You have made the decision to take a trip. You've selected your guide, you've booked the hotel room, your travel plans have been made, and you think you have everything covered. But, do you really? Being properly prepared for your upcoming fishing adventure requires more than just showing up. I don't care if your trip involves walking a stream, being poled across the flats on a boat, or just sitting in the back of an offshore boat, waiting for something to slam a trolled bait. There are things you need to do to be fully prepared and to maximize your full enjoyment and possibility of success on the trip.
The first thing you are going to do is make your travel plans. This will include how your getting to your destination and where you are staying. If possible, always try to arrive to your destination at least a day early. This will give you plenty of time to relax and catch up on sleep before your fishing trip. It also gives you an extra day if the travel plans don't go quite as they should, cancelled flight, flat tire, bad rental vehicle, the list goes on. Think of that day as a cushion so you don't have to feel overly rushed. The plans will also include where you are going to stay. Unless you have been to the area before, this is where your fishing guide may be able to help you. When clients call me, I have a couple of places that I tell them about. They vary in amenities and price range, but they are all comfortable, safe, and within easy driving distance of where we are fishing. Being within a short drive can be a huge benefit if you are planning on fishing early; it can be difficult to wake up at o'dark thirty for an hour or two hour drive to the boat ramp for a pre-sunrise launch.
This is NOT When You Want Gear Failure!
The next thing you want to have prepared and ready to go, is your equipment. If you plan on taking your own gear, then you want to make sure it is in working order. Unfortunately, a lot of people only use their gear when they are on trips. I get it, life happens and you probably don't get to fish as much as you want. Prior to leaving home, do an full inspection of your rods, reels, cameras, rain gear, and anything else you are taking and plan on using. Make sure the guides on your rods aren't cracked, broken, or missing. Check the reel seats and make sure they aren't loose. I suggest doing this early, not the night before, so you can get them fixed if you need to. Even if your rods have been in storage, in tubes, since your last trip, inspect them! Sometimes things happen and you don't realize it. The last place you want to find a problem is when you step on the boat or into the water. The same thing applies to your reels. Check the drag systems, the line, and all other moving parts. Fix and replace as needed. As for your incidental gear (rain jackets, cameras, glasses, etc) do a good inspection of each of these items and either replace or fix questionable gear.
So, now that we have your travel and gear taken care of, everything is done, right? No, not if you want to have your best chances of success and enjoyment. Now it is time to think about the actual fishing and how you can be prepared for that. If you ever watch someone training for a marathon run, a long bike ride, or any other type of competition, you'll notice that their training and preparation starts well in advance; even those that train year round, train for their upcoming specific event in different manners. One of the biggest things you can do is prepare yourself with proper hydration EARLY! I'm not talking the morning of a trip or even the day before a trip. I'm talking the entire week before a trip. The vast majority of people do not intake enough liquids in a day to stay properly hydrated; I'm one of them. When you spend a day in the sun, whether you are working or just sitting there, it is quite easy to become dehydrated and it happens quick. It happens even quicker if you started out partially dehydrated. So, start early drink water and electrolytes to fully hydrate your body before hitting the water. Then, throughout the trip, take time to hydrate!
Another important aspect of "training" for your trip is to make sure you can are physically prepared to partake in your chosen fishing activity. This may mean taking some evening or morning walks, so you can be prepared to wade a stream all day. It may include some weight training, so that you are able to handle fighting a tarpon, sailfish, marlin, or tuna. This doesn't require you going to gym and becoming a muscle head, it just means go, lift a little weight and prepare your body to use muscles you might not use in your daily routine. Personally, if I know I am going to be spending a few days offshore, I also like to hit the chiropractor before, to make sure my back, shoulders, and hips are adjusted; I schedule one after my return for the same thing. These little things are important, especially if your daily routine is fairly sedintary, as it can keep you from injuring yourself on the trip or from becoming physically exhausted before your trip is over.
Stay Fit to Win a Fight Like This
The next part of your "training" may be the most important part. The exception to this is if you are going on an offshore trolling excursion. This training revolves around your casting. It doesn't matter what type of casting you will be doing, you need to practice and be prepared. Talk with your guide as far in advance as you can. Ask them for realistic guidance on casting and then practice it as often as you can before the trip. The video below is my guide for fly anglers coming to fish with me. No, it doesn't cover everything I may need to them to do, but it does cover the vast majority of situations they will face. I can also have them adapt it to spinning or plug gear, just by having them practice with those instead. I want clients to be prepared and comfortable for realistic fishing conditions as much as possible; I've never met any guide that didn't. Remember, you are spending good money and time to take this trip! Your guide's job is to get you to the fish, not catch them for you. I tell all of my clients: I can get you close to the fish, but the last 40-60 feet is all on you! I'm amazed at how many people fail to prepare and we can spend half the day giving on the water lessons and missing a ton of fish.
There is one last thing you can do to be as prepared as possible. The night before your trip, make sure to get proper rest and avoid over consumption of alcohol or foods that tend to bother you. There is little worse than trying to spend a day in the bright sun and heat with a hangover or a stomach that is doing roller coaster loops. The night before is the perfect time for a light meal, plenty of water, and a good night's sleep. This way, you'll arrive at the designated location rested, hydrated and ready to enjoy your upcoming adventure.
I hope that you found this useful and maybe it gave you some things to think about for an upcoming trip. If you have any other ideas or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments.