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How to Travel with your Fly Fishing Gear - RIVERSMITH

When planning a highly anticipated fly fishing excursion, the details at the forefront of your mind are usually the obvious; travel dates, how you’ll get there, budgeting for the trip with the funds allocated, etc. But when we take this zoomed out approach to get all the pieces of our adventure into place, we often forget to zoom back in and look at the smaller yet equally important details that can make or break a trip.

When packing up our fly rod, we forget to stop and ask “how secure is it? Have I exposed it to any potential risk or damage? Is there a better way to pack my most essential piece of equipment?” Nothing ruins a fly fishing trip faster than a busted fly rod that is no longer usable because it took damage on the way to where it was headed. Luckily, other anglers in the industry have taken this issue seriously. So seriously, they created some handy equipment with the sole manufacturing purpose being to protect your gear no matter what it comes up against. Whether you are traveling to your fly fishing hole via plane or by car, there are precautions you can take to get your gear there in one piece.

Holding a Fly Rod and Hatch Iconic 4 Plus reel in a fast moving stream

Fly Gear: Carry-On Vs. Checked Luggage

We can all agree that going through the TSA checkpoint of an airport is an unnerving process, especially when different airports seem to have different standards, verdicts, and directions. Honestly, even the mood of every TSA agent varies, making it that much more difficult to appease them all at once and ensure that your gear gets past security with no problem. To make matters worse, it certainly doesn’t help that some of our fly fishing gear could be used as weapons (pliers, knives, hooks, etc.)

With all that doom and gloom out of the way, there is a bright side! Fortunately, most airports see fly fishing equipment daily and seeing yours shouldn’t come as any sort of shock to the TSA agents. That being said, it is going to save you a lot of hassle if you pack certain gear properly. Think of it this way; TSA cares about what’s inside your luggage, whereas your airline carrier only cares about its size and weight.

This makes packing simple; anything that could be dangerous or raise some TSA eyebrows should ride in your checked luggage bag, rather than on your person or in your carry on. Items that come to mind are pocket knives, pliers, hooks, fishing wire, etc. Items that couldn’t be considered weapons are fine for joining you on the plane. These items could be your fly rod and its tube, your reel, waders, etc.

Angler performing a single hand spey cast standing in the middle of a river

If any item raises doubt, or you’re just not sure if the TSA will take it from you, place it in your checked luggage. If any anxiety remains, you can take it a step even further and contact your specific airline carrier to get their take on what can be packed, what should stay behind, etc. As you pack, visit the TSA’s What Can I Bring resource page and run each item by this list to make sure TSA has given it the stamp of approval. 

Once you’ve determined what you can and cannot bring, you’ll want to then give some thought as to what you’re going to transport your fly rod in. Heavy turbulence or other passengers shuffling your luggage to access their own can inflict potential damage to your most important piece of equipment, your fly rod. Luckily, there are some awesome fly rod tubes on the market built to withstand extreme shock. Rob tubes are built with hard cases that are extremely durable and will keep your fly rod on the straight and narrow.

Taking this approach, fly rod and reel tubes that can accommodate a 2- or 4-piece rig are the way to go. On most tubes, there are some extra storage pockets for other small gear and they pad most of their recesses so that your reels have a nice, cushy ride to your destination.

Protect Your Gear During Car Travel

You may take a fly fishing trip that does not doesn’t require you to travel by plane, removing all that security checkpoint and airline carrier consideration! In that case, it’s a lot less of a headache, but you’re not totally out of the woods. Although for generations, anglers would just place their fully rigged fly rod in the bed of their pickup and drive off into the sunset, over time, they learned that all the changes in direction, hard braking, and rocky roads inflicted serious damage to their gear.

At the absolute very least, when traveling with your fly rod by car, break down your rig into the number of pieces they manufactured it to break down to. If you don’t already have a rod tube, this is where some Velcro straps can come in handy. You can secure the pieces tightly together so there is less friction and then place them in your vehicle where they are not exposed to any windows, doors, or other passengers. To give the rod an even better ride, place a sock or something soft and protective over the tip of your rod, just to be safe.

Angler loading a fly rod outfit into a car roof mounted carrier

For anglers whose personal vehicles don’t sport a rack system on top of it, there are some really nice fishing rod racks on the market that were designed solely with your fly rods in mind. Make sure you find one that is compatible with your vehicle's rails that is aerodynamic, durable, aesthetically pleasing, and easy to access. If you often have a buddy or two tagging along, there are some fishing rod racks that can house over one fly rod and reel outfit at a time that might be worth considering.

Pack Smart and Happy Casting! 
There’s always going to be a bit of anxiety in traveling with your fly fishing gear, especially by plane. The first time you arrive at an airport with your gear in tow, you’re going to feel resistance and it’s likely that you’ll scramble to get it all to your plane and gate. However, the more often you do it and the more you prepare upfront, the more you’ll learn about what worked, what should have stayed behind, and the less anxious you’ll feel. A little homework before you set off on your journey will allow you to enjoy what you set out to do; fish! Pack smart so that you and your gear can catch all the trout your heart desires. 
Happy casting!

Three vehicles with roof mounted fly rod carriers driving a gravel rod along the foothills of a mountain range

A huge Thank You to Riversmith for writing a guest blog on this topic. Be sure to check out their rock-solid rod & reel racks on their website: Riversmith River Quivers

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