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How to Pack Flies in Carry-On Luggage

Avid fly fisherman and founder of Patagonia Yvon Chouinard once said that “It isn’t an adventure until something goes wrong”.  While rolling with the unforeseen punches and uncertainties that international travel can present from time to time, there are few situations direr than having your box of flies in your carry-on luggage confiscated by airline security.


Though a rare occurrence, having it happen to you could land a big blow to the success of your carefully planned out fishing trip before the airplane wheels leave the ground. It can be rather difficult to catch fish without your arsenal of flies at the ready especially if your targeted destination doesn’t have a fly shop around to restock your quiver. While we have had our fair share of luggage hiccups over the years, we’ve learned that having some forethought on how you pack your gear for your next trip could save you lots of headaches.

When it comes down to it, you are at the mercy of the gatekeepers of T.S.A (foreign or domestic) and whether or not they will let you pass. While T.S.A. regulations do not technically prohibit fishing flies in carry-on luggage, it really depends on the airline you are traveling with and the mood of that security guard on whether you will get through without an incident. For the majority of our trips, we’ve encountered little trouble getting flies through airline security. Perhaps that’s because simplified our approach.

It’s best not to put all of your proverbial “eggs in one basket”. Take some time before your departure date to make a small sample collection of flies from your main fly boxes. While your main collection of flies will be in your checked luggage, we recommend packing a small fly box or even a zip-lock bag making sure to load up enough flies for what you would need for a single day on the water. A safe number of flies might be from about 12-20 total for creating a basic assortment. That way if your bags were to be delayed (or god forbid lost) you would be able to get by until your luggage catches up with you at your destination.

Should you encounter resistance from a security guard, maintaining a calm, friendly demeanor as you emphasize the importance of these flies to your trip is essential. Remember, there is a good chance they have never seen tied flies before. Ultimately, they are only doing their jobs even though it’s a pretty big stretch that an individual could do mass harm with a fish hook. Most flies you would use to catch trout, permit, bonefish, steelhead, and redfish shouldn’t give you any issues. Bigger flies like those an angler would use to catch tarpon, billfish, or trevally or streamer patterns to catch pike or muskie present more of a red flag to be potentially confiscated. It’s best to use your own discretion at that point.  If you do attempt to include those larger fly patterns, you would be better off packing ones you aren’t too attached to.

If you have further questions about what flies you should pack for carry-on for your upcoming trip, our travel specialists can give you the scoop on the latest trends from what our pros out in the field have encountered while traveling to our lodges. With just a little pre-trip planning for the unexpected, you’ll return having had a better fishing experience.


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