Traveling on commercial airlines is no fun. It’s a hassle. The planes are crowded, have no leg room and the seats are uncomfortable. The aircraft are old, not on time, your luggage gets lost and a large number of travelers wear their flannel pajamas.
I’m old. I remember when air travel was an adventure. While the food wasn’t good, at least it was served with real silverware and a small package of cigarettes. There also was lots of leg room, and your luggage almost always arrived with you.
In today’s world of air travel, it seems luggage is the big issue. It never ceases to amaze me how travelers define carry-on bags. I believe the inventor of the Whac-A-Mole game got inspiration from watching people trying to hammer huge bags into little spaces. When successful, the proper-size carry-on, which was stowed first, gets crushed.
With that ugly vision planted firmly in your brain, I have some tips for those who have never traveled on an airplane with their fly-fishing gear.
It is a sad start to a trip to have checked all your gear and arrive at the luggage carousal only to watch everyone else claim their bags. Then find the airline office that tracks lost bags closed. Now you begin the search for your gear using a cellphone, only to have your bags and equipment delivered to your lodge the day before you leave to come home. I have seen this happen.
So Tip 1 is don’t check everything. Acquire a rod bag that can hold several 4-piece rods, reels and other items that will make it through security. The other items, for me, include an extra pair of sunglasses and my sun gloves. Don’t try to carry on hundreds of flies, liquid floatant, pliers and a multitool.
Several types of rod bags are on the market that will fit into overhead storage bins. My bag even fits into the bins on the commuter flights to Denver.
For Tip 2, make use of the personal carry-on bag you’re allowed. In it, put one pair of fishing pants and a fishing shirt. That way, if your checked luggage is delayed or lost, you’ll be comfortable while fishing. If your bag holding your flies doesn’t arrive, hopefully your fishing partners won’t charge much for some flies. Of course, that means you are traveling with different partners than I travel with.
Tip 3 is know the laws about bringing waders, felt-soled boots, rods and reels into the state or country of your destination. Some states and countries have banned felt-soled boots. It would sure take the fun out of a fly-fishing trip to have your wading boots confiscated at an airport. I recently saw several fly-fishermen having to check their rods after changing airports in Argentina. The national airport had a different set of rules from the international airport.
Tip 4 is don’t argue with the folks from TSA or U.S. Customs. You’ll lose every time. Even if an item makes it through one airport, there is no law that says it will make it through another. I had a nail knot tool make it through one airport only to be confiscated at another. That was TSA.
Arguing with a U.S. Customs official goes to another level; they carry guns. If you don’t like losing a nail knot tool, you’ll really have a bad day as you watch your toothpaste squeezed out. And that will just be for starters. These folks have a thankless job to do; try thanking them.
Reach Don Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.