Fishipedia Top 5: Non-tackle essentials for every flats trip

August 26th, 2011| No Comments

A selection of items guaranteed to make your time on the flats just that little bit more enjoyable…

Flats essentials

You’ve got five or six different rods, three reels, four spare spools, 300 flies crammed into five different fly boxes and enough tippet material to stretch from the Bahamas to Belize and back again. So, what else might you need for your trip to the flats?


Pentax Optio: underwater trooperWaterproof camera
and tripod

Before my last trip to the Bahamas (at the airport in fact) I invested in a Pentax Optio W90 – two days in and I was already wondering how I’d ever fished without it. This hard-wearing little nugget has a bunch of shooting options (including a super-sharp close-up function), a picture-stitch tool for panoramic stuff, HD video and a whole load of other settings I may never use. It also comes equipped with a nifty canvas starp/carabiner clip attachment – I had it hooked to my flats pack where it remained all week (whatever depth of water I was in) and was always within reach when I needed it.

Having said all that, waterproof cameras aren’t for everyone – plenty of people won’t even touch them thanks to their frequently-shoddy low-light performance. You might want to stick with your tried and trusty kit (or perhaps even your smartphone). If that’s the case, make sure you get an Aquapac case. Trust me, just get one.

Gorilla PodOne last thing: think about getting a Gorilla Pod. Not only are they great for eliminating hand-shake (particularly handy in low light), but they’re essential if you find yourself alone and feel like popping off some creative shots. You can attach their bendy, wraparound legs to the nearest branch, mangrove root, fence post – pretty much anything really – set the timer and get busy.


First aid kit

First aid kitIt’s easy to forget when you’re flicking through pictures of aquamarine waters and bonefish tailing over powdery white sand, but the flats environment can be downright nasty when it wants to be. In all likelihood you’ll be just fine, but things can – and do – happen out there. There are sharp rocks, coral (lots of pointy stuff, basically) all around, and the ever-present risk of an errant fly attaching itself to your person. On top of all that, you’ll frequently – hopefully – find yourself a long way from civilization. So do yourself a favour and make sure you’ve got, at the very least, a basic first aid kit.

Every pharmacy sells them (or you can pick one up on Amazon for peanuts) and they take up next to no room in your bag. Consider throwing in some antihistamine tablets too – they’ll deal with all manner of allergic reactions, particularly if you have a bad reaction to an insect bite. Again, the chances of a problem are minimal, but it’s worth being prepared nonetheless.


Clothing essentialsThe right clothes

Lightweight, moisture wicking fabrics are the order of the day. When there’s snow outside your window and ice on the sidewalk, it’s hard to get yourself in the right frame of mind, but remember, it gets HOT on the flats. Make sure you’ve got some breathable stuff to keep as cool as possible out there. Aside from the obligatory long/zip-off pants (trousers for our UK readers), long-sleeve shirts to help you cover up when needs be, make sure you’ve got a buff. People don’t just wear these because they think they look cool, they’re actually really useful – they provide instant high-factor protection for your ears, neck and face, they eliminate the need to stop and re-apply cream, and make sweaty-suncreamy eye-drip a thing of the past.

Take a decent waterproof jacket too – even if you’re going to the tropics. The boat ride between flats can be long, rough, wet and at times, chilly. Last but not least – cycling shorts to wear under your other shorts. I promise you, you’ll only forget them once. Wading + shorts – minus cycling shorts = chafed inner thighs/walking like John Wayne. That kind of thing can really put the mockers on a day of flats fishing.


Fish-spotting scienceSpecifically, the best polarizing sunglasses you can afford. Yep, they’re expensive, and maybe you’d rather spend that extra money on an extra pair of ultra-lightweight, breathable, zip-off, self-cooling snake-proof flats pants, or a new reel even though your old one still does its job just fine – but think hard. Your ability to spot fish is going to be a key determining factor in the success of your flats fishing trip, and you need give yourself every possible advantage.

And if you can stretch to a couple of different tints (amber for cloudy days, darker for extra-bright conditions), so much the better. Costa are still pretty much the benchmark in this department, but there are loads of brands making them out there and they needn’t cost the earth.



Do your planningOK, so this is something of an intagible, but just because you can’t go to the shop and buy it doesn’t make it any less important. The more research you can do about a fishery before you go will make all the difference. It’s the old cliche but it’s true – success is the moment where preparation meets opportunity.

Print off some tide charts, read anglers’ reports, check out catch statistics if possible, get on Google Earth and familiarize yourself with the geography of the area. A minimum knowledge of your destination is absolutely essential. Maybe you’re going somewhere so remote that there’s not a whole lot out there on the internet? Get on a forum and ask people – you never know what you might unearth. It’s all part of the fun of planning a fishing trip anyway.

Bear in mind that if you’re heading to a particular lodge, they may well have a pre-trip planning document. Do yourself a favour and read it – there’s almost certainly something on there you won’t have considered. This is your opportunity to get a first-hand recommendation from someone on the ground; why would you pass that up?


CigarsBonus Items

Hydration sachets/tablets – put back in what the flats take out of you
Cigars – you never know when you might need to celebrate
Bottle opener – see above
Bug spray – something nice and strong, they don’t play around out there

Pics by Jordan Larrigan and Dale LaFollette

>> What have we forgotten? Let us know what else you would take in the comments below

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