In January of 2020, I had travel plans and aspirations. I was hoping to visit Washington early in the year for steelhead, I contemplated a trip to Mexico in search of roosterfish from the beach and mahi-mahi inshore. Fishing for permit in Belize and Cuba even crossed my mind. By March of 2020 all of those plans had crumbled.
And I’m sure I’m not alone. As the saying goes… things happen.
I love to travel and fly fish so I recently sat down with Jim Klug from Yellow Dog Fly Fishing to see what he learned over this past year as well as get his outlook and perspective for the future. Jim is Director of Operations at Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures and is an amazing photographer and he’s shared some of his photography with Trouts (you can find him on Instagram @jtklugphotography).
Trouts Fly Fishing (TFF): What's the Yellow Dog outlook on domestic and international fishing travel at this point? Obviously, things are very fluid and ever changing, but what are you sharing with your clients who I'm sure are looking to Yellow Dog for advice?
Jim Klug (JK): Right now, things are definitely looking up, and there is an open path to entry for numerous international destinations. Belize, the Yucatan, Baja, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras are all presently open, and we’ve had clients there throughout the late summer and fall months. Needless to say, the fishing has generally been fantastic! All international lodges are seeing very little traffic right now, so near-term availability and prime guide availability is going to be great in the months ahead. People need to be comfortable traveling, but if they are, there are definitely a lot of great options out there right now. We are also expecting that Chile and Argentina will be in play and open by the end of December, and Brazil and Bolivia are expected to operate for 2021 as well. Bottom line is there are some great options now and for the immediate future. Long term we are telling people to look ahead for both 2021 and 2022. Once things are fully open and people have access to the vaccines, we expect a tsunami of anglers that want to get back out there. Demand is going to be huge for at least the next couple of years, so our advice is to book early and start planning now.
TFF: “Book early and start planning now” – good advice, I’ll take that. What are five domestic destinations that fly anglers could be thinking about for the Spring 2021 season?
JK: Obviously, the US West is where the majority of domestic options are, and – much like this past summer – we expect a lot of people will fish close to home for the coming summer. Same thing as with our international trips: plan now and book your lodge, outfitter or guide reservations much earlier than you normally would, as things are going to book up fast. Montana, Alaska, Louisiana, Idaho … now is the time to plan ahead.
TFF: Same question for international destinations?
JK: Right now, we are doing a lot in Belize, the Bahamas, the Yucatan, Costa Rica and Guatemala. All are presently open and the fishing has been off the charts. It also looks like South America will be in play and totally possible in early 2021, so there will be a season. Bolivia has also announced that the 2021 season WILL happen, so if people are interested in a golden dorado trip down there, it would be good to start now. We have a handful of prime spots still open and available in both 2021 and 2022, but they will go fast.
TFF: If readers haven’t fished for golden dorado and have an interest in a bucket-list adventure, Bolivia and Argentina are both locations to look into. How have things changed since earlier in 2020, what has Yellow Dog learned as what have outfitters and lodges learned?
JK: Looking back over the past year, we’ve definitely learned some valuable and important lessons. We’ve also been reminded of so many things that are important on both a personal and professional level. All told, Yellow Dog has had to navigate some tricky waters in 2020, and along the way, our team has gained (and re-gained) some valuable perspective on the importance of fishing, friendships, relationships and communication.
Perhaps the biggest take-away is that having an agent working on your behalf is huge – especially when things get difficult. We saw this play out time and again in 2020. While we were not always able to immediately fix things or deliver the perfect answer for cancelled trips, we worked tirelessly for our customers – operating on their behalf and looking out for their interests. Having an agent like Yellow Dog (the largest creator of trips for many of the lodges in the industry) often-times made a difference. For people that had booked on their own or through a smaller hobby agent, the outcomes – and the solutions offered – were often-times markedly different. The second big thing that we learned is that tenacity and persistence goes a long way when it comes to re-bookings, rescheduling trips, and other resolutions. In the beginning of the pandemic, many operators and lodges were unprepared or unable to provide optimal solutions for cancelled or affected trips. Over time, however, we were able to work with many of these operations – on behalf of our clients – to secure better solutions and improved offers. Patience pays! Next lesson: Being nice matters. When the s*** really hits the fan, that is the time that you truly see the very best of people, and also the very worst. Luckily, the vast majority of our customers and clients were patient, nice and incredibly understanding throughout the pandemic, realizing that the world shutting down was not our fault nor the fault of the lodges or guides. The entire destination angling infrastructure took a devastating hit in 2020, and – unlike major airlines or cruise ship companies – there were no industry bail-outs. Every lodge, guide, outfitter and agent has been hurt by this, and for every one of you who was kind, patient and understanding in the face of cancelled trips and disrupted fishing plans, know that it was very much appreciated! And finally, we were all reminded that having a solid and healthy destination angling infrastructure is crucial to our sport. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve known that – eventually – things would get back to normal and we’d be able to get back to doing what we love most: traveling and fishing the world. Having a lodge to return to (or your favorite guide still around to fish with) is a big deal, so being supportive of this infrastructure matters.
TFF: Well said. What's your 2021 outlook and anything else to share with Trouts clients and those who love adventure travel and fly fishing?
JK: We are definitely seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, and we know that eventually (and hopefully very soon!) we’ll all be able to get back doing what we love: traveling and fishing the world. I personally expect that by late spring 2021, just about everything destination-wise will be open and in play. The vaccine news has been incredibly positive, and the new year is going to be better. We’re still here, and we’re going to emerge from all of this stronger and better than ever. We know that a lot of people are chomping at the bit to get back on the water, and we’re looking forward to making that happen.
TFF: Thanks Jim. That’s a wrap.
Trouts would like to give Jim and Yellow Dog a big shout out and “Thank You” for the continued partnership and collaboration over the years. I’ve personally booked trips through Yellow Dog and I look forward to doing it again very soon. For more on Yellow Dog visit yellowdogflyfishing.com and to check out more of Jim’s jaw-dropping photography take an e-trip to klugphotos.com. If you’re thinking about planning a trip, have gear questions or are just looking for travel ideas, don’t hesitate to give the shop a call or stop in. - Ed