Scott Heywood is one of the founders of Angling Destinations, a fishing travel company that books trips to just about every place I want to go, including a few places they don’t even advertise. It is nice to see that Scott still gets excited about fishing, whether that is chasing a bonefish in the Bahamas or fishing his home waters around Sheridan, WY.
Being in Sheridan, Wyoming, did you start your company to get away from the winters?
No, you know, I always tell people we started this company purely legitimately, we started booking trips for one little resort on Abaco in order to get a free week of bonefishing every year, so we started with the purest of motivations.
It kind of blossomed from there. We’ve been doing this a long time since the late 80’s, early 90’s and there wasn’t a lot going on with bonefishing then. It became quickly apparent that there was a real need for people with good information about where to go and the company grew very quickly and has grown every year and it has been a really interesting thing. We haven’t gone “mainstream,” we don’t do the glossy brochures and all that stuff, we just deal with a very dedicated group of anglers and we are kind of like your blog, we are for the dedicated.
We have four customers in Wyoming. There are 400,000 people that live in the State and we don’t have that many bonefisherman in Wyoming. We love living here, its great fishing and a beautiful place, but it does mean you have to take longer flights to get to the bonefishing, but we all bonefish 6, 7, 8 times a year, so we are traveling a lot.
Do you have one bonefish that really stands out in your mind?
I was thinking about that and it’s a really difficult question because there has been so many weird and strange moments in bonefishing. I’ve actually been bonefishing since my early teens, so almost 50 years of bonefishing and when you get to fish some of these places when there has never been anyone fish it you get some weird things happen. The place that comes to mind immediately is the Seychelles because I was lucky enough to get to go there in the mid 90’s before anyone had really been there and I got to go to St. Francoise when we were the 6th, 7th and 8th people ever to get out there to bonefish. This was before Larry Dahlberg did his TV shows and we were lucky to get out there to see it. We had so many strange things happen with bonefish… we could get close enough to bonefish to tap them on the tail with our rods, we could catch them on grasshopper flies, but one series of fish really stands out. We were walking around the island and the bonefish would tail up into the surf to chase crabs and you could actually cast your fly on dry land in the surf and you could pull bonefish up out of the water, up to about their anal fin, they would chase these crabs up out of the water and get them. That just sticks in my mind. When you do anything long enough in fishing you see some truly odd behavior and if you’ve ever seen the nature shows where you see the Orcas surf in to get the seal pups, that’s what it was like to see these bonefish come in, charge in, and try and get these crabs right off the beach. Our goal was to catch a bonefish without ever getting the fly in the water and we were actually able to do it. The bonefish would sort of nip at the crab and they would grab a little section of it and they would pull it back into the water and then they’d pin it and eat it. That was a pretty cool experience.
That could also be the second question too, which is something odd or unique that you’ve seen out there.
I don’t even have to go that far back for that one. I spent a week doing one of our DX trips and we had two very, very strange things happen. You know, I’ve watched bonefish on the backs of just about every conceivable animal from dolphins to rays to sharks, bonefish I think are prone to follow other animals around because they can turn around and veer of if something turns around to try and eat them. In one day I watched bonefish do two really weird things. One was, we saw a cormorant colony and the bonefish would wait below the colony and when the cormorants would fly off their nests and swim on the flats the bonefish would follow the birds and when they’d put their big webbed feet would puff up a bunch of marl on the bottom the bonefish would get in there and see if anything came out. So when we found a cormorant that day we’d follow the cormorant and without having to wait very long, we’d find a bonefish on the cormorant’s tail. They’d follow the cormorants and we’d just cast off the tail of the cormorant and the bonefish, often 8, 9, 10 pound bonefish, would eat our flies in a heartbeat, just suck them right up and we caught a few fish right on the backs of these cormorants, which was really cool. The only thing that the bonefish would veer off the cormorants to do would be to follow a mangrove leaf. We’d watch them leave the cormorants and go over to these leaves and eat them and we were very confused as to what was happening, why a bonefish was eating a leaf. You’d see the leaf go in the mouth of the bonefish and a second later it would be spit back out and we finally went over and picked up some of these mangrove leaves and there were little tiny crabs that were clinging to the leaves as they got blown out of the mangroves and these little crabs were just hanging on. These bonefish had learned to pick up the leaves, crush the little crabs, swallow the crabs and spit out the leaves. That’s pretty memorable. You don’t forget that soon.
Some of those DX trips seem not for the faint of heart… off the grid, off the map… away from room service and gourmet meals. What are some of the trade offs when you head out there.
We do so many types of DX trips, everything from nice hotel accommodations to camping on the beach, but generally the two things you sacrifice doing a DX trip, you lose the amenities, be it good food or nice accommodations, especially if you are doing a camping trip where you are sleeping in a tent and cooking on the beach, and there can be bugs and it can be hot. We always try to have a cooler of cold beer, because who can live without that, but generally, that’s what you give up. Second, and this isn’t always true, but when you go to really remote places, places where there isn’t a lot of mainstream bonefish activity, there often aren’t qualified guides and the guides that are there are often just local fisherman and they don’t have the skills to be bonefishing guides. Guides get good by guiding and if they aren’t guiding, they are just local fisherman. I’ve always said I’d trade good guides for stupid bonefish any day. That’s generally the trade off.
Those DX trips sound so fascinating. Are there really that many places out there left to be discovered? In this age of Google Earth it feels like everything that can be discovered has been. Are there places out there truly off the map?
There are places that are still very hard to get to, or they are not serviced by existing operations. Let’s say there’s an area 30 miles from an existing lodge, that’s not a realistic place to fish every day for those lodges and it might be a small area, it might be a small fishery, it might not take the impact well of a full season of bonefishing, but a couple of weeks a year it can be a fantastic fishery. The logistics of getting to it can be difficult. That’s what we do with our DX trips, we either go to areas that are tough to get to or smaller areas that aren’t often fished and couldn’t handle consistent lodge pressure and do them only for a short period of time. For the people that are the real die-hard bonefisherman, they are willing to make that sacrifice to get into those areas. This isn’t to denigrate anyone that does the traditional bonefish trips, I do them myself, everyone does them, but there are limitations to traditional trips. Often times, traditional trips just can’t get into those remote areas.
We don’t really do our DX trips as money makers. They are a labor of love. We do them with people we know and clients we’ve had for a long time and they are just a lot of fun. They are really invigorating and very cool. They are for hardy souls. If you don’t like bugs and like air conditioning, they probably aren’t for you. But if you live and breathe wild places, they are really fun trips.
Do you have one fly that you never leave without? When you go some place that is seldom fished, does it even matter what you throw?
No, probably not. I have to admit, a Crazy Legged Gotcha is probably my number one fly. I’ve caught bonefish all over the world on that fly. You can tie it more flashy or less flashy, but it is a pretty good pattern. Sometimes I tie it reversed with the eyes in back because most of the prey species face the animal they are trying to get away from. If I had to have one fly, it would probably be a light, small crab, just a generic tan crab, or a silly legs Gotcha. If you asked about Los Roques, I’d give you a different answer. Then you get to those islands in the South Pacific where all the fish eat is worms and you can throw a Gotcha all day and it won’t work.
Are you personally looking for big fish or do you like days with a lot of fish?
I think the answer to that question is that I love the classic bonefishing moments. Certainly, big fish get your heart going much more than a 3 pound bonefish. When you start to see fish in singles and doubles… that is certainly a lot more enthralling that throwing to a lot of school fish. What I like is when you tier the skills you’ve worked so hard to acquire, from finding the fish and hunting them to making a good cast and then good presentation, making a good enticing strip and then a good strip set. That’s what I seek are those moments. You can go and catch 20 fish in a day and then you catch one and you think “That was cool,” and you know, that is what you are going to remember. That’s what I look for. Many times I’ve walked away from schooling fish to head to a place that looked promising for a bigger tailing fish, but a bigger fish isn’t the end result I’m looking for, it’s those really cool moments.
What’s your favorite reel/rod right now?
I use an Able Super 8, that I really like. My rod of choice is a Loomis GLX. Loomis was kind enough to give me a new GLX after my old GLX kept breaking and they gave me a Crosscurrent, the same one that Shane had in his interview. That’s my rod of choice and I love my Able. It’s so easy to service, you can take some parts with you and totally repair them in the field. You don’t have that issue with the closed drag that starts to squeak where you have to come back and send it in, but you can’t fix it in the field, so that would be my choice. The old standard, heavy weight Able Super 8. I’ve taken it all over. Take a couple springs and a couple spare parts and you can fix it and make it work anywhere in the world. The Loomis GLX is a great rod as well.
Since you travel so much… what are some things folks should consider when it comes to what to put in their luggage?
Here are some things I think are critical to have. I first look at e things you can’t afford not to have. Those are, beyond the obvious, you’ve got to have good sunglasses and you’ve got to have good wading shoes that are broken in and you know will not chew your feet up. If you are going to do trips where there’s a lot of wading and your are going to be on your feet all day, I’ve watched people get a new pair of boots and their feet are just a little different and they end up with horrible blisters and they are in pain the whole time, so I’d say that is the number one thing you’ve got to have. Other than that, the things I’ve seen people forget are a good day pack or fanny pack and a rain coat. I’m amazed how many people I’ve seen go fishing on the flats without a rain coat. You’ve never been so cold and you’ve been in a good thunderstorm if you don’t have a rain coat. It’s really important.
The one thing I thought of that I’ve watched more people ruin trips over is when you get that little chaffing between your legs. The number one thing I’d recommend to people would be to get some anti-chaffing cream, I think Vaseline makes some, and to put it on the first day of your trip so you don’t ever get that started. I’ve literally watched people walk frog style across flats where they have to put their legs about four feet apart because they have that chaffing from the salt water between their legs. That is what first came to mind. If I can give someone a good hint, if you are going to do a trip with a lot of wading, put it on early, before you have a problem, and you’ll never have to deal with it.
Ya know, I’ve had that experience down in Mexico and what I found that works, because I travel with a small child, is Desitin, for diaper rash. It works well.
Being that you’ve traveled all over the world in search of bonefish… what’s the craziest thing you’ve had to eat?
Oh man… I have had some odd, odd things. I was on one atoll in French Polynesia that they served a mollusk that was kind of like a cross between blubber and petroleum jelly. It wasn’t so much that the taste was horrible as much as the consistency and they literally gave me a serving that was the size of a 20 ounce porterhouse steak. There was a huge amount to eat and of course it is bad form not to clean your plate and… I am not a finicky eater, but honestly, I couldn’t eat it. It was like eating floor wax. I tried… but it is the only thing that has made me gag.
Great interview Scott. Thanks.