Destination Fly Fishing On The Cheap

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Everyone wants to fish like a rock star, but not everyone has the budget.

Fortunately you don’t have to have deep pockets to have big fly fishing adventures. While storied Atlantic salmon rivers and Christmas Island my stay off the list, there’s plenty of awesome fishing in reach and you can have a quality experience without spending a lot of money.

I’ve done a lot of budget fly fishing travel. While I get some really great fishing opportunities these days I’m still pretty frugal in how I take advantage of them. There’s not a lot of first class seats on the G&G tour bus. Over time, I’ve figured out how to stretch a dollar pretty far and how to maximize my chances of success.


Here are some tips for destination fly fishing on the cheap

Choosing a location

_DSC7151This is the cornerstone of a great fishing trip. Every decision and outcome depends on making a good choice of fishing location. There’s lots to think about, so take some time and make a solid choice. Here are a few things to think about when choosing a location.

  • The Experience

What kind of experience are you looking for? You could choose a total immersion like boat camping where you are on the water every minute, or you could travel to a new place with lots to offer culturally or things for the family to do while you’re fishing. There’s no wrong answer. What matters is that you come home feeling that your time and money were well spent. Know what you want and be careful where you compromise.

  • The Timing

Where you fish may depend on when you can go. Ideally you’ll be able to hit the location you choose when the fishing is at its absolute best, but there are plenty of variables. It might not be so fun to bang it out on a famous river during peak season, so you may choose to throw streamers after school back is in session rather than fish dry flies in a throng. You might, like I do, choose to go bone fishing in the winter to get away from the cold, knowing you might catch more fish in April when the weather is unbearably hot and there are clouds of horse flies. It may also be a matter of finding a place where the fishing is good the week you have time off. Do your research and know what to expect.

  • The Weather

Weather is always a source of stress when planning a fishing trip. I gave up worrying about it a long time ago. There’s always a chance you’ll get bad weather and the best thing you can do is be prepared for it. Do your best to choose a place and a time where the odds are in your favor, then plan on the worst happening. If your destination is saltwater, be sure to check the tides. That one can be pretty tough to work around.

  • Travel Cost

Of course, one of the biggest factors is the cost of getting there. You can save and plan, but some locations may remain out of reach. I always want to travel as cheaply as possible. There are plenty of other things I like to spend my money on once I’m there. I’d rather take a miserable, cheap flight and hire a guide than fly first class and get skunked. If your dream location is just not cheap to get to, you’ll have to be determined and creative. More on that in a bit.

  • Local Contacts

When possible, I like to have an informant on the inside. Someone I can talk to before I go and once I’m there. It might be a friend, a helpful shop, or someone you trust on social media. Having a local informant will help you be better prepared and make the most of your time on the water. All things being equal, I’ll always fish where I know someone. Especially if they are single and have a big couch.

Choosing a partner

DSC_7991A great way to keep things affordable is to share the cost with a friend or two. Traveling together can also be a great way to end friendships and ruin trips. Travel is stressful and everyone has expectations, even if they don’t know it. Be sure that you are comparable as both travel and fishing partners. Test the water by taking some short trips together before you plunge into a 2-week excursion. Talk about handling expenses and what to do when things go wrong before you set out. Commit yourself to being a good travel partner and work at it. Don’t make your buddy tell you it’s your turn to row.

Air travel tips

Air travel is the biggest line item on my expense list. I’m not afraid of a long drive, but sometimes it’s more practical, and even less expensive, to fly. I have learned a few tricks which help take the sting out of airfares.

Be flexible

Being flexible with your timing lets you be a more effective bargain shopper. Take advantage of airline sales and promotions. Having an extra day off at both ends of your trip can be hard to swing but it too can make a big difference in what you spend. Which brings me to my next point.

Get bumped

Airlines all over book flights these days and are usually looking for someone to take a later flight. You generally get flight credit for your trouble and getting bumped on an obligatory trip might pay for a vacation  flight. I managed to fly to the Bahamas five times off of one ticket this way.

Getting bumped can pay off even bigger. If you get bumped off of a flight against your will, you can actually get paid. The airline will offer you the chance to volunteer, and they will make it sound like a good deal by offering you meal and hotel vouchers. Here’s what they don’t tell you. If they bump you against your will, you get a check on the spot for eight times the price of your ticket up to $1600 and the airline is still legally obligated to send you out on their next flight. It pays to read the fine print.

Use points and miles

Dedicating yourself to one airline can pay off in the long run. It has been easy for me to fly Delta as Atlanta is their hub and I can fly virtually anywhere non-stop. My wife and I flew to Europe this spring with miles and used credit card points for our Airbnb. The trip was very inexpensive.

Why not drive

DSC_2775I’m OK with wearing down a set of tires. Driving, even three or four days of it, can make a trip more affordable, more productive, and often more fun. If you just focus on the time spent in the car vs. the money to fly, it doesn’t seem that appealing but there are a lot of other reasons to drive.

  • Saves Airfare

Although it makes sense to do the math. Sometimes a plane ride is a bargain.

  • Saves Car Remtal

Renting a car is often more expensive than a plane ticket. It’s nice to have your own.

  • Makes it Easy to Camp

Camping takes hotel costs off the table and I think it makes for a better experience.

  • Broadens the Experience

You see a lot when you drive. I sometimes visit old friends and discover places I’d never have seen.

  • Gives You Flexibility

Driving can save a trip when conditions get tough. A bust trip to Wyoming might turn into a great trip to Colorado when the rivers all blow out.

  • Allows You to Take a Boat

If you have a boat, the stakes go way up. I don’t mind dragging my Adipose out west. Having a boat opens up a lot of water.


This is simple but seldom done. Make a realistic budget for your trip and start a savings account. It’s so much easier than dealing with a credit card bill after the fact. I had a great angler  join me on a bonefish trip. He quit smoking and saved his cigarette money for a year. It paid for his trip and he’ll live longer.

Maximizing your chance of success.

  • Do Your Research

edit-8711It pays to spend time learning what to expect. These days there is a ton of information online (much of it right here) but don’t discount books and the hard won experience of other anglers. If you know someone who fished there, take them to lunch and pick their brain. Know as much as you can about the water, the weather, places to stay and things to see before you go.

  • Get Local Info

Call a shop or reach out on social media. See if you can find a local informant to help you make the best of your trip.

  • Hire a Guide

There’s no better way to shorten the learning curve than to hire a guide. Do it the first day and you’ll learn so much about the fishery. If you are doing something new, like your first saltwater trip, don’t even think of going it alone. Spend the extra cash and you’ll have a much better trip.

  • Know the Regs and Water

It’s just good common sense to know the regs before you go. You don’t want to show up in July for some epic spring creek fishing and find the streams don’t open until August.

  • Carry Backup Gear

Never go on a trip with one rod, or reel or line for that matter. Carry wader repair supplies, extra boot laces, tent poles, anything that’s easy to carry and might ruin a trip.

  • Take a tying kit

Being able to knock out a few more of the hot pattern back at camp can make a huge difference in your trip.

  • Explore

No matter how good your local informant is, there’s something they’re not telling you. Use your instincts. If it looks good, fish it. You may find your next favorite water.

  • Have a Plan B

A good plan is one that can change. If conditions are not right on you target water, always have a plan B in mind. The river might be blown out and the mountain lakes be on fire.

G&G Hosted Trips

IMG_4819The best part of my job is introducing anglers to some of my favorite places to fish. From bonefishing in the Bahamas and Steelheading in Oregon to golden dorado in Argentina, G&G hosted trips deliver an awesome total experience. You can learn about how hosted trips work and whether they are right for you here.


Here are a couple of good reasons to consider a hosted trip:

  • Let Me Show You The World’s Greatest Fishing
  • Let Me Do the Leg Work
  • Take Advantage of the Education
  • Fish With Good People
  • Fish With Trusted Outfitters
  • Knock Out That Bucket List!

I hope these tips for destination fly fishing help you get out and have some adventure. It’s an amazing world out there and while there are a lot of great days on your home water, you don’t know what you’re missing until you go. I hope I see you out there.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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5 thoughts on “Destination Fly Fishing On The Cheap

  1. Another way to go on the cheap is to hire a guide at one of the destinations off of a cruise ship. Prior to the cruise, call a guide, or email, make arrangements to be picked up and dropped off. I’ve done this several times, saved lots of money and had successful trips. There are articles if interested, just Google.

  2. Pingback: Destination Fly Fishing On The Cheap – Gink and Gasoline  | A Fly Rod in My Sea Bag

  3. Good advice – I like the part about driving. I make a Canadian fishing trip each summer…and I won’t go on a fly in because I want MY boat and MY gear.

    I’d consider a hosted trip if it was to chase muskies and pike…and it was affordable.

    My annual, week long Canadian fishing trip runs about $750, all in.

  4. I grew up in Florida so I know some of the areas there pretty well. I used to take a friend, tow my boat, eat dinner out somewhere almost every night and even go party a couple of nights on the trip. My trips used to run about $1000 for a week. That was for everything. Had lots of fun, boy did we ever!

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