Why We Need Uniform Airport Security Guidelines for Fishing Tackle

My friend Paul Zabel recently returned from a fishing trip to Costa Rica without his fly lines. You see, some airport security officer decided it was in the interest of passenger safety to ensure that no WF-8-F fly lines (you know, the kind that terrorists have been using to snag 767s out of the sky) actually made it on his plane. Never mind the fact that he flew down to Costa Rica with reels and lines in his carry-on bag, and no one told him about the line restriction until he was headed back through security minutes before his flight.

I think airport security guidelines (or the lack thereof) when it comes to fishing tackle are absurd. I'm sorry, but you'll have to convince me that fly line is a lethal weapon, or at least more of a weapon than what a pencil or ballpoint pen can be in the hands of a motivated psychopath. The problem isn't that airport security flags certain items. The problem is the inconsistency. Sometimes a metal rod tube is okay, and other times you have to check it. Can you carry flies and hooks on the plane? Usually not, but I've seen it happen. Rods themselves are a no-no in the overhead bin sometimes, but usually only when you find a security officer in a bad mood.

Of course, checking your gear is no guarantee that it will actually arrive with you in good shape. I've had several rods broken by knuckleheads who rifled through my checked bags and couldn't manage to put everything together the same way, leaving rods out of tubes and so forth. And I have no doubt that, in many cases, fishing tackle confiscated in the name of air safety ends up sold, traded or on the water within days. In other words, it's a scam.

We need some uniform, reasonable guidelines that everyone understands and can live with, wherever anglers fly. As it is, people ask me all the time how they should travel with rods, reels, lines, flies and all that stuff. Should they check it?

The simple answer is that I don't know. I don't think anyone does.