Research is the obvious place to start when thinking about planning a trip…any trip. For this series, I will utilize my knowledge of Canadian fishing to plan that perfect getaway. I will plan a do-it-yourself fishing trip from start to finish so that you guys can get a good idea of each step in my process. I think that a trip to Canada to fish should be a dream of any avid fisherperson. The natural beauty is unmatched, the wildlife is abundant, and the trophy fish are waiting. This information will show you how to plan that trip and how to make it easy and affordable.
When I decide to take a trip, the obvious first step is to figure out exactly what my goal is for that vacation and what my expectations are. For example, if my goal for my vacation is to catch monster pike, I choose to take my vacation in May or June. If my goal is trophy Lake Trout, the September spawn is when I want to be on the lake. It is very important to begin planning months in advance to ensure that you have ample time to budget for your trip and fully research every lake and lodge that falls within that budget.
As for the expectations, you need to decide what you want your trip to be. Do you want a fly-in adventure? A drive-in adventure? A campsite or a RV site? You need to really think about what you want this trip to be and what you can afford. Do not be discouraged if your budget does not allow a fly-in fishing trip to remote areas of the tundra. There are great drive-in lakes that are less expensive and offer fabulous fishing at a fraction of the cost. The only downside to those lakes are that they are more accessible to other fishermen. That does not mean you will not catch that monster…but it may mean you have to work harder for it.
Another important step to consider at this point in the planning stage is the amount of money you can afford to shell out from start to finish. We all know how expensive fishing can be. Therefore, it is VERY beneficial to just sit down and budget for your trip before you start researching any potential lakes or lodges. Be sure to include the amount you can spend on the lake or lodge, any expense for additional gear or tackle, gas money or airfare (or both), groceries, and miscellaneous items like fast food, hotels, and things like that. Also, remember that a do-it-yourself option will cost you less because it will be unguided and you will, most likely, be bringing your own food.
After figuring out your budget, the real fun can begin…RESEARCHING LAKES AND LODGES!!! The amount of information that is at your fingertips these days is truly amazing. The internet is an amazing source for planning your trip and most lakes and lodges (in all areas of the world) are now on the World Wide Web. I suggest doing a google search for camps and lodges in the area of the world that you choose to visit. Most countries (states and cities) have tourism boards that can send you a TON of information if you request them to do so, and often you can even sign up by email.
For a trip to Canada, there are number of options for beginning your research. First of all, look at all the materials from the tourism boards. I like to visit tourism websites such as http://www.travelmanitoba.com/, http://www.spectacularnwt.com/, http://www.sunsetontario.com/, http://www.sasktourism.com/, and http://www.allcanada.com/ (among others) to really get a feel for each region. I really like that these websites have in depth information on most camps or lodges in the areas that I really like to fish. There is no better place than Canada to find awesome fights from Pike, and these sites can lead you to the best lodges and lakes the country has to offer. Once you do some cursory research on the different regions of the country, you can narrow down which one you want to visit and eventually come to a conclusion on which one you want to fish.
Once you have settled on a region, you can begin the in-depth research of learning about the land, lakes, and lodges that the area has to offer. This part of the process is very important because it is where you begin learning about each lake and lodge and where you begin adding and cutting from your list of possibilities. I sincerely suggest keeping a notebook handy for this portion of the process. Writing everything down in one place will keep all the information clear and separate and will keep you from confusing one lodges prices with another. Plus, you can save all those notes for your next trip!!
For each lodge you research, write down the website, the phone numbers (many have two numbers-a summer and a winter), and the rates for the time of year you want to visit. The prices can vary so keep that in mind. If a lodge really intrigues you, but seems out of your price range, write it down anyway. Also, this is a great place to write down important information about the lake itself such as how big it is, how deep it is, what types of fish live there, the average size of fish caught there, and the size of the record fish caught there..but keep in mind that there is a tendency for camps to embellish a bit to make their camp look better. Make a list of your favorite lodges and lakes and really begin researching the quality of the lake. You can often find photos and reviews on the internet from folks that have visited that lake before. Do not be afraid to ask them what they thought and how the fishing really was. We are all fisherpeople with the same goal…if you ask, we will tell you!!
After you research the lakes and find the ones that best fits your needs, narrow down your list of lodges to the ones that interest and excite you the most. Then, pick up your phone and start dialing. Talking to the camp owners and managers is the ONLY way to really get a feel for the camp and the service that you can expect once you are there. It is also the only way to find out the exact rates of the trip. You will be spending quite a chunk of change on this trip so do some comparison shopping. Some camp owners and managers will work with you if they can afford to do so and sometimes will offer a discount or a group rate. Talk to them about your price limitations and they may offer a bargain…just do not expect it. Remember that your vacation is their livelihood so always be polite and never feel entitled.
Also, when speaking to the camp about rates be sure to ask some important questions: (1) what does the price cover and are boats, motors, and unlimited gas included; (2) is airfare to the camp included; (3)where does the flight depart from; (4) what meals are included in the price and will the price go down if I bring in my own food; (5) what, if any, amenities are there in camp; (6) what are the weight limitations and restrictions on the plane; (7) is there a camp manager on site or a satellite phone available; (8) is there heat/stoves/appliances/cookware on site; (9) when is the deposit and final payment due and what are the terms regarding cancellations of the trip whether by you or the camp itself; (10) are fish finders or a battery to run your own fish finder available to you; and (11) any other relevant question or issue that concerns you or that you feel you would like to know before your adventure. Never be afraid to ask!! Also, make sure that you explain that you are wanting the do-it-yourself/housekeeping option because some camps do not offer that plan up front. In some situations, you will have to specifically ask for an unguided/housekeeping plan.
Once you have spoken to the camps, you can finally mull the decision over and choose which camp is right for you. Take your time when choosing and make sure you are comfortable with your choice. After doing this, you can finally move forward to the next stage of planning your perfect trip.
Keep in mind that it is often necessary to plan these do-it-yourself trips with at least four people because you are often the only people on a lake. At remote locations, you want to make sure that you have at least two boats so that if something happens to one of them, you have a safe way to make it back to camp.
There you go. The first part of my five part series on planning your own do-it-yourself fishing trip. I hope that the tips that I have given here will help guide your planning efforts and show you all that it really isn’t all that hard!! PLUS…you get to talk to some really cool people who own their own fishing camps. That must be a pretty cool job!!
Stay tuned and check back because tomorrow its ALL ABOUT MAPS…
Lizzy aka The Fisherbabe