Fly Fishing Air Travel 101

So you’re hopping on a big jet plane headed to a new, exciting fishing location! Regardless of your destination, be it that you’re sneaking a few fishing hours while on a family vacation or traveling on a true fly fishing adventure, you’re going to need to bring your fly fishing gear with you. Traveling with fly fishing gear can be easy as long as you follow a few simple rules:

Carry Your Fly Rod, Reel, and Essentials Onto the Plane

Especially if you are traveling specifically to fish, the last thing you want to happen is for your luggage to get lost or delayed with all your gear in it. The best way to prevent this is by carrying your rod tube, a reel, a box of flies and some rigging material on the plane with you, that way you know it will make it to your final destination with you. Throw any back up gear or gear you can do without in your checked bag because you can always re-wear or wash clothes, you can’t fish without a rod!

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Do Your Research

Prepping for any trip takes a lot of research regardless of the destination or activities. You should do some basic research on the gear you will need to fish at your destination. What size flies and leaders are recommended? Are there fishing spots walking distance from where you’re staying? And most importantly, is there a fly shop you can run to for advice if you’re being frustrated by the fish? All of these are important questions to consider and research before you pack your bags and head to the airport, so you can go into your trip well informed and ready to make the most of the fishing time you will have on this adventure!

Pack Just the Bare Essential Flies and Leaders

Save weight in your bag by packing just the essential gear you need for your fishing escapades. A handful of leaders and a simple range of tippets will allow you to keep those leaders going throughout the whole trip. We recommend keeping all that organized with a simple leader wallet in your pack. Also, try to minimize the number of flies you bring (as best you can). We know its easy to get carried away and bring hundreds of flies, just in case you run into something interesting. Instead, try to bring along just 2 fly boxes with 2-3 of patterns you have confidence in and have researched.

Make a List and Check It Twice

Prepping for a trip can be chaotic, no matter the length or intensity of the trip. One of the best things my father passed down to me regarding trip preparation was to create a packing list and stick to it. Not only will it help you keep your gear organized but it is a quick reference for you to check right before you walk out the door to head to the airport because you don’t want to get to your destination and realize you left your fly reel or fly boxes sitting on your desk.

Bring a Back-Up Rod

Trust us nothing is worse than having your fly rod break on day 2 of a 3 day fly fishing trip, that’s why we recommend bringing a spare rod, just in case something happens so you don’t lose out on fishing days while you wait for that rod to be repaired. Instead of checking this rod, tuck it in your checked bag just in case you, or your traveling companion needs it.

9 thoughts on “Fly Fishing Air Travel 101

  1. Trip to the Wild June 15, 2019 / 1:26 pm

    Thanks for the tips. Have you every had a problem with airport security confiscating your hooks because they thought it was sharp and dangerous?

    • Dan Zazworsky June 17, 2019 / 4:26 am

      While that thought has passed my mind every time I have flown with them, I have only ever been asked what I was going to be fishing for.


      • Trip to the Wild June 17, 2019 / 9:47 pm

        It’s always nice to have a fellow fishermen check your bag.

  2. Gary D June 17, 2019 / 12:18 pm

    I have Able pliers that I use. Have you carried them on a plane or packed them in your bag?

    • Dan Zazworsky June 17, 2019 / 3:58 pm

      I have done both actually and have had 0 problems. The only thing the airlines seem to have an issue with is knives, which you should always put in your checked bag if you are bringing one along! Other than that, I would just check their policies and TSA guidelines. – Dan

  3. Bob Margulis July 17, 2019 / 3:06 pm

    I returned from a trip to Scotland last week and was not allowed to bring my Winston BiiX 7113-4 rod on the plane (and I was traveling business class). It was subsequently lost, recovered and lost again by the airlines and their delivery company. Do you know that traveling internationally the airline is only obligated/allowed (by international agreement) to pay something lie $10/lb for lost luggage (and how much did my rod weigh!!!!). One redeeming aspect to the loss was it was in the hands of the delivery company and they compensated me replacement value. Another is that I was clever enough to not include my Hardy 3 7/8″ Perfect (another $800) in the spey rod case but carried it separately. Sadly that rod was the rod-love-of-my-life and is almost impossible to find in the used market and there is none other like it. My advice is never bring your favorite rod on an airplane unless you are sure you can carry it onboard.

  4. Bruce B July 17, 2019 / 3:45 pm

    Major Canadian airlines do not allow flies to be carried on the plane. This seems to be due to a government regulation that prohibits large hooks (larger than most fly fishers would carry). Sometimes they do not allow reels with line to be carried on. They also sometimes do not allow rod cases containing 4 piece 9 ft rods, though this has rarely been a problem for me. Some foreign airlines are much more restrictive about carry-on fishing gear, so it is best to inquire before leaving and be prepared to check items if there are problems at the airport.

  5. Gerard July 18, 2019 / 3:15 am

    This fine in the US but a large majority of the world (international airports) will not allow rods, reels loaded with line, hooks etc. as cabin luggage.
    Problems occur when you have to change for connecting flights. UK, you will get rods (dependent on the carrier) and sometimes reels with line on, Europe is very arbitrary. UAE no.

  6. Dave July 19, 2019 / 1:06 pm

    I have always carried my rods, reels, and flies on board with me when I fly. Once coming back from Cabo San Lucas the security check people pulled my flies out of my carry-on and said that I could not take them on board. So I had to run back down to the bag check area and have them retrieve my checked in bag so I could but my fly box in it. It was a huge hassle.

    I had no problem flying to Cabo with my fly box, so I did not expect any issues on my return. There was no definitive reason for not allowing me to have the fly box on board. It was just a subjective decision by one individual. I guess he thought I might highjack the plane with one of my 2/0 Clousers.

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