6 Reasons to think twice about Fly-in Fishing vs. drive-to fishing camps

6 Reasons to think twice about Fly-in Fishing

When we think of “fly-in” fishing, visions of distant Canadian Shield lakes with rustic cabins and isolation come to mind.   Steeped in many years of tradition, it’s a widely held belief that flying into a remote lake equals great fishing.  That may be true, but what if you didn’t have to fly in order to have tremendous fishing?

With today’s economic times deeply ingrained into our pocketbooks, we are seeing a paradigm shift in the way people look at Canadian fishing vacations.  Now more than ever, like so many other things, price is becoming a huge factor in deciding where to go.  It isn’t that people are giving up their trips to Canada, they just don’t want to pay the big bucks when other, often better, options exist.

Let me introduce to you the “drive-to” Canadian fishing and hunting lodge.  It’s really not a new idea, but people are starting to take note that a drive-in lodge offers unique, and more often, exceptional fishing.

Why?  Because a drive-to lodge offers benefits fly-ins cannot. First on the list is variety.  At a fly-in lodge you have one option.  Fish the lake you’re on, and that’s it.  If the fish aren’t biting, break out the deck of playing cards, read a book or take a nap.  Isolation is great, but not if the ultimate goal is to catch fish even when they aren’t cooperating.

Now, put yourself at a drive-in location where you potentially have 100’s lakes to fish.  If one is slow, pick from a dozen others.  Plus, a good outfitter is going to know what’s hot, what’s not and where to send you.

Fly-in camps get a bad reputation for their lack of modern accommodations.  Electricity, if there is any, is supplied from a noisy, fuel guzzling generator.  Modern, flush-able toilets and showers are extremely hard to come by.  In this day and age, most people opted to bring their work on vacation…a necessity if you want a job when you get back!  That would be impossible, however, at a wireless-less fly-in camp.

Drive-in locations appeal to the masses because most have 24/7 power and the creature comforts of civilization, (e.g., phone, internet, and emergency medical services).  Also, the everyday amenities like rodent free cabins with full kitchenettes, modern toilets, swimming beaches and access to shopping, appeal to the whole family, especially women!

One of the biggest myths about fly-in camps is that they have better fishing.   Not true!  Given my tenure in this industry, I have heard plenty of horror stories from guests having lackluster fishing while spending a WHOLE WEEK at a fly-in lake.  OUCH!  With no other options available, they sat there dreaming of what could have been.

Fishing is so much more than catching a bunch of walleyes.  Good fishing means you have options and variety.  Good fishing means you can target trophies or numbers of the same species.  Good fishing means when one species has a seasonal slowdown, you can fish other species with predictable success.  Now that’s good fishing!  That’s what people want.  And given the nature of drive-to camps, most can offer just that.

What if you experience motor problems?  Try to get it serviced while on a remote island in the middle of nowhere.  Try to get any service for that matter?

Did an otter dine on your week supply of minnows?

Is there a rogue bear harassing you because the fishing party from last week left their entrails on the island?

What happens if someone needs a doctor?

These are all real life problems that plague fly-in camps.  With a drive-to, you have a dedicated staff right there when things don’t go as planned.  Will you need fresh bait daily? No problem.  What if you have motor issues?  Most drive-to outfitters can service a motor blind folded.  And with the ease of access, medical services can be on-site within minutes.

This reminds me of a potentially fatal episode that happened late this fall.  A 50 year old male, for the first time ever in his life, had an allergic reaction to eating peanut butter.  (I guess it’s not uncommon to have late unset of allergies.) Not completely sure of what was happening, his fishing party opted to wait, hoping his symptoms would subside.  Well, they didn’t.  After checking in with me, they started driving to a local hospital.  As a precaution, I immediately called the ambulance and requested that they meet them on the way.  Good thing!  By the time the ambulance reached them, this man was literally holding his tongue out of his mouth trying to keep his airway open!  The paramedics gave him a shot that provided instant relief, but imagine for a second if they were at a fly-in? Convenience is king!

If you have a fishing boat, it’s probably organized in a way unique to your style of angling.  Tackle goes in that compartment, buoys go under the steering counsel, the live well double as a beer cooler – that type of stuff.  One is left to daydream of using their own boat in a remote fly-in lake.  Little do people understand that access to unbelievable Canadian fishing, using your OWN boat, is achievable.  Drive-in lodges not only rent boats & motors, they also pave the way to the luxury of fishing independence using your own equipment.  For instance, at our lodge, we access arguably one of the best fisheries in Canada.  It’s so overrun with walleyes that it even produces the rare (and once thought to be extinct) Blue Walleye.  The most appealing aspect is that you don’t have to rent an outfitter’s boat to fish there.  You simply drive to the lake, back your boat in and go fishing.  Although lakes like this are rare, it’s just one more reason anglers are opting for drive-in camps.   Live the modern day cabin life back at the lodge and use your own boat to fish out of.  There’s a thought!

And the biggest factor for choosing drive-in Canadian Fishing?  You probably all ready know … price.  Economic times are rough, but people still want to fish in Canada; they just don’t want to pay through the nose to do so.  Fly-in camps have it rough.  Fuel costs force them to continually hike prices to survive.  Simple servicing of their equipment and cabins becomes exponentially expensive when they have to fly-in and fly-out.  That doesn’t even account for flying guests to and from.  It’s no wonder people are forced to pay upwards of $1,500 – $4,000 per person for a single week of fishing.

Fortunately for the masses, a better option exists.  Drive- in camps can keep their rates reasonable and value oriented, because the cost of doing business is much less.  Those savings are passed on to the end user… you!

But a word of caution here, not all drive-in camps are the same.  Just like you have a choice between a Zebco and a Fenwick; one will help you catch more fish, while the other will leave you wondering where the fish went.  Before picking a drive-in lodge, make sure it’s located in a prime fishing region, the outfitter is knowledgeable and friendly and that your expectations about service and accommodations will be met.  I will go into more detail on this in a different article… as it is too lengthy to cover here.

In the end, fly -in camps, yes, they have their place.  They do offer remote fishing and isolation.  More often than not, fishing is full of action and people fly away happy.  But there is a price tag to their happiness.  And in the today’s economy, smart anglers are opting for the better, less expensive alternative that still offers great fishing, but does so with modern living and friendly, convenient service.

Chad Thompson is a free lance writer, avid hunter/fisherman, graduated from the University of Minnesota (BS – Parks & Recreation), former US Army Officer, husband and father of four. To contact Chad – you can click here and send him a text 715 817 4161