So how does one prepare for the moment when he or she has the opportunity to throw a fly to the fish of a lifetime?

Well the first thing is to make sure you have the right equipment. For example- if I was going somewhere, say like the Florida Keys, to fish for migrating tarpon or for permit where long, accurate casts are a must; I would pull out my faster action rods and would consider downsizing my fly lines (this allows you to carry more line in the air). However, if I was going down to the 'Glades to fish for tarpon and snook, I would probably choose to take rods with a more moderate action and use fly lines with short heads for quicker loading on shorter casts.

When I speak of action, in regards to fly rods, I am talking about the point at which the rod loads. Faster actions mean that the rod loads at the tip. This is a rod that requires more skill to cast because usually, the beginner caster has not developed a feel for the rod loading. As for a slower or moderate action rod, well the rod loads deeper into the midsection and it is easier to feel. The slower rods, in my opinion are easier to utilize for the beginner and are deadly in the hands of a more experienced angler in a situation that requires short delicate casts such as throwing to a laid up tarpon.

After choosing my sticks, I would carefully inspect them for any damage to the blanks, ferrules, reel seat and guides. Believe it or not, just the slightest crack in a ceramic guide or burr on a snake guide can cost you that one fish.

From there I would check my fly lines including my line to backing and line to leader connections for damage or wear. If everything checks out okay it is then time to clean and dress the fly line. If it is truly the trip of a lifetime, I would probably consider replacing my fly line and leader outright and then pack some spares.

As for reels, I choose to utilize high-quality reels with cork or carbon fiber drags. It is important to inspect and lubricate them as per the manufacturer's specifications. Check to make sure that when the drag is tightened the start-up (when the line is initially pulled from the reel) is smooth and uniform. If the drag jerks or seems to skip in the slightest, it needs to be replaced. I have seen a great number of fish (especially large or fast-running fish) lost because of a poorly maintained drag. A good way to prevent this is to completely loosen the drag after every day of fishing. This allows the drag washer to expand to its original form prior to recompression. Some drags, cork especially, when left compressed, will not completely expand causing the drag to be uneven which causes the spool to jerk or skip.

Next on the list is your connection to the fish. It is important, when building your leaders, to utilize leader and tippet materials that match well. If you take soft mono and try to join it to hard fluorocarbon, your knots may fail during the heat of battle. As a rule, I choose to build all of my leaders out of mono of the same kind (brand) and only use flourocarbon for my bite tippet. And, I always test the knots between the mono and flourocarbon to insure that I have a good connection that will not slip, nor will the harder flourocarbon cut through the mono when the knot tightens during the fight.

From there it comes down to the flies. I cannot begin to stress the importance of having your fly box loaded with flies that will not foul. Nothing can be more disheartening than to make a perfect cast to a fish and have it follow the fly, only to turn off and then refuse it because the tail of the fly was tucked into the bend of the hook.

Also, consider having numerous numbers of each pattern so if the fish are finicky and only eating one certain pattern, you are not left holding the bag because you only have one.

In addition, in regards to flies, and I cannot emphasize this enough, make sure that the hook of each and every fly has NO RUST and is sharp. If it has the slightest bit of corrosion or the hook point is not needle sharp, throw it away. The exception would be in the case of a wire hook. Wire hooks can be sharpened and for this I recommend carrying a quality hook file. However, most of the hooks we use now are forged and then chemically sharpened at the factory. In my experience, these hooks corrode easier and it is near impossible to put a decent point back on one with a file.

Anyway, these are but a few things that I have learned after nearly two decades of guiding and traveling. I hope they come in handy when you are out there chasing the fish of your dreams.

Be gude and stuff like that.