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Expectations vs Reality On A Fly In Fishing Trip

Loading the Otter in Nakina, Ontario

I realize that I am quite fortunate that I have been able to afford to spend a week every other year on a fly in fishing trip. These trip are not cheap, require quite a bit of planning, (Heck I wrote 4 blog posts on the ingredients to a successful trip ( Trip Planning 1 Trip Planning 2 Trip Planning 3 Trip Planning 4) and most jump off points require 5 + hours of travel just to get there. I have never had a bad trip and I want to try to keep doing them for as long as I can. But like most things in life it isn’t all sunshine and lollipops. Somewhere on the line reality will meet your expectations and, in some cases, they may not line up.

150 Fish Days

When I first started researching trips, I noticed that ‘150 Fish days, 2 guys in the boat” was mentioned quite a bit, seemingly as a measure of good fishing. As we prepared for our first trip the idea that at least one day would be a “150” day was top of mind, maybe 2! Well I have now been on quite a few trips including 3 fly ins and I have yet to come close to a “150 day” I think my best day has been about 25 -30 fish for myself and 50 – 60 fish between me and my partner. And you know what, those days were incredible! My hands were sliced up from teeth and fins, my shoulder stiff with trolling arm and sitting around the fire that night I felt like a king (and drank like one). I am not disputing that 150 fish days are possible or that many groups do achieve them, but I do think they are rare. My experience tells me that if you have never done a fly in trip before then overall the amount of fish you catch will feel like 150 even if its only 15.

Not 150 fish but a great haul nonetheless

Making Weight

If you spend a lot of time researching these trips (hop over to my links page for some great resources Links Page) you will undoubtedly come across a lot of threads around weight allowances. On most fly in trips your outfitter will have a posted weight limit for each person. If I had to guess at an average it would be 100 lbs of gear per person. If your trip is a housekeeping or outpost option, this will include food and beverages to. For our first trip this stressed me out a lot. I mean a case of beer alone weighs 20 lbs! So, my beer allotment was going to be 80% of my allowance from the get-go! I expected that we were going to be in for a huge bill once the outfitter realized we were hundreds of pounds over our allotment. Didn’t happen. Our outfitter worked with us and as first timers assured us that they would get our gear on the plane without any overage fees. Don’t get me wrong, I have heard stories from others that they have indeed been charged for extra weight but in my experience if you are upfront with your outfitter accommodations can be made. Flying beverages in ahead of time, leaving some items to come in on a check in flight, agreeing up front to an overage cost to avoid surprise fees are just a few days. Bottom line I probably didn’t need to earn the nickname “Weight Police” from my group and could have avoided some stress.

Getting ready to take off - are we over the limit!

All Lakes Fish the Same

When we booked our second fly in trip, I think it would be fair to say that we thought we had the walleye figured out. We would be fishing within 25 miles of our last trip with the same outfitter during the same week (end of August) as our last trip. We were set and we didn’t need to do any prep work or bring maps. So wrong! During our week on Shekak Lake (Trip Report) we experienced major weather shifts, new walleye behaviour and a much bigger lake. We did well and overall, we had an amazing time, but we really had to work for it. We made some classic mistakes – little to no lake study ahead of time, we had marked up maps and forgot them in the car, we really had no backup plan in terms of tactics. Basically, we expected to catch fish exactly as we did on our first trip – find a drop off, troll a bit and then jig. Well the lake was one big drop off and everything seemed fishy. When the cold fronts kicked in trolling was not very successful and most spots were good for a day and then vacant the next. We met all the time leading up to the trip but didn’t spend nearly as much time focused on fishing as we had previously. A good lesson to learn as prior to our latest trip we really did focus on tactics, spots, patterns and map work and it paid off. Just because you are going to be on a remote lake don’t expect the fish to just jump in the boat.

The result of a little pre trip research - walleye on a lindy rig!

So those are just a few examples of where expectations and reality didn’t line up for me. I am sure others have many more (feel free to leave a comment). As mentioned, these trips are magical, and I realize that I am fortunate to be able to do them. Going in with grounded expectations make them even better!

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May 09, 2020

That's awesome! Thanks for the comment and the pictures those are some awesome fish. Andrew



Andrew, thank you for this post. I have been traveling and fishing Ontario for 30 years. We have done everything from pulling boats to drive-in camps, renting equipment from drive-in camps, hauled in by boat with the full American plan and numerous fly-ins with a variety of outfitters. When we first started flying in we flew with Bob and Jack Green out of Red Lake. While sadly they have both passed away some of my best memories were made at a few of their outposts. This my buddy Jeff holding a 46.25" pike caught on Nungesser Lake ( in 2005. Beren's River and Shabu were also favorites with Greens. We have kept track of # of fish for years now.…

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