Trouts Journal

Fly Fishing Road Trip Prep

Tanner Smith / May 31, 2023

Fly fishing road trips are something that we all look forward to! You can also consider some of these tips for a Saltwater destination trip, but this is mostly directed towards those trips that require long hours in the car while exploring all the West has to offer. There are generally going to be two types of planners in the group.

Planner Type 1 - This is going to be the person that attempts to have every single detail of the trip worked out. They will have spoken to 5 different fly shops in the area, read every fishing report dating back to 2009, and have all the stops along the way picked out. It isn't the worst idea to have someone like this in the group, but sometimes they don't have all the answers.

Planner Type 2 - This is going to be the person that pretty much just gets in the car and may or may not even know exactly where you are headed. Generally, this person will be more than happy to let the above-mentioned planner work out all the details and Venmo his or her share of the costs. It isn't the worst or the best to be this type of planner! Trips hardly go as planned so having people that are pretty much down for whatever makes things easier when trip details change.

I would say I fall somewhere in the middle of these two types of planners. With that being said, here are some things that I consider when getting ready for long car rides...

Take Multiple Cars

A lot of people might disagree with me on this. However, anytime the group is three or more I think this is almost a must. Yes, I understand that it makes things more expensive and someone might end up driving alone, but the benefits outweigh the costs in my opinion. If you are heading West for a fishing road trip, chances are you will be in remote areas that don't generally have the best cell phone service. Mix that in with the fact that cars will be cars and having a backup never hurts. I have learned this lesson the hard way more than a couple of times. Trust me when I say being stuck on a random dirt road in the middle of nowhere Wyoming or Montana really cuts into your fishing time. Will the local that eventually drives by help you out? Of course, they will, but sometimes that can take hours so having a backup vehicle in case something goes wrong is a nice safety net.

There are two other major benefits of taking two cars. The first advantage is having extra room to pack all the stuff required for a long road trip. Secondly, if you are bringing a boat, having a built-in shuttle service saves you money and gives you a little more freedom on where and when you float.

Don't Be So Set on the Plan

This is going to be a tough one for certain people to handle. Do I like having a general idea and usually stick to the plan? Yes, however allowing for some wiggle room can lead to some great things. Remember that if you are heading to a destination out West that has a lot of literature written about it chances are you won't be the only one there. I am not saying that crowds at places like the Missouri, North Platte, Bighorn, South Fork, or Madison should deter you from fishing them. All I am saying is if you are on your way to one of these places and drive over some small creek or tributary that looks amazing, stop and freaking fish it. Some of my best days on fishing road trips have been days spent fishing a creek I didn't know the name of until I got back home and found it on the map.

Be Prepared for Any Weather Condition

This is a simple one. Bring enough gear and food/water/beer for unexpected situations. Even if its August and the weather forecast is showing 85 degrees all week, I will still have my waders, boats, and a set of layers with me. This mostly applies to the younger crowd. Don't be the one who only brings one or two shirts and didn't bring a raincoat.

Utilize Local Fly Shops but, DON'T Depend on them

This is something I can't stress enough. Use the fly shop for intel on flows and fishing reports to give you a general idea of what is happening, but don't rely on them to catch fish for you. This will make your fly shop experience better. Don't expect to show up in a small town out west and bombard the employees with a thousand questions about exactly where to go, what exact flies to use, what tippet to have etc. Have a plan of attack before going into the fly shop. If I am in a new area and will be there for more than a few days it's my routine to generally head to the local shop each morning with the intent of spending money each time and building a relationship with the employees. While they might not spill too many secrets on your first or second stop, you'd be surprised how much they might open up to you if they see that you're willing to take some hard knocks of figuring out new water on your own and showing back up every day.

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