So by now I have done my fair amount of travel to various locales around the world, many actually. Probably the one thing I see most commonly is new anglers to the travel world over or under pack for such trips and much of the time, the outfitter, booking agent or host has not done their duty informing them of what, what not and how to pack for such trips as well as traveling in general.
As host, I take a good deal of the burden of the success of the trip on my shoulders. I know I don’t necessarily have to but at the same time I know if I want my clients/friends to trust me and travel with me again, it is imperative that I go the extra mile and I love nothing more than when I have planned for the unexpected and can shoot the issue down immediately because I was prepared.
The climate in which you are heading bears different criteria for packing than others so in this post, we are going to focus on tropical or peak of summer travel. My goals are to be just under the 50lbs (40lbs if necessitated by the airline) for checked bags and then maximize what I can in carry on. I tend to carry a ton of camera gear so this very important to me.
TIP #1 When traveling in a group, spread the carry-on responsibility amongst the group. In other words, if you are going to carry on all fly rods and reels, put everyone’s reels in one bag (or 2 if necessary) as this holds up a tight security line by one 1 person rather than everyone. For rods, a dedicated rod tube that can house 8+ rods ( I have one that holds 16) does the same thing and allows for other gear to be more easily dealt with such as camera gear or medical supplies.
1. 1 Patagonia bag – 90 liter Black Hole duffel, perfectly fits 4 piece rod tubes and tripods lengthwise in bottom
2. 1 tripod – A graphite tripod will scrub a couple pounds as well.
3. 1 very compact rain jacket, no pockets, something that can wad up into a ball.
4. 2 pairs sun gloves – 1 to use, 1 to give lend out, replace first pair if lost or ripped, use to allow other pair to dry
5. 2 sun buffs – Same as with sun gloves, typically forgotten by clients or not deemed necessary until after day 1!
6. 2 hats – Same as with sun gloves and buffs, also I like a couple different hats for photographs, distinguishes different days a bit better
7. 2 pairs quick-dry pants – Once wet, they usually do not dry overnight, some tear
8. 2 sun hood shirts – Additional coverage from sun, helps overlap, feel very comfortable in humid weather, more freedom to cast
9. 2 short sleeve/quick dry shirts – Lodge attire, undergarment for sun hood shirts
10 1 pair Marlwalker boot – This is important, some locations have very rough, coral bottoms, Hawaii, Honduras, portions of Christmas and neoprene boots do not offer rigid enough protection from this, slip off a piece into a whole or have a chunk break off and land your ankle against it and then there are sea urchins which will penetrate the sole of most soft booties.
11. 3 fly rods – If possible, switch rods into graphite tubes instead of aluminum ones. Use as the base or bottom of the bag.
12. 2 fly reels – Can sometimes be in same carry on as rods. I never keep them loose, always in another bag within the bag with other things so they can’t just disappear when being checked.
13. 2 sunscreens – Put inside boots inside a plastic bag, pressure squeezed out of them.
14. 2 two way radios – Nice to be able to communicate (sometimes not too) with a partner on the flats from a distance, especially if something comes up and guide is with fishing partner.
15. 1 headlamp – Sometimes the walk from lodge to cabana is in the dark, potentially staying out late on purpose or accident on the water, night fishing…reason’s can go on!
16. 2 extra fly lines – Some places are rough on lines, don’t expect lodges to have extras laying around, some do and that is great but don’t leave the fate of your (or your friends or clients) trip in their hands, too easy to pack.
17. Talcum Powder – Gold Bond or baby powder, whatever, just bring some as it can really assist in not getting cracked or rotten feet, plus just overall chaffing of pants.
17a. Vaseline – Go ahead and laugh but this stuff can make painful situations better.
18. First Aid Kit – Here again, don’t expect everyplace to live like typical western civilizations, they just don’t. Bring an assortment of bandaids, anti bacterial salves and wipes
19. 1 roll athletic tape – Stripping fingers can get messed up in a hurry, this is your savior. Have a friend or client who hasn’t done this much, have this and you are a trip saver!
20. Carabiner – Use to hold waterproof camera case, water bottle, fly box, tippet spools or whatever, nothing worse than wading deep and having your fly box leave your pocket without permission
21. Fly box – I bring one (sometimes 2) large ones stuffed with flies then have a small one to carry all day. If worried about running out, give some to your guide as at times, the boat may leave you for a long period of time so just keeping this on the boat doesn’t do you much good.
22. Multi tool – I don’t necessarily see the point in carrying hemos, nippers, pliers and other tools if one can do it all, I think that is why these were invented. Some are “multipliers” which means they amplify the energy you are putting into them, great for cutting large things when necessary like large hooks stuck in fingers and such. Also look for anodized ones, others will rust before your trip is finished.
23. 1 roll duct tape – Water tight a bandage, help make a splint, hold a reel to a rod…you name it, I don’t go anywhere without a roll.
24. Super glue – Just like duct tape, seal an open wound, fix a rod or reel seat, fix a fly for just long enough to get back to the boat…
25. Reel lube – Obvious…or at least I hope.
26. Sharpie pen – Make adjustments on flies, label different cups, mark bad lines or whatever, just have one.
27. Personal items – This is important, will make another post on this later, more than just YOUR personal items.
28. Velcro Straps – Use these with some athletic tape and your can sure a breaking wrist on friend or client to help make their casting THAT much better. Shirt sleeves work to but not if they are wearing short sleeves. I am not kidding on this, may be an embarrassment to some for a spell but when they see how much better they deal with wind, are more accurate and can toss their fly farther, they’ll wear it.
29. 2-3 sunglasses – Someone is going to break, lose or not bring a pair and this sometimes isn’t known until well past the last location of where to buy an emergency pair. Again a simple easy item to pack that can save a trip.
30. Solar charger – I carry a ton of electronic stuff on me and have had issues where there wasn’t the ability to plug anything in. This included, cell phones, camera battery chargers, laptops, satellite phones, camera flashes, diabetes pumps…again, the list can go on and some of these are serious for some people. Good solar chargers won’t necessarily charge fast but sometimes you just need a little juice and they certainly provide that.
30a. Batteries and chargers – Make sure you have chargers for electronics as well as converters. A great way past this these days is having a multi plug to USB converter as many items can charge from computers or other devices. Rechargeable batteries keep from having to pack a heavy and cumbersome 36 pack of AA or AAA batteries.
31. Not pictured – Undershorts, nobody wants to see mine but they end up in the bag…usually! Camera, mine goes in my carry-on, more on that later as well.
Now this is just what I pack, each person can find their own way down this road. I like to compartmentalize similar items to keep track while on the trip, keeps me sane. Other items I have packed before for certain trips would be:
1. Co2 PFD (life jacket) – When in blue water or crossing it, don’t count on small pangas in some areas to have anything.
2. Snacks – In some locations, local cultures don’t eat much so therefore don’t pack much for you. Energy bars pack and travel well, do well in the sun and allow you to enjoy your trip that much more rather than bonking halfway down 11 mile flat or 5 miles up a Bolivian river where you now have to hike back.
3. Steri-pen – I have begun bringing this as I have run out of water on trips before where you are sweating it out faster than you can drink it. Eating fruit helps and in some of those places, it is a toss up on which is worse, dehydration or the water you are wading in.
4. Water bottle – I like a vacuumed or 2 layer bottle to help keep water cold, can double as a liquor import bottle as well for getting favorite libation to your destination.
As a general rule, I always ask everyone on the trip to divulge the following to me as a host and none of this needs to be shared with anyone else unless necessitated by a dire situation:
1. Day job – What do they do…obviously a doctor is a huge benefit on trips, simply their knowledge and presence makes me feel better.
2. Medical issues – Know if someone is allergic to bee stings, heart issues, diabetes, nuts, fruit, latex, whatever so you can help make sure nothing ends up with them that may cause an issue.
3. Eating habits – So as host if someone needs two sandwiches you can make that happen or as mentioned above, food allergies.
4. Level of experience – So many in this sport embellish their level of experience and then when on the trip make up excuses. Be quietly attentive to this and spend some time before the trip if possible going over the basics and last resort, going over casting while at the destination with them.
5. Language – If in a foreign country and english is rough, spend time to make cheat cards for clients/friends so they can communicate the basics to their guide if you are not with them…bathroom, thank you, please, water, hungry, hot, tired, help, fly, fish, distance, direction (left or right), boat…you should get the picture. These little things make a world of difference in the guide and clients life and actually help in bonding the creating a more enjoyable experience for your clients/friends.
6. Binoculars – Never can tell, from spotting birds and fish, to helping locate the boat/guide/fishing partner. A waterproof pair never a bad idea.
7. More of everything – If space warrants, I bring more rods of different actions, more lines, backing, flies, snacks, money, medicine and whatever so that as I said in the beginning, nearly anything that comes up I can cover it.
OK, that should be enough for now. In Part 2 I will cover the basics for a spring/winter/fall trip with opposing weather and what goes into the differences in equipment and considerations. Part 3 I will go over carry-on bags and some ideas and cautions there then in Part 4 I will cover the more personal side as far as medications and will bring in a well traveled doctor and client to weigh in on the “what to bring” list. Let us know if you ever have any questions, we are happy to answer them for you and on our new website we will have PDF links to our suggested travel lists as well to use as a checklist.
Happy and safe traveling…fishing too!
Written by: Dave McCoy