How to Choose a Fly Fishing Travel Bag

With a myriad of fishing travel bags on the market, it can be bewildering to decide what you need and why. Working on assignment for fly fishing magazines, I’ve had the chance to field test a lot of fly fishing travel products.

Waterproof or not?
While waterproof bags like the Simms Dry Creek Duffel series or the Patagonia Guidewater Duffel sound great in theory, there’s a problem: rubberized material and airport conveyor belts don’t really mix. They can also be very heavy. My Simms Dry Creek Duffel (the extra large size) is very smartly designed, but could benefit from some reinforcement in the bottom; multiple holes patched with duct tape show the mileage I’ve put on this bag, and maybe the quality of the conveyors once my bags roll out of sight. Meanwhile, Patagonia’s Guidewater is made of heavier material, but is also physically heavier (a consideration with airlines tightening weight restrictions), and has a typical waterproof zipper (read: hard to open and close). If you’re not going to be hauling your luggage over open water, skip the waterproof bag (or just buy a smaller carry-on size for the boat).

fishpondchinook.jpgGet the Wheels!
Another consideration is how you’re going to haul this stuff. You fill a large or extra large duffel with gear, and it can quickly weigh 50-60 lbs. Bags with wheels are an absolute must for serious airline use; terminals like Miami International and Dallas-Fort Worth are enormous, with (in some cases) actual miles between gates. Wheeled bags like Fishpond’s Chinook also often contain built-in rod storage in their solid bases. Or, consider getting a dedicated rod tube, like the Sage Multi Fly Rod Case (or one of the zillion off-brand models), which you can take on most flights as a carry-on for peace of mind.

Go Light

Finally, the kitchen-sink approach is great for car camping, but most anglers travel with way too much stuff. Do you really need to bring the tying kit? Will your vest be necessary on a saltwater flat? If you take the time to pull out just the stuff you need, you can often get away with nothing but a carry-on, the simplest way to fly (and the fastest, and the cheapest). For a three day trip with light clothing, a camera, and a couple fly boxes, I’ll sometimes take only a Patagonia Great Divider (probably the best-constructed piece of gear I have ever owned; darn near indestructible). If gear is being provided for me, I’m a huge fan of the new Recycled Waders Messenger Creel; it’s light, the right size, and still very water resistant thanks to being made of actual recycled waders.

Do you have a favorite fly fishing travel product? Share it with us in the Comments section!

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