFC Travel have fished all of our locations, and caught almost every species available at these, using various methods we can advise exactly what is, and more importantly what isn’t needed for your dream fishing holiday.
A slight tangent but this experience also helps a great deal when looking where to purchase tackle, somebody like Terry Smith at Jigabite has also fished all around the world and can advise on tackle requirements for various locations.
Some lodges also offer hire tackle, this can vary immensely so again it is advisable to consider an operator that has actually fished the location and can advise on whether this is the correct approach. You do not want to end up on an island in the middle of nowhere to be greeted by rusty, blank hooks, empty reels and broken rods, alternatively, some lodges have excellent, well maintained equipment and it can sometimes be a much better option.
Additionally, for those that have fished with SFC Travel before, you will know that I more than happy to talk tackle, lures and fishing at every given opportunity and I like to think that this sets us a step above the rest.
This is a very hard one to balance, obviously there are not many places left in the world that can offer a fish a chuck, and to be perfectly honest what right minded angler would want this.
All you can ask for is that your operator gets you to the best place, on the best boats, with the most appropriate tackle at the best times. If the guides put you on the fish then their job is also done and it’s all down to you !!
With the benefit of decades of experience we at SFC Travel strive to do this. Nobody will try harder than us to do this but as recent events have shown, not everything always goes to plan.
Group / Escorted Trips
This is something that divides opinion but the vast majority of people rebook for Group / Escorted trips as soon as they get back and these are becoming exceptionally popular.
Group trips avoid you having to find boat partners and paying single supplements etc, additionally you need to have some people to share the days highlights, and losses with over a cold beer.
Escorted / Hosted trips are our most popular holidays. Not only do you get all of the benefits of a group trip as above but you also have a point of contact before, during and after your trip who is experienced with the location / species / method and can answer all of your queries. Once a hosted trip is confirmed then we endeavour to get everybody together, whether physically, or virtually some time before the actual trip to ensure that everybody has some visibility of who is joining them. This is far better than waiting alone in a departure lounge trying to spot a fellow angler !!
Additionally you have somebody that can tie your leaders if required and who usually has plenty of spare lures / hooks / swivels / leaders etc. Alternatively you have somebody to talk to who can resolve any issues as soon as they arise.
A hosted trip should do several things, these are listed below :
- Make your trip enjoyable and help you get the most out of your fishing holiday. This is especially important if this is your first foray into this particular style of fishing.
- The cost of a hosted trip should not cost any more than an unhosted / unescorted trip. All of our prices are the same regardless if they are hosted or not.
- The host should have first hand knowledge of the location / species and methods to be used. It is impossible, for example to explain the raw power of a Cubera if you haven’t encountered it, or the acrobatic escapism of a Tigerfish if you haven’t lost plenty yourself.
- The host should not take a fishing place, their presence should be included in the head count. For example, if we offer a trip fishing 3 to a boat, it is not 3 to a boat plus a host, the host is included as one of these fishing places. A typical group size is 9 people, so on my trips it will be 8 customers plus me. Once everybody has the hang of things the host will fish but there will never be more than the 3 anglers per boat as paid for.
An overseas fishing trip can be one of the greatest angling experiences of your life, or the most disappointing if it isn’t as expected, or is not as you’d hoped or as was described.
If you are expecting monster tuna in a great location but in reality you end up spending 48 hours in a boat to get there before turning round after 2 days fishing then you are obviously not going to have a good trip.
By booking with a company that have actually fished the locations, and have actually caught the species that you are targeting you should be given more realistic expectations of how your trip will be. Not to say that it will not be a fantastic trip but the very least we can do is to promise that we will make it as good as possible for you by using our experience and giving you every opportunity to fulfil your angling dreams.
Take a look at what we have on offer at www.sfctravel.com or get in touch with me at JHeenan@sfctravel.com for any more details or to discuss any methods / locations or any other aspects of this article.