Packing Tips for The Traveling Angler
April 03, 2014
Anglers are traveling more than ever, both domestically and internationally. The excitement of exploring new waters and targeting exotic species is undeniable. With this excitement come untold challenges.
As a regularly traveling angler, I've dealt with constantly changing TSA rules and visa requirements, restrictive luggage allowances, and other pitfalls. Planning and packing are your best bets to guard against travel nightmares.
Packing right depends on climate, length of stay, transportation, and accommodations. A guided trip to a five-star resort in Canada may require nothing more than your passport and a toothbrush. But a tent-based excursion to the Amazon can mean packing tarps, hammocks, water purifiers, and more.
For starters, let's say your trip involves air travel. Start by confirming the maximum weight, size, and number of bags permitted by each airline you intend to fly. Then pack for the most restrictive allowance. Baggage restrictions dictate rod lengths. Poor planning can leave you paying upwards of $300 each way in additional charges.
On a trip this spring to Guyana, we learned that our Delta flight into Georgetown was one of only 6 worldwide destinations that had an oversize bag restriction of 62 inches total linear dimensions (Length+Width+Height). So two-piece rods or three-piece pack rods were essential. These unusual restrictions were not noted anywhere on the tickets. Without extra research, we would have packed 7-foot rods in our Plano Airliner case. The tube would have been rejected at the airport, and we would have arrived in Guyana with no rods.
Instead, we brought two-piece St. Croix Premier rods and Shakespeare Ugly Stiks, along with Okuma's 3-piece Nomad Travel Rods. Whereas most pack rods are light to medium in power, the Nomad Travel Rods come in heavy-power models suitable for the toughest fish. Nomad rod sets also come with an extra, interchangeable tip section for two different actions, such as medium and medium heavy, for added versatility.
To ensure they arrive intact, alternate them facing tip to butt in your tube, with butts extending beyond the tips. Secure rods tightly with rubber bands or velcro straps and wrap a towel or t-shirt around them to be snug in the tube. Fill any extra space at the ends of the tube with clothes. When using a collapsible rod tube, replace any clips or pins that set the length of the tube with a bolt and locking nut. Pins can become dislodged from rod cases. When this happens, the tube can collapse like an accordion and crush the rods inside.
Reels can go in your carry-on bag for safety or in checked bags. Be aware that security departments, notably in Mexico, have been known to ban reels in carry-on luggage if they contain line, as well as carry-on pack rods, apparently feeling they constitute weaponry. So pack reels without line in carry-on bags, with line in checked bags.
Since size and weight restrictions are key factors, select luggage that's light and compact. I like a large water-resistant duffle bag that weighs less than 5 pounds. Bass Pro Shops, Cabela's, Columbia, North Face, and Patagonia offer plenty of options. One of the most affordable and functional is Bass Pro's Extreme Rolling Bag with heavy-duty construction, internal pockets, and wheels and handle for ease of transport. For added water protection, place clothes in a heavy-duty garbage bag inside your luggage. The bag comes in handy later to separate dirty or wet clothes.
Select luggage that allows you to carry all your gear unassisted throughout your trip. A medium-size backpack serves as my carry-on bag. It contains reels, most of my clothes, lures with the hooks removed, and essential toiletries and medications. I have a small soft-sided cooler with a strap that qualifies as my personal bag. It's padded exterior and waterproof interior make it ideal for compact cameras, SD cards, batteries, and travel documents. With both hands free, I have a Plano Airliner case with my rods and a wheeled duffle bag for tackle and other items.
Northern sportsmen are experts at dressing for cold conditions. Half of our wardrobe is fleece, polypropylene, wool, or GoreTex. But for the oppressive heat and dangerous sun of topical locations, specialized gear helps. Toward the Equator, you risk sunburn, dehydration, and heat stroke. Pack light clothes with a minimum of SPF 15. Long-sleeve shirts and pants that convert to shorts provide protection and versatility. Columbia's Omni-Freeze and ExOfficio's Sol Cool garments react with perspiration to lower the temperature of the fabric by several degrees. Consider a wide brimmed hat, face buff, and sun gloves where warranted. A bandanna that can be soaked in water and worn around your neck is a lightweight option to help keep cool. Don't forget sunscreen, lip balm, eyewear, an extra hat, and raingear.
Bugs can be a nuisance or worse. For biting insects, an ounce of prevention makes sense. Columbia and Cabela's offer clothing impregnated with insect repellent. Or clothes can be treated with Permethrin prior to the trip. This repellent remains on clothing for up to 30 washes. A bottle of repellent, sealed in a Ziploc bag, is always in order. The color of your clothing can influence your likelihood of being harassed by bugs. For example, African tsetse flies are attracted to dark clothing and some Amazon bees have a preference for bright things. Check ahead of time.
Let local recommendations guide your gear selection and supplement with personal favorites. For a trip to Papua New Guinea, we were introduced to Halco lures, a popular brand in Australia. They proved wildly successful there and continue to produce back home.
Consistent results have come on top-quality lures with premium finishes. Favorites include Rapala, Yo-Zuri, Sebile, LiveTarget, Spro, and Lucky Craft. They have weight-transfer systems for long casts, run true, and many have thru-wire construction that hold up to big fish. For the world's toughest, I upgrade trebles to Owner ST-56s or 66s, and split rings to Wolverine Triple Rings.
Throw in some small hooks, split shot, Berkley PowerBait or Gulp!, dental floss, and balloons. If fishing gets tough, livebait can save a trip, but first you have to catch it. Small hooks baited with PowerBait or Gulp! work around the globe for catching little stuff. Balloons make fine floats and floss can be used to bridle baits on the hook.
Pack a headlamp and small powerful flashlight for use around camp or night-fishing. Store fresh batteries outside of the light in transit or tape over the terminals to prevent draining them. Add spools of single-strand wire and a tube of superglue. Wire makes leaders and bait rigs of any size. A haywire twist tool quickly fashions leaders to prevent bite-offs. Superglue can fix broken items, repair softbaits, seal puncture holes, even close wounds.
Other useful items include split-ring pliers with wire cutters, a Leatherman or Gerber multi-tool, and a fish gripper. A Boga Grip, Berkley Big Game Grip, or Rapala Lock'N Weigh work well. These devices lock solidly on the fish's jaw, contain a scale, and are a safe way to handle fish.
For comfort around camp, ear plugs can help when roomed with a snorer, nearby generator, or other annoyance. A length of rope makes a clothesline and a small pack of detergent lets you pack half as many clothes and do a wash mid-week. I've found that clothes for a 10-day trip can weigh less than 5 pounds, with your heaviest items worn on the plane and not counted in your weight allowance. On travel days, wear a shirt with a secure front pocket for your passport, boarding passes, and other documents plus a pen for customs and immigration forms.
Optional equipment includes a foldable net like Frabill's Power Stow. We carried one to Southeast Asia and landed everything from big Mekong catfish and barramundi to giant snakeheads. It would have come in handy on a tigerfish trip to Tanzania where the guide used what my fishing partner referred to as a butterfly net with holes the size of cannon balls. We lost several trophy fish with that gem.
Where feasible, a portable sonar like the Humminbird 597ci HD is a luxury item well worth packing. Local guides often guess at the depth and location to fish. They're often shocked to learn the true depth of areas and how quickly productive spots can be located with a good unit. The GPS on that unit also saved us from getting lost on several occasions. Ask whether your outfitter can supply an appropriate battery for your unit and save the weight and hassle. If not, most units last several days if used conservatively with a small 12-volt gel battery that weighs about 5 pounds and can be carried on commercial flights. A pair of 6-volt batteries is another option.
Like the Boy Scouts, the traveling angler's motto is "Be Prepared." Take time to plan for any eventualities. Some trips go smoothly, while other times it's up to you to fix a potential disaster. Make lists and stay organized.
For foreign visits, check on visa requirements well in advance. Few countries have consulate offices outside of Washington D.C. and/or New York. In most cases, this means a completed visa application must be sent overnight to the consulate, along with your Passport, additional photos, travel itinerary, and payment. Processing can take a month. Check with your clinic for mandatory and recommended vaccinations and immunizations. They commonly include hepatitis A/B, polio, typhoid, yellow fever, and tetanus, along with anti-malaria medication and a broadband antibiotic like Cipro. The Center for Disease Control provides useful information, nc.cdc.gov.
Also check the U.S. Department of State's website (travel.state.gov) for travel warnings, to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, receive up-to-date security information, and to advise the U.S. Embassy of your travel plans. If you're traveling with expensive camera and fishing equipment, consider preregistering it with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. A CBP Form 4457 (Certificate of Registration for Personal Effects Taken Abroad) can be obtained online and must be completed and filed with U.S. Customs prior to departure as proof that the items were not bought overseas during your trip and subject to an import duty upon reentry (forms.cbp.gov). And as a precaution, make copies of your passport and place them in each item of your luggage to help if bags are lost. And if you lose your passport, it makes issuance of replacement documents far easier.
*In-Fisherman Field Editor Steve Ryan has the most international fishing travel experience of any angler on the In-Fisherman staff.