Five Fishing-Trip Packing Rules

Today, I'm on my way to Chile to fish at the fabled Cinco Rios Lodge, near Coyhaique. I don't care what the groundhog says, I'm not waiting for spring, early or not, to get my dry fly on.

Any long-haul fly-fishing trip requires some serious thought when you're packing. I've pretty much seen and experienced it all; the best story is when Delta lost my luggage as I was heading from Detroit to Russia. (I said the best "story," not the best "experience.") I couldn't wait around for the bag to catch up with me (I got hold of it in Helsinki, after the fishing trip), so I flew to Murmansk with only my computer, a cell phone, six pairs of underwear, and a bottle of Scotch I bought duty free. When the attractive young female customs official in Russia gave me a quizzical look, I said, simply, "That's how I roll, my dear." And she just smiled and stamped me in.

Nevertheless, here are my five rules of fishing-trip packing.

1. Pack Rods in Tubes in a Checked Bag
Some bags have special tube holders, which is great, but most four-piece rods will fit in a standard duffle. Don't just pack them in the socks to save weight, however; I've had TSA break three rods on the same trip by rummaging through my gear and not putting them back carefully. If you are going to pack more than three rods, buy a special rod case, and carry it on.

2. Stay Under 50 Pounds.
Find some ultralight wading boots. Pack polyester and nylon, and little cotton. Everything is going to be wetter and heavier when you come back, so if you tuck in at 49.5 going out, you're going to pay coming home. Reels are the wildcard. Pack those on top of a big bag, and if you are a tad over, move them to your carry-on.

3. Don't Chance Your Flies
I've seen flies confiscated as "sharp objects," but I've also seen them breeze right through security. Whether they get taken seems to depend entirely on the mood of the security person you encounter. Play it safe: Keep a few flies stashed in your checked luggage.

4. Bring These Two Non-Fishing Items
Duct tape and super glue. Both are good for impromptu wader, clothing, and sunglass repairs, as well as for closing wounds and a million other things.

5. Jettison Your Vest
Always pack your raincoat, waders, boots, socks, underwear, and one rod and reel, at least. If space is limited, though, the first thing to lose is your vest, or your fancy chest pack, or whatever, since you can always just keep your fly stuff in a plastic bag. Of course, the best packs are those you can travel with as your carry-on. Keep your iPad and phone in it as you fly, and rotate in your fishing gear when you get to your destination. Just be sure your knife stays in a checked bag.

Hasta la vista. I am taking 17 different fly lines down there to do some comparison testing. I'll let you know what I find out.