Some hints and tips -
My worst scenario was a German who turned up in Madiera in the middle of the marlin season with a Silstar two-piece boat-rod and a Penn Longbeach loaded with 30lb dacron. He was adamant that he was going to catch his first marlin on ‘sporting tackle’. Unhappily, the first marlin we met that day was a typical Madeiran fish of about 650lb which ate the lure being run on his tackle (despite our best efforts to put something totally unsuitable for marlin out on it) and to put it bluntly, it was a complete waste of decent line which could have been put to good use as backing on a fly reel or something similar. Anyway, he went home with a new prototype travelling rod - a one piece affair with only a butt eye on it, if I remember correctly.
Other things to think of that have cropped up for me personally over the years could make another four pages worth. Here are just a few.
Cameras – make sure you have extra film and batteries for your piece of picture-taking kit, particularly if you’ve just bought it at duty-free, as it could be so brand new that the poor country you’re going too only stocks stuff from the 50’s. Keep your film and your batteries in a fridge if possible when you get to your destination, but allow your film to warm a bit before loading your camera.
Gear - if I had to take one rod and one reel abroad with me to somewhere where I had no idea what there was to catch, it would be a modern (mixed graphite/glass) 2-piece heavy duty spinning rod, about 7’6" in length, matched to a modern fixed-spool reel such as a Daiwa 6000 Emblem, loaded with 30lb line on one spool, and 17lb on another. You can spin/plug, cast baits from a beach, floatfish, bottom-fish and and even troll from a boat for fish up to 100lbs or so with it. Do not make the mistake of thinking that this outfit cannot catch a big fish from a boat - it will, and you won’t need a chair, a butt-pad and a harness to help you. An outfit like this will handle wahoo, yellowfin, king mackerel, small sharks, GT’s, white marlin, sailfish, and it will still catch you bonefish and snapper. Of course, you’ll also be able to catch bait with it too.
Clothes - my pack has shorts, t-shirts, two hats, underwear (obviously), .a pair of light trousers that can dry overnight, a waistcoat for roving, a fleece, a pair of jeans, a knee-length plastic raincoat and a couple of full-sleeve shirts for the first few days. I use Peter Wright sandals on boats and from the shore except on the rocks where I’ll wear a pair of decent boots. When I’m wading, I wear a pair of Orvis boots with a pair of long socks to keep out sand. I have no wish to ruin my holiday by stepping on something nasty, and even a simple sea-urchin can cripple you.
Medicine - if I’m going to a civilised area I still take Paracetamol, Bisodol, Savlon, a small bottle of Dettol or TCP, Imodium and Dioralyte, a small bottle of Optrix, some sort of after-sun cream, and a can of Burnz or similar for bites, stings, burns etc. I also take sun-cream (Bullfrog is what I have used for years), mosquito repellent and bite relief. If you’re going somewhere uncivilised, you should make the effort to go and buy a kit. I can recommend the Nomad Overlander Medical Kit (0181 889 7014), which you should complement with the BCB Anti-infection Kit (01222 464 464). The former costs £30 and has not only the standard sterile equipment, but also medicines and drugs with information on how and what to do with it. The latter will cost you £7.50 and is an economical and sensible kit comprising syringes, needles, a suture, a cannula, non-adhesive dressings, sabs, tape, gloves and a dental needle. I normally re-pack both kits into a heavy-duty tupperware box that seals well. If you add any prescription drugs make sure you have the prescriptions with you in case Customs get pushy. Don’t ever think that you will not need a medical-kit like this - rather, think of those who you could help with it.
- a pack of balloons, I kid you not. It is 80% certain you will come across some water somewhere where you will want to drift a big bait out to sea. Try to buy a float wherever you are and you’ll be absolutely buggered !
- a pack of no. 16 and 20 match hooks with a spool of 3lb mono. You’ll need this to catch your livebait when you realize you can’t buy any and you need a licence for a net.
- a multi-tool may seem to be the naffest thing to have nowadays, but I have used one for years, well before they even arrived in the UK. They are invaluable. I use a Gerber, simply for the reason that you can open the damn thing one-handed and you have some pliers and wire cutters instantly in one hand, meaning that you can, of course, pin down a fish or hold your rod with the other. You can't do that with any other, unless it's the tiny Leatherman Micra, which I also own and use about six times a day - this lives in my left hand pocket since it is so small. The Micra’s main feature is a tiny pair of razor-sharp scissors which I use for trimming knots and toe/fingernails, and yes, with practice you can open this little bugger one-handed too. If you won’t take a multi-tool, at least take a pair of needle-nose pliers and a screwdriver of each denomination ! An alternative is one of those screwdrivers with all the bits in the handle.
- some pre-made 40lb and 100lb 2’ wire traces with a selection of trebles (for live-bait) and singles on one end and a swivel on the other. In my experience, it is only when you have a fish bitten off by something large and fast that you realise that you have no wire rigs made up. As you fumble through your tackle bag, gibbering with excitement and spilling crimps and wire on the rocks with the massive bluefish/barracuda/king mackerel/whatever swimming below you, you’ll find it inevitably fades away as you finally tie the knot to a hastily made rig. - a packet of small rubber bands. Invaluable for a lot of uses, but they prove very useful for transforming large pebbles into instant toss-away sinkers.
- a spare rod eye and a spare tip eye. Whip the former with a bit of your 17lb mono, and glue the other with some super-glue, which is another thing you should also have packed. Contrary to popular belief, you can loosen the tip eye when you get home.
- rod-rest. Before you leave home, take the rod you’ll use down to the hardware store and buy a piece of PVC tube that the butt just fits into. Cut it to the same length as your butt (with an angle at one end) and transport your rod with the rod-rest in situ. It takes up no room, and leaves you with a free pair of hands on sandy beaches. Also very useful on rocks too. Believe me, until you’ve been there and done it, you won’t realize just how much you rely on those rod-rests you use at home. Drill a couple of large holes along each side for clearing sand out etc.
- a Petzel head-lamp with a spare battery. You can use this for anything, but you can’t use an ordinary torch on your head ! You will catch more and larger fish in the dark, anywhere in the world. You should see what comes in on those nice swimming beaches at night !
- a pair of gloves, those orangey mesh-type ones. Invaluable for tailing, gilling and holding strange fish.
- although baseball caps are popular with anglers, they will NOT keep the sun off the back of your neck. It is not a coincidence that straw hats are popular with foreign anglers. Buy a cheap one when you get there. Whether you leave it behind or not is up to you ! If you can afford something like a Tilley or Orvis, buy one.
- if you live in your sunglasses, take a spare pair. I prefer grey lenses as a happy medium for all water depths and light control.
- a rucksack. It is the only thing to use abroad unless you have a wading belt or similar and keep everything on your waist.
- a 9/0 or 10/0 big-game hook and two 40-50mm jubilee clips or hose clamps. On arrival at your destination, go buy a broomstick or find something similar and make a gaff. Not only invaluable for lip-gaffing those tarpon, but also useful for gaffing something you might actually want to eat and also very good for bringing ashore the odd cuttlefish or octopus you might hook. Do not listen to the locals who tell you that these things are horrible and you should really let them have the creature to dispose of. I have never visited any country, anywhere in the world, where a piece of cuttle or squid is not a top bait. A gaff is also good for beating off wayward locals, snakes, centipedes, scorpions, dogs etc.
- a tin-opener, because you will find tinned sardines or pilchards make a superb groundbait when mixed in with old bread. Alternatively, poke holes in the can and throw it out attached to a length of string - you’ll need to retrieve it to keep poking more holes in it as the contents disappear. If something large eats the can, either warn nearby swimmers, or - impale a large hook with a fish-bait, chuck it out, tie yourself to something sturdy, and wait patiently whilst muttering prayers.
- hook sharpener. It is odds on that the first foreign fish you find will be one armed with a pack of teeth which would put a conger to shame.
- a six foot length of parachute cord. Obviously great for throttling errant waiters and tying up goats, but also good for attaching your beloved rod to something while you take a picture of someone else’s enormous fish. Most foreign species hit baits at warp speed, and having been brought up in warm waters tend not to hang around in case they get eaten. A reel left in free-spool with the ratchet on is liable to suffer a gold-medal class overrun - beware.
- on arrival at your destination, find a ‘convenience’ store and buy a cheap polystyrene cooler with an ice-block. Use it for bait and a can of drink. If you think squid goes off quickly in the sun here in the UK, you should see the speed it goes black under a midday sun in the tropics !
- if you’re really into big fish, then you should also buy a 5-gallon bucket with a lid and a piece of rope. Slash some slits in the top half of the bucket and you’ll have a live-bait courge you can use from the jetty and rocks.
Other considerations for anyone going abroad, apart from cost, should include an individual's receptiveness to sunshine and heat. Make no mistake, a normal UK citizen does not take kindly to exposing white skin to 80 degree heat or more and I have lost track over the years where I have seen someone's holiday completely ruined by their inability to either keep their shirts on or take the heat. Having said that, anybody can go to the equator and fish in comfort if they take precautions and wear the right clothing. So if you're keen to go and find some sunshine make sure you look after your skin.
On arrival anywhere in the world I always go straightaway to the local fish-market or tackle-shop. Well, I normally do both really. It is the only thing to do.
A final point - do not berate locals with a debate on conservation. If you catch a nice fish, and someone pointedly says they would like to eat it, then give it to them. You will not have any trouble with them, they will talk happily to you and give you some tips, and you will find everything in general will go much more smoothly. Obviously some countries are much poorer than others, and you wouldn’t kill a bonefish on a Keys flat, but in the depths of some hell-hole where the fishing is good and the people are poor, do the right thing. It is not fun fishing with a crowd of back-stabbing locals behind you. If you catch a REALLY nice fish and have no wish to kill it, then you can always break it off on the hook-length or do something similar and groan theatrically !