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Fly Fishing Gear in a Carry-On Bag

Fly Fishing Gear in a Carry-On Bag

  • Ariel Green
It's a question we hear time and time again from those planning an upcoming fly fishing vacation.
"Can I fly with my fly fishing gear?" Well, the simple answer is, yes.
In order to experience some of the breathtaking fly fishing destinations this planet has to offer, one will almost certainly need to travel via airplane. But flying with fly fishing rods and fishing gear can present an interesting set of challenges.
Fishing rods, especially fly rods, can be extremely long. How can you fit a fly rod into a carry-on? In many cases, it just won't happen. And fishing hooks are sharp, can I take fishing hooks onto a plane? Well, you may be surprised at the answer.
Here is everything you need to know about air travel with fly fishing rods and gear.

Can I Bring my Fly Fishing Rod onto an Airplane?

Yes, Mostly Carry On Compatible
Fly Fishing Rod at an Airport Baggage Line
 Don't let this be you!
Fly fishing rods are going to present the biggest possibility of headache when traveling via plane. The TSA doesn't have any regulations or restrictions against carrying fishing rods or fly fishing rods onto an airplane. I also wasn't able to find any major airline with rules against carrying fishing rods onto an airliner.
The biggest issue you are going to run into here is carry on size limitations. Carry on size restrictions can vary slightly between airlines, so make sure to check with the airline company you have booked with for their carry on size limitations.
Three and four piece fly rods are the best choice for flying, many of these rods will become very compact once disassembled. Stay away from one and two-piece rods unless you want to check them in!
Here is a list of popular North American airlines and their carry on size limitations. As long as your fishing rod fits within the carry on limitations, you are safe to fly!
(H x W x D) (inches)
Air Canada 21.5 x 15.5 x 9
Air Transat 20 x 16 x 922
Alaska Airlines 22 x 14 x 9
Allegiant Air 22 x 14 x 9
American Airlines 22 x 14 x 9
Bahamasair 22 x 14 x 920
Cayman Airways 23 x 13 x 940
Delta Air Lines 22 x 14 x 9
Frontier Airlines 24 x 16 x 1035
Hawaiian Airlines 22 x 14 x 925
Insel Air 21.5 x 13.7 x 7.822
Interjet 21 x 15 x 922
JetBlue Airways 22 x 14 x 9
LIAT Airlines 21 x 14 x 815
Porter Airlines 22 x 16 x 920
Ravn Alaska 18 x 14 x 1020
Southwest Airlines 24 x 16 x 10
Spirit Airlines 22 x 18 x 10
Sun Country Airlines 24 x 16 x 1135
Sunwing Airlines 20 x 16 x 911
United Airlines 22 x 14 x 9
VivaAerobus 21.6 x 15.7 x 7.822
Volaris 22.4 x 15.7 x 12.922
WestJet 21 x 15 x 9

Can I Bring my Fly Fishing Reels onto an Airplane?

Yes, Carry On Compatible
Fly reels present the least of a challenge when traveling via airplane. I am not aware of any fly reel that won't fit into a standard carry on luggage bag. Heck, even my gargantuan Alvey side-casting reel will fit into my carry on with ease!
There aren't any travel restrictions or regulations in place with the TSA for fly fishing reels or fishing line. I also wasn't able to find any popular airline company with restrictions on these items.
This is great news for us fly anglers, us many of our reels can reach prices well into the 4 digits!

Can I Bring my Fishing Flies and Hooks onto an Airplane?

Somewhat Carry On Compatible
The TSA specifically states in their regulations that small flies and hooks are permitted in carry-on luggage. This is great news for us traveling fly anglers looking to fly with hooks in our carry on.
They do however state that larger hooks that can present a safety risk must be placed into checked luggage. This is somewhat of a grey zone and is up to interpretation from the TSA agent screening your luggage that particular day.
There aren't any specific guidelines laid out, nor is a definition provided for what is considered "larger hooks". I think it's safe to assume if you are packing 10-inch musky streamers with 5/0 hooks, you'll need to place those into your checked bags.
As a rule of thumb, flies and hooks size 8 and smaller are generally OK to travel in carry-on luggage. To avoid disappointment, we suggest packing hooks and flies into your checked luggage whenever possible.
I have experienced both sides of the interpretation spectrum on this one. On the way to Costa Rica a few years ago, I was told that the streamers I had packed needed to go into my checked luggage. These hooks ranged in size between 4 and 10.
On the contrary, on my return flight, I had no problems getting my size 4 hooks past the TSA agents. As we said, it's up to the guard's interpretation of 'larger hooks'.

Can I Bring Dry Fly Floatant and Liquids onto an Airplane?

Yes, With Size Limitations in Place
The TSA is pretty strict when it comes to carrying liquids and gels onto an airplane. If you are at all like me, you likely have a plethora of different potions and lotions in your fly fishing bag. Luckily for us, there aren't any liquid or gel-based fly fishing products that are restricted for carrying onto an airplane.
You will, however, need to pay attention to the capacities and sizes of the containers.
Here are the TSA guidelines for air travel with liquids:
TSA Carry On Guidelines for Fly Fishing Liquids

Can I Bring Scissors and Fishing Tools onto an Airplane?

You might get lucky, but the short answer is NO
Scissors and other fly fishing tools should always be placed into your checked luggage. This one is again open to the interpretation of the TSA agent, but it most cases, tools like scissors and forceps will be confiscated unless packed into checked bags.
Thanks so much for reading, if you know someone planning an upcoming fly fishing trip, and they are traveling via airplane, please share this article with them!
Tight Lines,