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As I sit here, staring at all the white snow outside, wishing it was white sand, thoughts of travel to exotic places come to mind. A topic that always seems to come up when I’m discussing a trip involving air travel, is how I successfully get my fly fishing gear where I’m going. There’s nothing worse than getting where you need to be, without the equipment you need to be there. It’s a quick way to ruin, or even prevent your trip from happening if you’re headed into a remote location with limited resources. You can often use gear provided for you, which can eliminate the hassle, but not always, and I personally prefer to use gear I know and trust.

I always carry on my rods, reels, flies, vest/chest pack, camera gear or other electronics, and a change of lightweight clothes, packed in a daypack.

So, here are some tips on flying your fly fishing gear with minimal headaches on your next kayak fishing adventure.

1) Rods: Buy 4-piece rods. I typically will fly with a minimum of two rods, more often three to five. 4-piece rods can be carried on the plane with you, either in individual rod tubes, or grouped together in a hard case, and put in the overhead, even on small commuter planes. I prefer individual rod tubes so at my destination I can carry only the ones I need on a given day, and everything stays well protected at all times. They’re also easier to strap to a daypack as individuals. Sometimes I will lash multiple rod tubes together with electrical tape or Voile straps for ease of handling. You can wrap the electrical tape around a tube for re-use on your way home, or the Voile straps can come in handy on your boat.  I always carry the rod tubes on the plane, and will occasionally gate check the backpack. You don’t want a rod tube coming off a gate-checked bag while in cargo — they have no way of knowing which bag it came from.

2) Reels: Carry your reels and extra spools in your carry-on pack. Pack them in the padded case they came with, or aftermarket case for multiple reels, and they will be fine. You can pad them a little extra with any spare clothes.

3) Flies: Most people are surprised that you can, and should, carry on your flies. Even the big saltwater ones. The TSA even recommends you carry them on on their website: Traveling with Special Items. It states: ‘Expensive reels or fragile tackle such as fly’s should be packed in your carry-on baggage.’ That being said, while I’ve never had a problem, I have heard of people having problems, and I always carry a print-out of that page with me through security to show an officer if necessary. I also make a point when I’m flying on other non-fishing trips to casually ask an officer if any regulations regarding flying flies have changed since I have a trip coming up. They’ll usually thank you for asking, and may remember your face when you show up for your trip. Due to fishing on a Kayak most of the time requires a way more balance control than a simple boat backpacks can be very uncomfortable to use, I suggest instead using a Fishing Jacket to carry all your Flies, Reels and Knives (apart from other small miscellaneous ), clicking here you can find the best fly fishing chest packs, build quality is really great and I got used to them really fast. 

That’s pretty much it. Make sure you don’t have any knives or anything in your fly vest, or gel floatant (falls under gel/liquid restrictions) and things should hopefully go smoothly. If you’re carrying a bunch of weird stuff, it’s always better to show up a little early and allow extra time in case a security officer just doesn’t agree with their own website and you are forced to check something. Underwater camera gear seems to always raise eyebrows for instance, but it may just be the cool factor. If questioned, be nice, tell fish stories, smile, and it might work wonders.

On another note, if you’re traveling out of the country, all bets may be off. You’ll probably be fine flying out since you’re going through US security, but coming back home may be different. I’ve never had a problem, and carry everything on the same as outlined above. If your worried, just check it home cause it’s not critical to your trip at that point. I’ve heard of people being hassled for having fly lines on spools, but have never experienced it first hand.

Fishing kayaks unfortunately are a whole different ballgame, and we live in a world now where it’s just not going to happen. Best advice is to call ahead to a friend, local dealer or guide, and have one waiting. The ‘Dealer‘ page on the JK site is a good start.

Have fun, and good luck on the water…


Team JK