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Mike Fitzgerald Jr. of Frontiers ( Family fishing travel is a subject that we discuss frequently at Frontiers. The opportunities available today are more numerous than they were 20 years ago. There are a number of outstanding full-service family guest ranches in the American West, for example, that provide a lot of activities for young children all the way up through young adulthood. Many of these ranches also have excellent fishing guides and provide convenient access to high quality trout fishing. In the saltwater realm, there are great hotels now throughout the Keys dedicated to family travel. Many of them can arrange for daily flats fishing. In the Bahamas, a family can book a great hotel in Freeport, for example, and arrange for excellent guided bonefishing a short drive from town. There are also options available on Abaco and Long Island and in the Turks and Caicos. In Mexico, families can stay in an all-inclusive family resort on the Yucatan Peninsula and arrange for excellent fishing nearby for bonefish, permit, and other species. As for family-oriented offshore angling, there are great opportunities on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula and in countries like Costa Rica. On the lodge front, a number of properties have moved recently toward better accommodating families. El Pescador Lodge on Ambergris Caye in Belize, for example, used to be almost exclusively fishing oriented. The new owners there have put in swimming pools, built family-friendly accommodations, and greatly expanded the number of sightseeing and water sports activities. Turneffe Flats is another lodge that has become more family friendly. Its Atoll Adventure Program offers snorkeling, wildlife viewing, birding, exploring, and so on.

A good illustration of what is going on in family fishing travel is provided by the recent trajectory of activities at High Lonesome Ranch in Colorado. This ranch opened primarily as a fly fishing, wingshooting, and big game hunting lodge, but the owners have recently enhanced the experience by bringing in a world-class chef and setting up a number of dude ranch–type programs. The owner of High Lonesome has also bought Deep Water Cay Lodge in the Bahamas. I vacationed there in June with my fiancé and her two children, neither of whom are fly fishers. Between the snorkeling, dive instruction, reef fishing, sea kayaking, biking, and so forth, we all had plenty of things to do every day other than fishing. Of course, I fished myself and had a wonderful time! The home we stayed in was fabulous. Interestingly, we were at the lodge during a particularly busy time, and virtually all of the groups at the lodge were families. There were plenty of teenagers around. To be sure, there are lodges where it does not make business sense for the owner to launch a family-oriented program. They are just too remote or in an area that is too rugged. Some lodges feel they are in a position to welcome children, but only those of a certain age. Still other lodges welcome younger kids as long as the family brings a nanny along or designates a family member to watch the children at all times. These kinds of restrictions are usually rooted in safety considerations, though there are also lodges that are particularly hardcore fishing oriented or simply more adult oriented. This is where an agency like ours becomes particularly valuable. An important part of our job is accurately matching clients with travel facilities. That means steering families away from some lodges. Other times, it means finding out who else is booked at a specific lodge during the proposed dates. There are some lodges that are ideal for a family trip but only if they are booked entirely by a single family.

Andrew Bennett of Deneki Outdoors ( This is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart! At Deneki Outdoors, we absolutely love hosting families. For one thing, it’s a lot of fun for us. Kids are so enthusiastic, happy to be outside, and thrilled to catch anything from dollies to snappers to kings to bonefish. Having kids around camp changes the mood in an overwhelmingly positive way. We absolutely love our regular customers, of course, but having a 12 year old in your boat is a refreshing change after 41 consecutive days with a couple of 55-year-old doctors. (Note to 55-year-old doctors: really, we love you, but variety is nice!). The bonding that takes place among family members on a river or on a flat is irreplaceable. One family that has joined us many times in Alaska tells us that they plan their travel together, they budget and save for the trip together, they pack their gear together. In the course of doing all this, the parents are passing on skills and attitudes that apply to life in general, not just to fishing. Here’s a direct quote from a father’s e-mail: “We will eternally be grateful to Deneki Outdoors. The experiences we have had at Alaska West have become a significant part of our plan for raising our kids.”

At Deneki Outdoors, we openly promote our love for hosting family trips. I write about it on our blog all the time. Here’s one recent example: www -trips. We never give last-minute discounts or slash prices for “normal anglers.” The only discounts we offer are to guests who want to bring their kids along. They get a significant break on their kids’ trips. Sorry for the long-winded response. I get pretty wound up about this subject. I’m a family man myself, and I do everything I can to encourage families to join us!

Pat Pendergast of the Fly Shop ( The Fly Shop does a lot of family trips, both internationally and domestically. Over the years, we have worked with families as small as four to six and as large as a dozen or better. We are currently helping a family of seven arrange a trip to El Saltamontes in Chile, one of the best family destinations I know of anywhere in the world. Additionally, we help arrange many family trips to our domestic destinations, especially our local private waters here in northern California. We arrange at least a dozen or more family trips a year to Antelope Creek Lodge, Mike and Bertha Michalak’s private fly fishing ranch. Further, we schedule Family Camps at Antelope Creek Lodge each summer. Initially, I thought of these trips as a loss leader, but after several years of sold-out Family Camps, I am now a believer.

Please tell any of your subscribers with families that we can book them a family trip, and we will work extra hard to ensure everyone has a good trip. Most of us here have kids ourselves. We know, at a certain age, that kids like to stomp around, cry, yell, and carry on in one way or another, but we still take our own kids fishing, and we do so at carefully selected lodges. Along with the bad behavior, kids also bring excitement, fun, and a fresh way of looking at things. It’s important that we ingrain the sporting life in our kids at a young age. We all need to help jump-start the next generation of this industry.

Peter Mantle of the Delphi Club on Abaco Island in the Bahamas ( Regarding your upcoming piece on families and fishing travel, I can only speak for our lodge, but there is no ban on children, least of all on young or would-be fly fishers. We have always encouraged the next generation, although as a matter of practicality, they tend to be aged 10 or 12 before they really get the bug. We have had quite a few kids (including younger ones) at the club, either to fish or more commonly as part of a family house party (with a whole-lodge booking). Given our format and location, however, there are practical issues, particularly with very small kids: poisonous plants, unguarded pool, the beach cliff, other high elevations, see-through steps, etcetera. Also, we cannot ignore the fact that many of our guests, particularly middle-aged couples, are coming to get away from kids and noise. We have also had unfortunate damage to antique furniture and upholstery. Our dinner format is somewhat adult in tone, as well. When people ask about bringing children, we explain the context carefully and, to be honest, most then come without them unless it’s a house party.

I am not entirely convinced that this is a big issue, at least for us. It very rarely arises and is always resolved amicably.

Ian Davis at Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures ( Here at Yellow Dog Flyfishing, our family fishing program is our fastest growing division, which I would estimate to be around 20 to 25 percent of our total business. This is no accident. Between our two families, my business partner, Jim Klug, and I have six kids under the age of nine, so we know firsthand the value in traveling with your family to fishing destinations. Quite a few years ago, at the Somerset, New Jersey, fly fishing show, many of our existing clients conveyed to us that they could no longer do their usual Yellow Dog trips anymore. This was simply because they started having kids and felt they had to vacation at more family-oriented destinations. A light bulb went off in our heads, and we created very specific and well-structured family and couples programs. This allowed our valued clients to take their families and non-anglers with them on their next fishing trip. At that time, we already worked with a handful of operations that had the infrastructure in place to host anglers and non-anglers alike. All we had to do was identify additional destinations that could specifically accommodate families and couples and then integrate them into our existing programs. We have been helping to plan fun vacations for families and couples now for over a decade.

The parts of the world where we can accommodate families include Argentina, the Bahamas, Belize, and Mexico, among others. Of course, we can also work with families at many places out West. No matter where our customers want to go, we try to make the booking process as easy as possible. Our bottom-line concern is matching a family with a destination that is well-suited for everyone in that family. This requires thorough planning and attention to detail. It requires learning as much as possible about all of the family members. We need to know details such as the ages of the kids, whether they will fish, what type of activities they prefer, what they like to eat, if a crib is required, and if a nanny will be coming along. We try to help make a family vacation fun for everyone, including mom and dad, who understandably want to have a quiet dinner together at least once or some time to get out and fish together for a half day. In that connection, by the way, most of our Yellow Dog family destinations have babysitters on staff. Mom and dad aside, we have learned that it is very important that a family fishing trip be oriented around the kids and non-anglers. That’s the key to a fishing family’s ability to continue to travel together. Take your family to a fishing destination not well-suited for children and non-anglers and that will likely be the last family fishing vacation you take. I hope some of your subscribers will give us a call.

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