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How to Pack for a Multi-Day Fly Fishing Trip

Here in Littleton and along the Colorado Front Range, we’re fortunate to have great fly fishing within a day’s reach. From local ponds, to tailwaters, reservoirs, and high alpine waters, we’re pretty spoiled. But sometimes, you just have to get out of town. An overnight or week long fly fishing adventure is good medicine.

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Where’s your next multi-day fly fishing trip? It could be a road trip, a hike-in wilderness adventure, or a plane ride. Give yourself something to look forward to. Pick a destination and start planning.

As you get started, here are a few packing tips to keep in mind:

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Fly Fishing Road Trips

If you’ve chosen a road trip, your packing decisions become pretty easy. Unlike backpacking or even air travel, there’s really no penalty for over-packing. Bring as much gear as it takes. In fact, part of the fun of a road trip is popping in and out of water you may have never fished before. And with no real downside to packing extra, plan to throw in that 2 or 3 weight rod as well as your trusty 7 weight. You never know what little camp-side creek you end up on, or roadside pond with carp tailing you stumble across. With all that extra gear, you’ll still need to make sure fly rods and other fragile equipment are safely stowed.

On a road trip, you can bring fly rods in their hard-sided tubes. The only downside is that if you’re bringing several rods, all those round tubes are unwieldy and have a tendency to roll around. For secure storage on the outside of your vehicle, you can’t beat the convenience of a Riversmith River Quiver. If you’d rather keep fly rods unassembled inside your vehicle, check out the Fishpond Dakota Rod & Reel Case or the Simms GTS Rod & Reel Vault. Both of these options will also come in handy the next time you get on an airplane.

Otherwise, a fly fishing road trip can be as organized or disorganized as you’d like. Stash your gear into neatly packed duffel bags or pile it in the bed of a truck – that’s up to you. You can always check out our options for duffel bags, gear bags and luggage here.

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For some road trip ideas, check out the previous article we shared on that subject.

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Backpacking

Backpacking is at the opposite end of the packing spectrum from a road trip. This is by far the most restrictive. Because everything you add to your backpack is going to make your quads burn somewhere along the trail.

Don’t let that deter you. Right here in Colorado we have some incredible backcountry fly fishing opportunities. Wilderness areas all over the state are loaded with great fly fishing. From the Zirkel Wilderness in the north to the San Juans in the south, you could explore new waters for years and never fish the same place twice.

On these trips, hard-sided rod tubes strapped to the side of your backpack are often the best place to carry those valuable items. Like any trip, we recommend bringing at least two fly rods. The thought of being several miles into the backcountry with a single broken fly rod is tragic. Plus, it’s convenient having multiple rods rigged and ready for quickly changing conditions. For the weight-conscious backpacker, the Patagonia Travel Rod Roll securely holds up to four fly rods and is very light weight.

On most summer backpacking trips, wet wading is the norm. So you don’t need to worry about packing waders, unless the forecast looks chilly. When it comes to wet wading footwear, you have options. See our recent article on that subject

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When you are unloading your usual fishing pack and gathering the essential fishing items for your backcountry trip, one way to save both weight and bulk is to reorganize your flies into one box. It may seem like a daunting task, but reading up on high country fly patterns as Larkin explains in this blog post will have you only taking what you will fish. Your quads will thank you later.

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Horseback Trips

For nearly a decade, we’ve enjoyed our annual trips to the Flat Tops Wilderness Area in pursuit of remote, high alpine fly fishing. When using horses and sometimes side-by-side ATVs to access these waters, totally different packing strategies are needed to protect fly rods and other crucial gear.

On these trips we recommend hard-sided rod tubes. Bring your fly rods in their original hard tubes. Or even better, the Fishpond Jackalope Rod Tube Case can easily accommodate a handful of fly rods. It’s easy to tie onto the back of a saddle or stowed in a scabbard on the side of the horse. What’s more, it’s approved carry-on size, so it doubles as a great airline travel solution.

On these horseback trips, we also like to bring a waterproof backpack, like the Patagonia Guidewater, the Fishpond Thunderhead or the Simms Dry Creek. You can comfortably ride with a day’s worth of fishing gear, rain gear, your lunch, water and camera without having to worry about an afternoon thunderstorm soaking through.

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Back at camp, we like to leave the rest of our gear in a waterproof or at least water-resistant duffel bags. This will keep your clothing, sleeping bag and any other gear safe during transport to and from camp, whether that’s on the back of a mule or an ATV. Beyond just horseback trips, having a waterproof duffel bag will come in handy on your next float trip (Gunnison Gorge perhaps?) and even your next airplane ride. Because you never know when your bag will be left waiting on a rainy tarmac.

Check out all of our fly fishing duffel bag options here.

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Airline Travel

If there’s a destination on your bucket list, don’t let the complications of airline travel make you hesitate. Traveling with fly fishing gear is actually very simple. Rule number one: bring at least two fly rods. Rule number two: pack the essentials in your carry-on luggage.

Options like the Fishpond Dakota Rod & Reel Case, the Simms GTS Rod & Reel Vault, the Patagonia Travel Rod Roll and Fishpond Jackalope Rod Tube Case are all perfect for airline travel. They are designed to be carry-on sized and they’ll keep your valuable fly rods and in some pack options, reels and other items safe.

In your other carry-on bag, bring reels, leaders, tippet and a few other “essential” items in case your checked bags get lost. Think sunglasses, prescription glasses, a good book, medication and a change of clothes. Because you can’t pack it all on an airplane, plan to use your carry on pack while on your trip. A boat bag, waterproof backpack or even a large hip pack can double as your carry on and then be your daily carry all when at your destination.

When traveling by air, flies, pliers and other tools are often the biggest point of confusion. You’ll get different answers from different airlines and TSA personnel. To be safe, we usually carry a few essential flies in our carry ons. The rest we pack in my checked luggage. Most travelers will tell you trout sized hooks are OK, but those big nasty salt water 2/0s can raise the alarm at security. We have all heard reports to the contrary, however. Do what makes the most sense for you. Ben, our Warehouse Manager, fresh from a trip to Minnesota adds “as far as tools go, there are TSA compliant pliers available, which is a great safeguard, but generally speaking I have always pack all tools and flies in my checked bag to be safe”.

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We keep a selection of duffel bags, luggage and travel accessories in stock. If you’d like help finding the right solution for your next trip, please don’t hesitate to ask. We’d be happy to share our experience and recommendations.


Contact Us with Travel Questions

When it comes to travel, we’ll give a shameless plug for our own Anglers All travel program. When you book a trip through Anglers All, you’ll pay the same price as you would when booking directly with a lodge – no fees or commissions. However, you’ll still get our personalized service. This includes handling all logistics, plus information on flies, gear, rigging, luggage, casting and pre-trip preparation.

Whether it’s a trip right here in Colorado or across the globe, let us help. Get in touch with our travel coordinator, Andrew Pulford, by calling the shop at 303-794-1104. Or email andrew@anglersall.com.