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Posts Tagged ‘Backcountry fly fishing’

Heli-Fishing!

February 27th, 2019 No comments

Heli-fishing is a tough one! For me, it’s often more stressful than its worth. When people are spending the extra 2 or 3k for this mode of transport to the river, I do my best to get them value for money. I usually spend unpaid hours trolling through weather reports, getting info from mates, emailing and phoning heli companies; whatever it takes to remove as much uncertainty as possible. It’s a bit of a catch 22 too. The whole reason for heli fishing is to get to a remote, rarely fished location but as a guide I need to know the river well. I can’t afford to fly in to locations on a reconnoiter mission and walking could take days (Which I’d love to do but don’t have time!) so learning the rivers sometimes happens on my clients time. I make no secret of this. If I’ve never been to the river, I’ll tell my client. I have faith in my abilities to read the river and to deliver a great day but the intimate knowledge of a section of river which begins at about 5 visits takes time to achieve.

There are no guarantees with heli-fishing. I have not had a bad heli trip yet but its certainly possible. Flying in doesn’t mean we’ll have the river to ourselves. I inform my clients that if we arrive to find anglers who’ve walked in then they have the right of way – first choice of water. I always ask the pilot to fly above and below where we intend to fish in search of other fishermen in an attempt to avoid unnecessary confrontation. Some helicopter options are used by more than one heli company so its possible that another party could arrive before or after you. Just recently a chopper dropped off fishermen 3kms above my party right into the best spot on the river. We had pretty tough fishing outside the “golden mile” but everyone understood that this can happen and we all had a super trip regardless – though we all felt the sting of loosing the cream of the river! On that 3 day trip where we fished 11ks of river (actually 10 subtracting the good bit) we only landed 5 trout. My point is that heli fishing doesn’t guarantee great fishing or lots of fish. The nature of the remoteness and the often fickle ways of backcountry rivers means that a lot is left to chance.

Having outlined the risks I think it’s important to talk about my actual experience with heli fishing. Once all the planning is done and we board to fly in it’s great fun! It’s the ultimate way to look around this unbelievably beautiful country which I’m so lucky to live in. Only twice have I encountered other anglers and both times a fairly positive outcome was achieved for both parties from a friendly meeting. Heli fishing has been very good overall but little or no better than rivers I can drive to. The one thing that heli fishing does guarantee is that you will be fishing in a remote and beautiful environment. The rivers are usually crystal clear flowing through spectacular and dramatic landscapes. Heli fishing usually requires a pretty high level of fitness. Most backcountry rivers require a lot of walking to get a decent number of shots at trout and the terrain is often bouldery and difficult. To get the most from a heli fishing experience its best to stay in for 2 or 3 days and go hard. It’s about the whole experience from the flight in and out, to the walking, to the trout, to the environment. It is fun!

It’s been a great month or so of guiding since my last blog. Plenty dry fly action and pretty good weather. Great people too! Justin Spence from Big Sky Anglers was over with his friend, Dan. The lads gave it hell for a week smashing some of my guiding records. Justin is one of the best fishermen I’ve met. We were very much on the same page with our fly fishing philosophy and understanding. I’m pretty excited about staying connected with him and his business in Montana. If your thinking about a trip to his neck of the woods I can’t imagine that there’s a better guide out there to take care of you. You can check out his website here

It was great to see Tom Doc Sullivan over from Ireland for a month. We fished together about 25 years ago on Lough Corrib and now in NZ. He’s already planning a return journey next year. He’s been bitten by the bug! See you next year, Tom! The box of stuff you left will still be in the garage.. apart from the mug, I swiped that.. and the headlamp. 

The fishing in the last week has been some of the hardest all season! I hope it picks up soon.. The pics in this blog don’t include the very recent stuff. I might have a chance to edit a short film for the next blog too. 

Still a few places in March and plenty in April if your thinking about a visit! See my website or email me for bookings and information, ronan@sexyloops.com

Tight lines,

    Ronan..