As flats fishing has exploded into a global fishery, there's many exciting species sight-cast, caught and released in knee-deep water. The first wave of exploring anglers may find habitat and fisheries in far-flung places that are incredible because of their remoteness — a relative term. Yet, horror stories of problems, crises and actual harm to anglers are not infrequent because the destinations, guides, owners, supplies and local governments are shaky, inexperienced, on a shoestring budget and poorly equipped.
Then, of course, there is the matter of safety and crime in an intended destination. Always check the U.S. Department of State's Current Travel Warning before traveling. The U.S. government has no reason to exaggerate!
Before you settle on a destination, check out your guide, their availability and their skiffs by asking or getting written verifiable responses. Unless you're working flats within sight of your lodge and with fully given float/fish plans TO THE ONSITE LODGE PERSON, you absolutely should have cell phone and VHF radio backup.
Try to visualize running 20 miles in a 16-foot tiller handle skiff and your engine dies; your youthful guide looks up at you with a quizzical, good-natured smile. What's your next step? Wait for another boat? When will that be? This has nothing to do with those countries, but it does with the people that run those camps, as well as poorly-trained, poorly-equipped flats fishing guides. Some intrepid souls treat these situations as adventure and inevitable manifestations of new, unfolding areas. I am grateful for this, as these problems should have been rectified by the time it becomes a possibility for me.
I want my safety concerns addressed right away, so I can stow them and enjoy the flats fishing experience. I insist that the guide, skiff and the lodge have what it takes or else I do not recommend them. I also respond to the inquiries of other anglers why I never bothered with certain destinations. I always involve the camp owners, guides and outfitters with any problem, so they can respond and correct it, as well as to see if they simply care.
The most important thing for the globe-trotting flats angler is to do their homework or have it done for them by a good outfitter who has these destinations as part of their inventory. Be sure to check out the outfitter as well — generally the well-established outfitters have done site inspections and create a de facto quality control for the lodges. Again, this does not guarantee a safe happy trip, but it helps!
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