How Do I Pack My Fly-Fishing Gear?

Two anglers prep their gear before they hit the water.

One of the greatest aspects of fly fishing is all of the locations across the globe available to anglers. Whether you’re flying across the world for a week-long adventure at an exotic lodge, or packing a raft for a five-day float trip, packing as smartly as possibly is a skill that pays off when it’s time to hit the water.

Here are some tips to make it easier for you to get your gear where it needs to be.

Multi-Day Float Trips

There’s nothing better than spending a week floating down a wild river with good friends. Multi-day float trips are a joy and can immerse anglers in an experience that’s hard to forget. Outfitters that do a lot of multi-day trips have the logistics of packing down to a science. They’re organized, efficient, and quick when it comes to loading up rafts and gear.

For first-time angles on a multi-day trip, the logistics of packing can be hard to get right. Instead of having to unpack and reorganize all your essentials again and again, use these tips to make the process of carrying and finding what you need as easy as possible.

Do You Really Need It?

Space is at a premium on these trips. There’s only so much room for gear in a raft. Before you go and stuff everything possible into your bags, ask yourself if you really need three rod and reels or a fifth fly box.

Organize gear into 3 categories. Pack each separately.

  • Fly fishing gear, waders, boots and all the things you’ll want for a day of fishing are in one category. Pack all these things together into a waterproof, roll top dry bag or duffel.
  • Clothing for fishing and camp life, as well as your sleeping bag and toiletries should all go into the next roll top or waterproof duffel.
  • The last and smallest category would be all the extra gear that’s not essential to fishing and camping but is necessary for your comfort and enjoyment. This bag should be much smaller but stay attached to your clothing and camp bag. Things such as books, journals, and cameras could all be part of the collection. Keep this bag small.

Focus on the right gear, rather than on bringing lots of extras and spares.

  • While it may seem wise to bring an extra pair of waders and two rainjackets, don’t do it. Because space is at a premium, take the time to make sure all your gear is in tip top shape before you pack it. Rather than bringing a spare pair of waders, just make sure your go-to pair is leak free and ready to keep you dry.
  • Instead of a quiver of rods, bring your most versatile one and a spare. Grab that stout 6wt that throws streamers, dries, and nymphs rather than packing a 4wt dry-fly rod, a 6wt nymph rod, and a 7wt streamer rod.

Pick the right luggage to pack it into

  • Roll top dry bags are the way to go for packing clothing and sleeping bags. Because you don’t need to get in and out of these bags all day long, they’ll stay dry if you keep them closed.
  • Bags you need to get in and out of often, like ones for fishing gear, should go into zippered dry bags. That way you don’t need to un-roll and re-roll bags over and over again all day.
  • Bring along a spare dry bag for gear that gets wet. This ensures your wet gear won’t get everything else wet when you stuff it into a dry bag.

Airline Travel

Traveling for a flight to a fishing destination can be stressful and frustrating. Follow the same guidelines set out above and pack things into separate bags. Once that’s done, stuff these bags into a single duffel that fits all your gear. Consolidating all your gear into one package will pay off when it comes to locating your bags at baggage claim. Here are some more packing tips to help make sure your gear gets to its destination.

  • Invest in a large rod-and-reel tube and pack all your rods and reels in it. If you travel with multiple rod tubes, there’s a good chance one or more will go missing as you travel.
  • When possible, some anglers choose to mail out their gear ahead of time. This is a good option for a variety of reasons. You can track your gear to be sure it arrives before your airline departure. Once your gear is sent and has arrived ahead of time, the stress of air travel is greatly lessened. If your gear gets lost, the insurance claims are easier to file (just make sure you include insurance when you send your gear).
  • If you are packing wet gear into your luggage, separate it into its own compartment. This way, TSA agent can easily check the bag over. Problems with TSA inspections can cause bags to arrive late or get lost, so making it easy for agents to do their jobs can help ensure your bags get home when you do.

While traveling to fish can be an unforgettable and rewarding experience, packing for it can be stressful. Spending the time to organize your fishing gear and packing it intently will pay off when it comes time to hit the water. Knowing the location of each piece of gear you’ll need throughout the trip will make fishing a new destination less complicated and more direct.

If you pack properly, you’ll be able to more thoroughly enjoy the fishing and lessen the stress of constantly searching for the gear you need to match the demands of the day.

Shop Fly-Fishing Packs & Bags