Traveling With Gear

A group of people with their luggage standing at the end of a dock during sunrise

Packs and Bags for Fly Fishing

Luggage for fly-fishing travel and designer luggage are distinct creatures: expensive designer luggage is a sign of good taste and in most cases, beautiful luggage is an asset to your well-being. It was, though, never designed to withstand the rigors of a fly-fishing trip to Alaska or a lodge trip to a remote island in the Bahamas—and more importantly, is not designed to carry fly-fishing gear and hunting gear or deal with the abuse of remote travel. That being said, you can still carry quality luggage, but specifically designed to handle the rigors and needs of outdoor adventure travel.

A close up of durable, black, Orvis luggage

Fishing Luggage Must Be Durable

There are some excellent luggage options out there for the traveling angler. There are three major design features to which you need to pay attention. The first is durability. This luggage is going to get tossed around in some pretty tough conditions from baggage handlers in remote airports (not to mention regular airports), tossed in the back of a float plane, to being dragged up a rocky path at the lodge.

A man walking with fishing rod in hand while wearing an Orvis Bug-Out Backpack

Fishing Luggage Must Be Functional

The second is functionality. Not only does this luggage need to carry your general apparel, but also fly rods, reels, fishing packs or vests, waders, wading shoes, and wading jackets. At some point in your trip, you’re going to have to put wet, muddy gear back in your bag along with your clothes (this is even more important if you’re going from one remote destination to another).

A woman holding a dog wearing a sling pack headed out fishing

Fishing Luggage Must Be Lightweight

The third is weight. All that gear can push the limits of airline weight restrictions. Starting with a heavy leather bag won’t help; bringing a lightweight fishing bag is a far better strategy.

Great fishing luggage offers the separation of clothes and personal items from fishing gear and should offer the following features:

  • A separate vented compartment in the bottom for heavy gear like waders and boots, wading jackets, packs or vests, and other gear that might need to be packed wet or damp. Also, it’s a great place to organize this gear to ensure you have everything you need.
  • Long enough to carry four-piece rod tubes in the bottom if you decide to pack them in this bag (see below on carrying them on).
  • Strong, high-denier nylon construction is very light, but has a very high strength-to-weight ratio which will help overcome airline weight restrictions.

Heavy-duty all-terrain wheels make your fishing duffle easy to move through airports and some of the rougher places you may need to go (most remote lodges don’t invest a lot in pavement, which is part of the reason you go there). Cheap wheels will self-destruct almost immediately in these travel conditions.

  • A telescoping handle to make it easy to move through crowded airports (which can also be used to attach a smaller bag resting on the larger bag when walking).
  • Enough space to carry a solid week’s worth of clothes and fly-fishing gear.
A woman looking over her shoulder wearing a backpack that houses her rod

Carry-on Your Rods & Reels

Airline baggage handling is a gamble at best these days. The horror stories of lost and never-to-be-seen-again luggage are legion. If the luggage is lost, most apparel can be replaced easily enough. If the rods and reels in your fishing luggage don’t make it, that is a much more difficult, not to mention expensive, and often heart-breaking event. Besides, who wants to fish the trip of their dreams with borrowed equipment?

There is an easy way to avoid this. You are allowed two carry-ons. One should be your essentials bag (fishing backpacks are great for this) with cameras, medicines, and anything that absolutely cannot be replaced, that can fit under your seat. The other should be your rods and reels, and there is fishing luggage designed to do just that: long enough to carry four-piece rods, room for reels, pliers and other accessories, leaders and tippet material, and will easily fit in the overhead. NOTE: No knives. They’ll find them and you’ll lose them.

Rods and reels propped up in a darken room

Four Steps to Pack Your Carry-On

  1. Take your four-piece rods out of the tube, but leave them in the protective sock. You can easily fit multiple rods this way which is great for trips where you might be fishing spring creeks one day and big rivers the next, or bonefish and tarpon on the same trip: different weight rods plus backup. Tip: don’t ever go without backup rods.
  2. Put your reels in their neoprene case and pack them in the case. These cases have adjustable compartments so you can customize them perfectly to fit your gear.
  3. Fishing luggage also generally has pockets in the lid to nicely organize all your tippets and leaders as well as other small things like sunglass cleaners, buffs, sun gloves, or cold-weather hats and gloves.
  4. Items that you don't want to check with the airlines, like prescriptions, phone chargers, spare sunglasses, or other valuables, can be packed in the rod and reel carry-on. Between this case and your other carry-on, you should be able to keep all your irreplaceable gear in your possession.

You now have a lightweight carry-on with your most valuable items for a fishing trip and no issues with security as these bags are built to be TSA-compliant.

Whatever fishing luggage you choose to buy, make sure it’s going to address these needs. Being able to carry all the things you want and need is essential to your well-being on any trip. Knowing the things that are most valuable are in your possession offers great peace of mind. Being able to do it with style and function is even better. Remember—packing in anticipation of the fly-fishing trip of a lifetime is half the fun. Enjoy every minute.