Fly Life Magazine

The value of fly fishing travel consultants vs. booking it all yourself

Deep Water Cay, Bahamas. Photo Frontiers International.

Today, booking a fly fishing destination is a serious undertaking. How to get concierge service for free

By Skip Clement / Photos, unless otherwise identified, are by Jim Klug

A resourceful and seasoned destination traveler of the fly fishing predilection will almost always rely on a Frontiers International or a Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures type outdoor travel company. They know that they get concierge service at no charge, the best destination to meet their personal goal, the best possible flights, safest ground connections, and that they will not be paying extra.

Profligate folks will gravitate to booking their flights, their stays, and waste endless hours getting it wrong. Websites, big little lies, un-bundled airline travel, and Google is counting on you

Lodge websites, even those foreign with US 800 call numbers, are in the business of attracting you as a client. Sometimes lodge websites fudge a little, and you don’t want your week there to be at the peak “fudge” time.

To be smart, as a self-booker, you need to hit the internet hard and become an unpaid and untried researcher trying to get the best out of your dollars. It can get complicated and in some cases have a dangerous outcome. The worst of it is, as a self-booker, you might have saved some money, but almost assuredly not likely the best fly fishing, which was the point in the first place.   

Looking at self-booking today – bidding for your family seats. One at a time?

Buying a plane ticket has been stripped down to mean that you are paying for your mere right to get on the plane; anything else is extra.

Un-bundling air travel has made flying increasingly unpleasant over the last two decades. Carriers have exhausted the necessities they can limit and then charge extra for, so they have moved on to selling “luxuries,” many of which used to be included in coach seating, for whatever price you are willing to pay.

The list of things not included with your plane ticket went from food, checked bags, and now it’s your literal seat assignment. You now need to bid for your seat

Booking your travel arrangements for that fly fishing trip of a lifetime to the Bahamas, Seychelles,  Russia, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Chile, or any passport required destination is not the frugal or wise way to approach that trip – even booking your non-passport destination is flawed.

The challenge a self-booker will face is an undefeatable gauntlet of technologies designed to screw you. For example, if you start searching Expedia, Orbitz, Hotwire, TripAdvisor, or any other travel booking service – including direct contact with Quantas, United, Air New Zealand, and your search is for the same destination, an algorithm will immediately note who you are, the URL’s you searched, and the destinations you searched. Your information is stored – come back a year later and as fast as you can type New Zea, they found your profile, and you’re going to fly, drive or stay where THEY want.

Google knows more about you than any federal agency. The algorithm owns you

That flight that was $900 round trip per person just a little bit ago is now $1,100… if you want the same date, time and seats you showed a preference. They got you, and there’s nothing you can do about it and the more you search, the more that algorithm knows about you – the “Google FBI” has profiled you.

What about dimming?

You need a room in Santiago, Chile because you wanted to be sure about being ready for the next transport the following day, and enjoy the culture that night. Initially, Expedia, or whomever you booked with, search results looked like a mistake. The accommodations that seemed okay to you were presented without photos – they were dimmed out?

As it turns out, the site was intentionally void of images to persuade you to book a different hotel. The practice, euphemistically called “dimming,” deliberately minimizes a hotel’s appearance and rank. You don’t know it, but you’re going to book a hotel that maximizes a return-on-investment. The travel company does not care that the hotel you wanted was better and right in the center of the district that has all the best restaurants and entertainment. Now you need a cab and go four miles.

Hire YOU, a complete novice, to make all the arrangements? I don’t think so!

Here are a few things you don’t have to deal if you book your next trip through a top-notch outdoor travel agency with fly fishing as a specialty, and the few things you have to do to have the most rewarding fly fishing adventure of your life.

Starting with what you need to put into the trip equation. It will look intuitive, but you’d be surprised.

1. Where do you want to go? Latin America, Russia, Alaska, The Bahamas, New Zealand… .?

2. Practice casting.

3. When do you want to go? Season at a destination?

4. Practice casting.

5. What is your accommodations tolerance? Bunk beds, gourmet meals, bugs, rough it off the grid, air conditioning, comfortable lodging?

6. Practice casting.

7. What species is your target?

8. Practice casting.

9. What is your budget?

10.Practice casting.

What you DO NOT have to concern yourself with, or do, if you book through a skilled outdoor travel company like Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures or Frontiers International:

1. You do not have to pour over dozens of lodge websites or wade through umpteen brochures and decide what claims are real and which claims are exaggerations. Yellow Dog and Frontiers have that covered better than you ever could. They’re as good at their job as you are at yours. They have nothing to lose or gain if you pick lodge A over lodge B or C and you will know the differences between them in real time. You’ll know more about “that” lodge then a lodge fly fishing guide does.

2. You don’t need to be a research analyst to get what you want. Lodges and for-profit destinations are in the business of selling what they have, sometimes have, and might have. It’s not that they’re lying, but they’re exaggerating. Frontiers and Yellow Dog have that all sussed out.

3. You will not arrive at your destination surprised to find the gear you thought you needed is illegal. Have flies that were good two months ago, but are now no good because of a migrating species.  Bring fly rods and reels that can’t handle Costa Rican tarpon or New Zealand kingfish. And you won’t bring fly rods and reels that are a laughable overkill for Alaskan Arctic char.

4. You will not suffer the consequences of your ego on fire and book your flights from New York Laguardia to a major city in South America and arrive with no one to meet you? You are entirely on your own. The hotel you booked for the night is a leap of faith.

The series of transports to your final destination include arrangements you made with independents suggested by the lodge. What about vetting here? How is your Spanish? If there’s a problem, there’s no one to call.

Now, you realize you gambled – you knew nothing about your pre-lodge accommodations or final destination transporters. And if anything goes sideways – who will fix things?

5. Here’s a real punisher for the know-nothing self-booker, and it happens more often than not. Your final bill at the end of your stay – you’re shocked. You had no idea that many offered things are not covered in your package. Now you’re stuck. You can’t leave the country without satisfying that bill.

6. You have no idea what the custom is for tipping. You don’t want to be the “Ugly American.”

If you booked with a first-class outdoor travel company, all the things you couldn’t possibly know about have been dealt with, smoothed over, managed, taken care of, and all those safety features are not a separate item on your invoice. You’re not paying more to be smart.

Can you book your accommodations, manage your flights, hotels, interchanges, and get all the gear, flies, rod and reels right? Sure. But why would you be doing that? You just created work and gambled with your vacation success and friends’ or family’s time.

THE BAHAMAS

One of the places we treasure most is The Bahamas. We have written about their many islands, fly fishing them – when, where and how, multiple times over the last ten years, and will continue to do so.

We’ve even extensively bashed the politics of The Bahamas’ newfound Popularism as it may still negatively affect foreigners angling visits, access to the flats and the cost to fish, but radical new laws are in abeyance right now and have not changed anything.

You can go family style, fish just like you used to. No new laws are in effect as of this writing

The Bahamas is still the best bonefish angling paradise for US, European, and Canadian anglers. Yes, there is Belize, Honduras, Cuba, Seychelles, and Mexico – even Hawaii, but they are not the equivalent of the Bahamas’ 180,000 square miles of ocean space dotted with 700 islands, cays, and islets nudged up against the Atlantic Ocean and all featuring bonefish.

Here are a few more things to consider and why you should book your next trip through a top-notch outdoor travel agent

They know all there is to know about their Bahamian properties, the owners and staff, the entirety of the fishery, equipment and all the minutia that makes every discernment of your “ology” as pleasure packed a possible.

They know as much as an expert on the “art” of bonefishing – from booties to glass wipes and everything in between.

Financially stable and insured

Travel assurance – you get the best possible bookings in a not so easily managed travel destination. The Bahamas is more than civilized but some smaller islands do not have the 21-century infrastructure and negotiating that condition is best left to professionals to unravel…  if there’s a transportation problem – you have a friend.

They have in-house staff that will go over your needs detail by detail, and that’s a big part of your success

We’re only profiling two outdoor travel agencies for you, and that does not mean they’re the only two you should consider. It’s just that Frontiers and Yellow Dog are at the head of the class.

Booking your fly fishing trip to a foreign destination has inherent risks and yesterday’s are not today’s

Traveling to the Seychelles or Guyana – even the Bahamas. And you’ll look a lot smarter assigning that task to professionals, hey; you’d still be in charge.

Booking your destination fly fishing trip with Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures or Frontiers International other serious advantages:

Frontiers International is the grand-daddy of sophisticated, experienced, and highly knowledgeable travel service to destinations for the fly angling enthusiast.

We have booked through Frontiers in Pittsburgh since they began in 1969. They are now in the second generation of Fitzgerald management. Frontiers’ staff is made up of long-term employees that know How To bonefish, and are glad to share what they know.

Joseph Linscott (JL), Senior Program Manager Bahamas:

FLM: Joe, Mike and Susie Fitzgerald were friends of mine and our travel group of six. We met Mike in 1969, and he booked us into Cree Indian property in northern Quebec, Canada – fly fishing for big brookies. We went back a few times; it was special.

 When did Frontiers connect with the Bahamas lodges?

Joe Linscott (JL): Our relationship with the Bahamas and coordinating bonefishing trips for our clients there commenced in the late 1970’s. There were primarily two lodges we worked with at that time, and they were Deep Water Cay and the Andros Island Bonefish Club.

Now for more than 30 years we’ve expanded our reach and have sent clients to numerous other islands such as Acklins, Crooked, Long, Abaco, Moores and Eleuthera to name a few. We’re always on the lookout for the next great lodge/outfitter or the future fantastic fishery.

FLM: What sort of experience do you personally have that would make a difference with a client wanting to “do” the bonefishing thing in the Bahamas?

JL: In the Bahamas area alone, Saltwater Manager Joe Codd and I have nearly 35 years of combined experience fishing and sending clients to this part of the Atlantic. In addition to being passionate fly anglers; we’re gear junkies too.

Have a question about what rod, reel or flies to take on your trip? We’re here to help. Our gear partner The Fly Fishers out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin is another valuable resource. They have all the gear and expertise to assist you in choosing any tackle, equipment, clothing or accessories for your trip.

FLM: Why book with Frontiers?

JL: Our advice and services don’t come at any additional cost to you.

We pride ourselves on offering unbiased firsthand knowledge of our lodges and the waters that get fished. We regularly visit these lodges to stay current on any changes in the property and to evaluate the fishing continuously. We can compare and contrast one lodge to another, one island or fishery to another, and make experienced based recommendations to meet your objectives for the perfect fishing vacation.

Our approach is to have a well-established and thoroughly researched menu of offerings that we have thoroughly vetted. We don’t think to offer every lodge under the sun does anyone any favors, and therefore you’ll see that we have cherry picked about a dozen lodges throughout the Bahamas.

In addition to our regular staff familiarization travels, we have relied heavily on feedback from our clients returning from these various destinations.

FLM: One issue that has a lot to do with cost, convenience and safety has to do with transportation. What can you tell us about you in-house travel services?

JL: Our in-house airline’s department is a service our clients have come to rely upon highly. They will research and find you the best flights, connections, and fares for your trip and monitor those flights during your travels.

If your travels are interrupted or for whatever reason you may require assistance; we are just a phone call or email away.

Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures:

Director of Saltwater Operations, Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures, Ian Davis

FLM: Ian, If I recall from talking to you about the Bahamas at the ICAST Show, you mentioned having more properties in the Bahamas than anyone else. Is there a plan there in so having that claim?

ID: Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures represents and works with 31 different lodges and fishing operations on nine different Bahamian islands, giving us the largest, most diverse line-up of destinations in the booking agent world. From high-end couples and family-friendly resorts to hard-core, off-the-grid, fishing-focused lodges, we pride ourselves on matches anglers to the Bahamian destination that is right for them.

Bahamas Program Director, Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures, Doug McKnight

FLM: What information from clients makes you sort out a place in the Bahamas that best meets their profile?

DM: The Bahamas is an incredibly diverse and complicated country when it comes to fishing, and the differences between the many out-island fisheries and lodge locations are significant.

Being sure that you have the right information, details and specifics is a big thing when booking a trip to the Bahamas. Factors like tides, moon phases, time of year, and of course having the right guide are all super important when booking a Bahamas package, and that, of course, is precisely where Yellow Dog factors in.

Director of Operations, Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures, Jim Klug

FLM: You and I discussed this before. The big issue isn’t for this season, but the future. Will the populists, Prescott Smith et al., prevail in passing punitive foreign visitor rules?

JK: The recent situation with complex and poorly-planned fishing regulations in the Bahamas (and the lack of clarity on how exactly these regulations do or do not affect visiting anglers) has certainly been an issue.

We’ve spent a lot of time over the past two years working with clients to ensure that they have positive, legal and problem-free trips to the Bahamas.

We have the most extensive line-up of Bahamian destinations of any booking agent in the business, and our connections and knowledge base in the Bahamas makes a huge difference for our Yellow Dog clients.


SIDEBAR:

FRONTIERS

USA: 1-800-245-1950 UK: +44 (0)1285 700 940

Frontiers International, 600 Warrendale Rd., Gibsonia, PA 15044-6037

1-800-245-1950 1-724-935-1577

info@frontierstravel.com www.frontierstravel.com www.frontiersej.com

Website . . . 

YELLOW DOG

USA: 888-777-5060 Intl 01-1-406-585-8667

info@yellowdogflyfishing.com

Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures

213 S Willson Ave, Bozeman, MT 59715

Website . . . 

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