I traveled three thousand miles to the Mexican Baja and the baitfish disappeared. So, too, did the roosters who feed on them. Flew fifteen hundred to chase South Padre reds, only to be blown off the Gulf by thirty-knot winds and freak thunderstorms. Twice. Verified emphatically that rain in the far-flung Bahamas is tough on the bonefishing. There’s something about traveling thousands of miles and getting utterly skunked that puts a man to thinking. Was it worth it? Why didn’t I just stay on my home waters where I know I can catch fish? Why go to the trouble?
They’re dumb questions, all, to my way of thinking, because if the sole purpose of your fly-fishing destination trips is to catch fish, you’re missing the point. There’s so much more to be gained by stretching your limits.
Friends – If you’re doing it right, you’re traveling with good friends and, hopefully, making new ones along the way. I am fortunate to have fishing buddies scattered around the country and getting a few days with them, once or twice every year or two, makes the trip worthwhile. Spending it on the water is gravy.
New places, new cultures – Nothing opens your eyes like relocation. New foods, new routines, new languages. So when you get away, don’t spend your time at the lodge or resort. Get out. See the real life. Don’t take any unnecessary chances, mind you. Play it safe. But don’t stay in the bubble. Learn what the rest of the world is like.
Expanding your skillset – You already know how to fish your home waters. You’re an expert there. But chasing a new species (or even chasing a familiar one in new territory) gives you the opportunity to discover diverse techniques and develop new approaches. Be sure to listen to the locals. Don’t assume that you, big-shot traveling angler, know best. You’re on their home waters now. They’re the experts.
Creating new stories – I’ve found two things to be true when it comes to recounting one’s travels. First, the most boring recollections are about the fishing itself. All the “stuff” that surrounds it is more entertaining. Second, the more horrible the experience, the better the story. That rainbow you caught will be forgotten long before that epic sunburn is. Embrace the disasters. (And embellish them.)
Learn to appreciate what you have – Dorothy was right. There’s no place like home. But you don’t really appreciate it until you’ve been elsewhere.
So whether it’s thousands of miles or a couple of hours of driving, go. Get out of your comfort zone. Stretch yourself as far as you can afford or are able. Bottom line, you can’t have that trip-of-a-lifetime if you don’t take the risk. And even if you come back home having caught absolutely nothing, chances are that you’ll come back a better fisherman and, more importantly, a more rounded person.
Get out there and get skunked.