With fishing lodges around the world, we receive a lot of questions from our guests about traveling with fishing gear. If you’re an experienced traveler, you understand that there are hardly any guarantees or set rules among competing airlines, and unfortunately this is out of our control. However, what we can do is share a few things we have learned along the way to help you best plan for your next adventure.
Know Your Airline
Some airlines, such as Alaska Air, are more accommodating when traveling with fishing gear and this is worth considering when booking your next flight. Some destinations are more accommodating to traveling anglers than others as well. For example, destinations that routinely see their share of passengers toting around rod tubes and waterproof boat bags (Alaska and Montana for example) are typically much more understanding towards anglers and their toys. However, destinations that are not as well known to the “non-angler” as a fishing destination might have a few more questions about your gear.
Pack Your Carry-On Wisely
Pack your carry-on with the assumption that you may have to live without your checked bags for a day or two. That way, if there is an issue with your other luggage, you will still be able to have a great trip.
First and foremost, make absolutely sure to pack any essential medical items such as medications, EpiPens, inhalers, etc. and take care that these items travel with you at all times. Place these in a small bag or container in the event that if your flight is full and your carry-on needs to be gate checked, you can pull it out and keep it with you. Make sure to pack valuables you cannot live without as well, such as laptops, cell phones, tablets, camera gear and so on as well as the chargers for each! While some choose to disconnect while on vacation, if it is important for you to have these items, make sure the chargers travel with the items.
As far as fishing gear, leave any tools such as pliers, nippers, forceps, hook sharpeners, or knot tools in your checked luggage. However, try to pack enough to wear for a day on the water. Obviously, this depends on where you will be fishing as a day in Alaska requires different gear than a day in the Bahamas. A packable rain coat, sunglasses, and your lucky hat are sure-ins no matter where you are fishing. If traveling to a cold climate destination such as Alaska or British Columbia, consider packing a pair of long underwear or fleece pants to wear under your waders to make sure you will be warm if your bags are a little late. They take up little room, but make the difference in comfort.
If you’re traveling to a tropical destination, consider traveling with a pair of flats pants, or better yet, wear them on the plane! No need to try to cram waders, wading boots, flats boots, or the like into your carry on as you can borrow these from the lodge, but clothing to fit is much more difficult to accommodate.
According to the TSA website, flies are allowed in carry-on luggage if under a certain size. However, this seems to apply to smaller patterns such as trout flies or smaller saltwater flies in the 4-8 range. Larger salmon or steelhead flies may not make it through. To be on the safe side, pack a box small enough of a few tried and true patterns in your carry on that will not break the bank in the event it doesn’t make it through.
If at all possible, travel with rods and reels in hand as well. We realize how much these items cost and are just as uneasy about handing them over the counter at the check in booth. Keep reading for some tips on traveling with rods and reels.
What About the Rods?
For the most part, in our experiences, airlines and TSA are generally pretty accepting when traveling with fly rods. However, some issues occur with rod tubes, especially the metal or fiberglass factory tubes that come with the rod. For reasons unknown to us, plastic rod tubes with codura coverings seem to cause the least problems.
If you’re only traveling with a couple four piece single hand rods, a double reel on rod case works great for travel. If traveling with spey rods, we have found that a large 46 inch tube offered by several rod companies works well and can hold several rods. Although these tubes don’t fit in the overhead compartment, typically the flight attendant has no problem storing it in the closet at the front of the plane.
If you are still skeptical at whether or not your rods will be able to travel with you, the safest bet is to ditch the tube altogether. Bring all your rods in their socks and bind them all together with an elastic. While not as durable as a rod tube, when tied together, they are surprisingly strong. This way, you can be sure they travel with you at all times.
What About the Reels?
For the most part, we haven’t had much trouble packing fly reels in our carry-on luggage, particularly when traveling within the U.S. and the Bahamas. Therefore, we would recommend packing any expensive fly reels in your carry-on. However, we have heard of folks having trouble packing fly reels loaded with fly line while traveling to destinations in Canada. If you are fishing in Canada, you may want to consider contacting your airline beforehand.
Label Your Bags
A simple tip, but very important. Make sure to attach some sort of identification card to each checked bag and your carry on. In the unlikely event that something happens to your luggage, this simple information can make all the difference when trying to track down your luggage and receive it in a timely manner.
Odds are the last thing you want to do once you reach your destination is pack for the next day of fishing. When you reach the lodge, you should hit the ground running in vacation mode! When packing for your trip, try organizing your boat bag or pack with all the terminal tackle and essential fishing items you might need while out on the water. If it’s small enough to fit in your checked luggage, perfect! That way, once you reach your destination, all you have to do is pull out your bag and hit the water. Plus, organizing all your terminal gear (flies, tippet, leaders, hemostats, etc.) this way will give you more peace of mind on the plane that you did not leave something at home.