Let’s face it, travel for most anglers means trying to squeeze in some sort of fly fishing into the itinerary, whether it’s hiring a guide for a half-day or a couple of hours. For some reason, fly fishing a new piece of water is exhilarating, maybe due to the new sights, species, smells or style of fishing. It is (fly fishing) ever challenging and I think that’s why most of us are drawn towards it. With this in mind, the diversity of the different methods and target species comes with an array of different fly fishing gear we have to haul around the world to these different destinations. So how one might travel efficiently with all the different gear needed? Below you will find out how to effectively and effortlessly travel with fly fishing gear while traveling all over the world.
Whether you’re headed on a family vacation, work trip, couples trip or plain just fly fishing trip, traveling with fly fishing gear is no fun and neither is the packing aspect of it all. Luckily the fly fishing manufacturers have caught on to this and have created many different travel products to aid the traveling angler. So what are some of the best methods to travel with fly fishing gear especially fly rod tubes? Well, it’s all a situational basis on how much gear you will need for your trip, baggage policies, weight limits on planes, and overall preference. So to help you with this dilemma, below you will find some various methods to effectively travel with fly fishing gear.
Option 1. The Minimalist – Carrying on a Single Rod Tube
Okay, let’s say you are headed on a family vacation or work trip where you know you might have a little downtime to do some fly fishing. All you need is one rod, some basic terminal tackle, and a cup of flies. That is easy then, with most airlines you can carry on a fly rod tube and it can be considered your personal item. So you can still have a backpack and then carry on your fly rod tube.
One easy way to be hands-free is to purchase a cam strap like the Simms Rod Cam Strap and attach it to your backpack, so when you’re walking through the airport you can just attach the rod tube to your pack.
If for some reason you need to bring multiple rods, you can try to put two rods into one rod tube. This can be achieved with some patience and Tetris skills. Just be sure to be not to force the rods into one tube as it will usually result in a broken rod. Another option is to use two short 1 or 2-foot boat straps and strap the rod tubes together. Some duct tape can also be used in place of boat straps but can be a little messy and a pain.
If you need a hard-sided rod tube the one below is very nice to travel with as your reel fits in the case and there is also a strap for carrying.
If your keen to bring two rods with you, the option below is a great product.
Option 2. The Classic Fishing Trip – The Ever So Popular Rectangular Carry On
Let’s say you’re headed on a week-long fishing trip with your friends, you plan to bring a handful of rods, reels, tackle, and clothing. The rectangular carry on designed for fly fishing is going to be your best bet for traveling with your gear. It might have been Fishpond USA that came out with this clever design of a specific carry on built for fly fishing. The product has now been mimicked by other companies like Orvis. And for a good reason, this piece of luggage is perfect for any fishing adventure. You can store multiple rods in rod socks, reels, tackle, flies and even have room for some other essentials you cannot live without like a change of fishing clothes. So as soon as you hop off that plane, you are ready to hit the water running!
The only con about this method is if you are bringing a laptop it doesn’t fit in these carry on’s so you may have to leave the work behind for this trip. If your one of the travelers that are concerned about your gear making it safely to the final destination or you have some tight connections this option of travel is ideal for you. Check out the different cases below.
Option 3. The Journeyman – Check Everything in the Big Rolling Duffel or Duffels
Alright so let’s say you are headed on a two-week-long trip to some remote fishing area where you may endure the elements, you may need stronger, more durable and larger luggage options for traveling with your fly fishing gear. Simms, Patagonia, Fishpond, Orvis, Yeti all produce some extremely durable and useful luggage pieces. In most of these products, you can fit rods tubes and still have space for the rest of your gear for the trip. One decision you will have to make is if you want a rolling duffel or not. While a rolling duffel can be nice for traveling through airports it can be a pain to carry if you are traveling through some remote areas.
There are also different levels of waterproofing, some bags are just water-resistant and some bags are watertight. So if you think you will be on a boat you may want a watertight bag. If you think you may just endure some rain on the tarmac, a water-resistant bag will hold up just fine. Below are some of the best options for fly fishing specific duffel bags. Below are a couple of my favorites.
Option 4. The Plan Aheader – Ship Everything to Your Final Destination
Let’s say you are traveling within the continental U.S. for a fishing-specific trip and you just don’t feel like hauling all of your luggage around when you travel. Well, one option you have is to ship it to your final destination. This can only be possible if where you are headed has an address that can safely accept your package. You will also want to ship a good couple days ahead of when you arrive just in case the shipment gets delayed. You also take the risk of putting your essential fishing gear in the hands of a shipping carrier, where it seems like these days lost shipments occur all too often. If you have two-piece or even one piece rods, shipping these items can be an easy solution to travel woes.
Did you know that the VVA Fly Shop can ship your gear for you? The e-commerce team at VVA can pack and ship your gear for a small fee in the retail shop.
The Importance of Airline Policies:
Travel can have its pains and a lot has to do with the different airlines and all their different policies. So if you are planning a trip and have never flown with fly fishing gear on that specific be sure to check the fine print. Almost all domestic U.S. airlines allow the same items in carry on baggage but when traveling abroad some airlines do not allow specific fly fishing gear like flies, reels, rods, etc. So be sure to ask around or read the fine print before tackling your packing. Also if you are flying on small planes to your final destination be sure to check baggage weight limits as these smaller plans can often have strict baggage weight limits.
Can you carry on fly fishing flies?
Yes, is the answer for all U.S Airlines. A giant circle hook may not be the best idea but, I’ve traveled with big 1/0 saltwater flies routinely and had no issues. But you never know when you might run into “that officer” that will not let you through. So to play it safe you may want to check your saltwater flies, trout flies should be no problem, as TSA states, “flies are allowed in carry-on luggage if under a certain size”. Just be sure to put your saltwater pliers in your checked bag.
Is it safe to check all your fly fishing gear?
Yes, it is generally safe to check all your fly fishing gear. Theft rates seem to be low at this time in the domestic U.S. Rods in rod tubes are safe from breaking. The only concern is if for some reason your checked bag doesn’t make it to your final destination. If you have direct flights this is usually never a problem but if you have some tight connections you may want to carry on your gear to avoid not having it at your final destination.
Can you carry-on a Spey rod?
Yes, you can carry on a two-handed or Spey rod to most domestic U.S. Airlines. Be sure to check with your airline prior but you have to think most Spey rod cases
Overpacking is the number one mistake that new travelers make. Think about your trip and exactly what you need. It is easiest to make a packing list first, lay everything out so you are sure you are not forgetting anything and bringing anything unnecessary. Make sure your baggage is not overweight so you don’t have to worry about repacking when arriving at the airport. The EAGLE CREEK LUGGAGE SCALE/ALARM CLOCK is priced at $30.95 and is a great tool to make sure your bags are not overweight.
Strategically packing your bag can save you space in your bag and this may be the answer to fitting all the gear needed. One very essential travel accessory I recommend is the Eagle Creek Compression Sac’s or Compression Cubes. These products allow you to effectively organize and pack your clothing, it maximizes space and keeps your bags organized throughout your travel. These make a great gift for anglers as it something most anglers would not consider buying for themselves.
Waterproof Carry On Trick
In order to utilize all the gear that you bring on a trip, instead of carrying-on your casual backpack, messenger bag or other pieces of luggage. Bring a carry-on that you can use hen your fishing, like the waterproof backpack, sling pack or another fishing-specific pack. Some anglers will even use their Soft Yeti Coolers as a carry on. This way you have your daily fly fishing gear bag on hand and it works great as a carry on.
My two favorites are the FISHPOND WIND RIVER ROLL-TOP BACKPACK $199.95 or the FISHPOND THUNDERHEAD SUBMERSIBLE BACKPACK $299.95.
The Ole Rod Tube Switch
While you may be sporting a $1000.00 brand new top of the line Scott Sector that comes in a metal or fiberglass rod tube. It is a good idea to disguise this fancy rod with say a cheaper or lower end rod that comes in one of the plastic Cordura line rod tubes like the Redington Fly Rods or lower end Orvis Fly Rods. Not only does it reduce potential theft of a more expensive rod but almost all airlines seem totally fine with these plastic rod tubes vs. the metal ones. Again it is a rare occasion that you would run into trouble carrying a metal rod tube…but better safe than sorry.
Save Big on Baggage Fees
According to a recent Hatch Mag Blog article, “As it turns out, most major U.S. airlines have a special equipment baggage policy that applies specifically to fishing gear. Put simply, this policy allows multiple pieces of fishing gear (rods, reels, boots, nets and other tackle) to count as a single item—even when packed completely separately.” Be sure to check out the full article from Hatch Mag here.
Invest in Some Travel Insurance
If you are spending a good amount of money on a fishing trip, travel insurance should be a must. If your flights get canceled or delayed and you cannot make it to the fishing lodge you paid over 10K, you will be happy that you have travel insurance. Some fly fishing travel companies offer free travel insurance.
For most people like myself traveling is not always the most fun as a lot of the time travel mishaps are out of your control. You encounter people that might not be having their best day. Or you just hate sitting in a cramped plane for 5 hours. One thing we can control when traveling is how we pack for these fly fishing adventures. With some effective organizing and packing, you can be at a little more ease and avoid any costly mishaps that may ruin your fly fishing trip. Happy travels!
Patrick Perry, Content Contributor, and Former Guide, @patperry