Packing Tips for the Travelling Angler
Nearly all of us travel to some extent in order to fish.
Some simple planning can be useful even if you’re only ducking down the road for a quick fish – we can always cut back a little on what we take with us. Having less stuff to play with once we’re out fishing ultimately more of the outing spent with line in the water, rather than changing setups and testing other ‘toys’.
Planning becomes more important the greater the distance travelled, and especially when the destination is difficult to get to.
Paring back to the essentials is a great skill to practice.
There are two ways to go: either you focus entirely on the main target species or method; or put a kit together that will work for a variety of situations.
A focussed approach is best if you’re chasing difficult fish or a real trophy – like land-based pelagics or a metre Murray cod or barra. If this is the goal, then cut back to the gear that’ll put you in the best position to succeed.
Versatile gear is an asset when fishing new places with limited access; or where you’re keen to tick off a lot of species and catch a feed. Being adaptable to un-planned opportunities that come up is another.
Rods, Reels, Line
Choosing which gear to pack comes down to three things:
- The type of fishing
- The size of fish
- What curve balls might be encountered
This is pretty simple to start with – take a rod and reel that’s best suited to the fishing you’ll be doing.
Jungle creeks need short rods, while longer ones are best for open water. Go finesse where presentations need to be delicate or fish are spooky. Heavier rods, reels and line match tough fighters and rough country, or casting heavy presentations.
The calibre of gear is going to differ depending on how big the local fish are. For example, a bass trip on a small creek in the Hunter Valley might need a short (6ft) rod and reel matched to 6-8lb line. Here, a big fish runs into the high 30’s. Chasing bass in the Manning, Macleay or Clarence valleys; on the other hand; is better catered for with a 7ft rod to make longer casts in open water – and 15-20lb line to battle fish over 50cm.
Curve balls are the big unknown when it comes to fishing travel. Some things you can guess at, others come as a complete surprise.
Bad weather might make the rocks unsafe, but the fishing in the estuary runs red hot – and vice versa. Where I think there could be an option of estuary and beach/rock fishing – I definitely pack a setup for each environment, even if I’ve got my heart set on a particular target.
Only pack as much leader line as you can minimally get away with to encourage bites and deal with teeth, snags and the like. There’s no point carrying 12lb, 15lb, 20lb and 30lb – you’ll be as well off with 15lb and 30lb.
Bait, Lures and Terminal Tackle
It’s very easy to go overboard on this stuff because at a glance it takes up little space. Put it all together, though, and it quickly gets out of hand.
Lure fishing is the go-to for many anglers – it’s fun, engaging and cuts out a lot of other considerations.
Do the research into the main target species you’re after so that you pack the lures most likely to catch them. Local advice is a huge bonus if you can get it.
Versatile lures almost always draw attention. They add a lot of confidence to the traveller’s tackle box. A small selection of shallow-running jerkbaits, jerkshad and prawn style soft plastics with appropriate jig heads, and spinnerbaits account for a hell of a lot of fish wherever they go. More recent additions to these timeless favourites are vibes – soft and hard.
In terms of bait – fresh and local is always best. If I can collect some while I’m out and the lure fishing is slow, then I’ll try it instead.
Keep the bait hooks broadly applicable. You don’t need to carry a dozen of every size – a couple of 1/0 O’Shaughnessy, 2/0 or 3/0 live bait hooks and some wide gap hooks suit a lot of the opportunistic bait fishing I do.
For standard scenarios a pocket-sized selection of ball sinkers can be made to fit most situations. Always go for the least amount of lead required to get the bait where the fish are – anything more will limit the effectiveness of the presentation.
Bottom bashing reef trips are the outlier in the above information – as you’ll need to pack plenty of hooks and sinkers for these sorts of adventures.
How to Pack
Maybe I’m too picky, but I still haven’t found the right packing system for my gear. I have several, to handle day trips; multi-day trips and big expeditions over a week or two – but there’s always a compromise somewhere.
I never “set and forget” my stuff. I like the idea of having a land-based-game kit; one for the estuary; one for cod and so on: but it’s not as practical as it seems. I find it’s much better to pack each item before going on a trip – that way I know I’ve thought about why it’s included and it’ll most likely actually be used.
Always plan ahead. Things like pliers, scissors and leader get used all the time so they should be easily accessible. Think about what you’ll need once you start to set up – and pack everything in reverse of that order.
Ryan Moody has a good demonstration of packing his barra tackle box here.
Remember: what starts as order soon descends into chaos. My stuff is always jumbled by the end of a trip – so the less there is to start with the easier it is to keep track of.
Top Tips for:
- Only pack enough fishing gear to fit into a single tackle tray.
- Fishing gear on top, then food, shelter, sleeping gear.
- Rod and reel in soft protective slip – carry the rod while travelling.
- Limit to one or two setups (light and heavy).
- Store fishing gear in single; or two gear-matched tackle trays.
- If space is limited, lip grips are better than a landing net.
Boat/ Vehicle based
- Keep the fishing gear handy and well organised.
- Don’t pack last minute – you’ll over pack.
- Always put things back in their place once you’re finished with them.
- Check weight restrictions before heading to the airport!
- Find out how to pack fishing rods.
- Multi-piece travel rods are worth investing in.
- Get local advice on suitable fishing gear, lures etc.
Getting the Balance Right
It’ll always be a balancing act. All the other stuff you’ll need for the trip will also affect how much fishing gear can be packed. Travelling to fish will always be a compromise.
From the start, work out what you want to get out of the trip, and build everything up from there to give yourself the best chance of getting it.