The first time I went flats fishing, I was completely exhausted at the end of the day. I didn’t understand what was going on at first. The other guys that I was there with were doing okay, but I was wiped out.
As a professional guide, I had to figure out quickly how to take better care of myself. Here are a few things you can do that will have you as fresh at the end of the day as the beginning:
#1 Sunburn. This seems like a no brainer, but the sun is the number 1 cause of fatigue on a tropical fishing trip. I guess I should say… too much sun. Sunscreen is fine for some people, but I can’t stand the stuff. Most people don’t realize that sunscreen doesn’t work immediately. It takes an hour or so to take effect and it gets wiped or sweated off. If you are out in the sun until noon, then put sunscreen on, you have had 5-6 hours of straight sun on your skin. If you just stepped off the airplane from Ohio, this means horrible sunburn on the first day that will sap your energy for the rest of the trip. Take the sunscreen into the bathroom with you in the morning and put it on before you leave the house. Be aware that you are going to need to reapply the sunscreen about 4 hours later to prevent burning. On top of your sunscreen, the best thing that you can do to protect yourself from the sun is to wear Buff headwear.
This product covers your face and neck and will do a better job than sunscreen because it never gets wiped off. It takes effect immediately and will keep you from getting burned as long as you wear it. People who wear Buffs all day feel fine at the end of the day. People who get sunburned badly on day one often don’t even show up to fish on day four. Wear a hat, sunglasses, a Buff, long sleeve shirt, or Buff arm sleeves and long pants.
Advanced materials make covering up cooler than standing out there with your shirt off getting blasted by the sun.
#2. Dehydration – Easily the second fastest way to become completely exhausted is to get dehydrated. Most people don’t drink enough water on a tropical trip.
It is easy to neglect to drink water, but in a tropical environment, the water is pouring out of you like a sponge getting squeezed all day. It’s hot; you probably drank coffee in the morning, then maybe a beer at lunch. After the day is over, there you go again…more coffee, and a few beers. This is a very conservative schedule. Some anglers are having a quite a few beers at night, which dehydrates the body even faster. Within two days of a schedule like this, you will be so dehydrated that you will have a splitting headache and you won’t even want to go fishing. My solution to this is to bring a gallon jug of water and make sure that I finish it before I get off the boat. Problem solved.
#3 Food poisoning/Bad Water – I have traveled all over the world on fishing trips and I have had some amazing meals and some meals that I wisely declined and just went hungry. It may come as a surprise that every country in the world does not appreciate refrigeration as we do, but in some cultures it is not utilized the way it is in the USA. Fresh caught fish may sit out in the sun for hours before it is cleaned and then put on the table, that same fish may turn into fish salad for the next day’s lunch and sit unrefrigerated for hours again. This certainly does not happen everywhere, but if you ingest something like this, you are going to be laid up in bed for a couple of days.
Usually, there will be an alternative. If possible and where allowed to travel with food, I always come prepared with some emergency food like bars or peanut butter and jelly. If you can travel with it, DO IT! If not try and get your driver to stop by a store and get a couple of loaves of bread and some peanut butter and jelly. I have lived on PB&J throughout the world. Be very careful with what you eat while on exotic trips and use only bottled water for everything. Keep your mouth closed in the shower, wipe the top off every can carefully, don’t brush your teeth with sink water. While on an exotic trip, I will buy bottled water for the room and keep a bottle next to the sink. I will take a washcloth or towel and put it over the faucet so I don’t forget. This has saved me from ingesting bad water many times. To date, I have not gotten sick on one of these trips while I have seen fellow travelers miss a day or two fishing and be in excruciated abdominal pain. I always take a small medical kit that has diarrhea medicine, iodine pills for water purification, Advil, rehydration powders like Gatorade, alcohol wipes, band-aids, butterfly bandages, and Neosporin.
So, stay out of the sun, eat safe food and drink tons of water… but make sure it’s good water!
See you there!
Capt. Tom Rowland