Anietra Hamper and fishing expedition guide Ian Henderson in India prepping to catch and release goonch catfish.
Women Who Up Their Fishing Game Across International Boundaries
What women need to know to travel solo in search of the ultimate catch.
by Anietra Hamper
Men are not the only ones who want to up their game when it comes to fishing. Traveling internationally to target the largest and most unusual species in the world is exciting and adventurous, but female anglers are often apprehensive at going it alone. Women might have safety concerns or feel intimidated by possibly being the only female in the group. These are legitimate considerations but they should not stop you from planning the angling trip of a lifetime.
As a female angler who has traveled solo to fish for catch and release species like the wels catfish in Spain, I know first-hand how the international experience kicks the fishing passion up a notch. Then there’s the bragging rights and photos that comes with landing the fish of a lifetime.
Most recently, I traveled to India with expert fishing expedition guide Ian Henderson of The Greatest Fish to target the rare and elusive goonch catfish. The species has a reputation as a maneater and the Western Ramganga River, where we were to camp is the premier spot in the world to fish for goonch. While the ramifications and lockdowns related to COVID-19 prevented us from getting to the river, we were able to fish elsewhere for other impressive species like the golden mahseer.
Upping your game in this way oftentimes requires going to remote locations or trekking completely off the grid but getting the chance to fish for catfish species that are not present in U.S. waters is magical.
“Remote destination fishing isn’t something that women should have to close their eyes to enjoy,” said Ian Henderson. “With a reputable operator and an ability to reach out to previous female clients, it can take away initial concerns.”
With the right knowledge and preparation, women can easily head out for the ultimate catfishing adventure on their own. Here are some to the top things to consider when planning an international angling trip:
One of the most important considerations for female anglers traveling overseas, especially alone, is the safety factor. It is important to inquire about your lodging accommodations and if there are any unique safety concerns in the region. Most operators will go out of their way to make sure female anglers feel safe. You want to review the U.S. State Department list of travel warnings prior to any trip.
The destination plays an important part in your experience. While you might be attracted to a location for the things you want to do beyond fishing or for the culture it is important to familiarize yourself with the locale and have realistic expectations of the conditions that might exist.
Some remote regions that have the best fishing opportunities may be villages with little or no electricity, accommodations may be rustic or the trip may require river camping. Also, consider the food in the destination you will visit. If you have specific food preferences or allergies you will want to look into that ahead of time.
Finding a reputable guide
Trust in your guide is essential. You are not just hiring them for their fishing expertise but for their local knowledge of the people and culture.
“Ask the operator how many times they’ve run this trip and ask for photos of previous trips,” recommends Henderson. “Does the operator have social media accounts with direct contact information and previous clients? If so, see if other women have booked a trip. The key is to look for transparency from the operator.”
Be sure to do independent research by asking for guide recommendations and contact previous clients about their experiences.
It is important to be honest about the level of comfort that you require. Are you fine sleeping on the river in a tent? Do you prefer to stay in a hotel and spend only your fishing hours at the river? Male anglers are generally more hardcore with international fishing and often do not mind being on the riverbank 24/7 but women looking to take up this kind of trip will want to consider the options that fit their personal level of comfort.
Watch out for red flags
Unfortunately there are shady operators lurking in every industry so do your homework. Be wary of outfitters who ask you to pay for the full amount of the trip up-front. Fake websites exist offering international angling trips that take money from anglers and then leave them stranded at the airport when they arrive. Legitimate operators should only take an initial deposit and will provide transparency in answering all of your questions.
If there are several types of trips in the regions you are considering then pricing should be competitive. If an operator is significantly discounted from others, that is a red flag to ask why. The old adage applies here: if something looks too good to be true it probably is.
While an international trip will cost more than a domestic trip, if you save up for the experience you can easily set a budget and find ways to save on things like airfare. Be aware that traveling solo can mean single supplement fees and rental equipment fees on top of the cost of the trip. Oftentimes pricing is bundled but be sure to ask about all costs up front so you have a realistic budget in mind.
You expect outfitters to be up on local laws and permit requirements but it is ultimately your responsibility to know and follow them. You can find that information from the fishing authority in the country you are visiting. Most operators do include permits in their pricing for convenience.
So pack your tackle and set your sights on the goonch in India or the piraiba catfish in the Amazon. The most important thing is for women is to have fun and feel confident about an extraordinary way to go after the ultimate catch.