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Traveling with fly-fishing gear, with Seth Berger

Description: This week is my guest Seth Berger [1:00:18], Fly Fishing Travel Specialist with Orvis Adventures. In his job, Seth visits Orvis-endorsed operations around the world and always packs his fishing gear, so he's a great resource for advising us how to travel with rods, waders, and flies—how to pack them, what to carry on, and pitfalls you should avoid. Seth also talks about what to pack, and items that are often forgotten or ignored by traveling anglers. Anyone who gets on a plane, whether it's a short hop or an international flight, will benefit from his knowledge.
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Podcast Transcript:

Tom: Hi, and welcome to the "Orvis Fly-Fishing" podcast. This is your host, Tom Rosenbauer. And this week, we're gonna talk a little bit about travel with fly-fishing gear. My guest is Seth Berger, who is a travel specialist with Orvis Adventures. And Seth has the unfortunate job of traveling around and visiting Orvis-endorsed operations or evaluating new operations for Orvis-endorsed lodges internationally. So we can all feel very sorry for Seth. But because Seth travels a lot, and I know Seth, and he never travels without fishing gear, he's got a lot of experience in packing, and what to pack, and how to pack it, and what you can carry on, and what you can't and so on. And I get a lot of these questions frequently in the podcast. So I figured I would interview Seth and we'll talk a little bit with this expert from the Orvis Adventures department. So hope you enjoy it and hope you learn something. I know I did.
But before we do that, let's do the Fly Box. And the Fly Box is where you ask questions and I try to answer 'em, sometimes. I don't answer all your questions, so if you don't hear your question read on the air, it's either because I just answered that question a couple podcasts ago or perhaps I just didn't think it was an appropriate question that would be of interest to the kind of a broad group of podcast listeners because we have listeners from all over the world. So I try to, you know, answer questions that I think will be valuable to the rest of the listeners and not just the individual who asked the question.
So anyway, let's start with an... Oh, by the way, if you have a question for me, you can send it to Either just type your question into your email, or you can attach a voice file and if I can answer the question, I'll read it on the air.
So the first one is an email from Clayton, and this is in response to a question we had a couple weeks ago in the Fly Box. In response to the 9-foot 5-weight Euro nymph question. And this, by the way, was a gentleman who was struggling Euro nymphing with a standard 9-foot 5-weight rod. I still think you should revisit the issue. There's a fine distinction between a Euro rig and a mono rig. Your listener with the previous question should be answered. It's essentially a hybrid system of the Harvey leader, but far more versatile. If you dove into it, I think you'd find it interesting.
The mono rig can and is fly cast worthy. His rod, this is talking about the person who asked the previous question, which is a slower reaction, was probably taking too long to load. It also requires good casting principles. Twenty-pound maxima can be tossed around just as easily as fly line. If the gentleman was using thinner diameter leader formula, I doubt this would work. And Tom, who I utmost respect and have since I've been reading your books, since mid-1990s, please don't call it lobbing, it's a cast and/or a casting stroke. Also, check out the Troutbitten mono rig website. Thanks for all you do.
And by the way, if you're interested in this mono rig, yes, Clayton mentions the Troutbitten blog, which is one that I'm a big fan of, and Dom there does a lot of fishing and shares a lot of techniques about this mono rig that he uses. So it's a great place to go for some kind of innovative techniques.
Now, Clayton, I really question your statement that 20-pound maxima can be tossed around just as easily as fly line. If that was true, we wouldn't need $100 fly lines. We could just use 20-pound leaders and make long leaders and fish with that, but I don't think you're gonna be able to fish beyond 20 or 30 feet with just 20-pound monofilament no matter what brand it is. So yes, you can cast a little bit better with a 20-pound mono rig than you can with a very thin Euro leader. Euro leaders are typically thinner diameter, particularly at the end, but I don't think you're gonna be able to do all the things you can do with a fly line. Fly rods weren't made to throw 20-pound monofilament. They were made to throw much higher grain weight material.
And apologize if I hurt someone's feelings by calling this lobbing instead of casting. So I guess it is a cast, you're using a fly rod and you're getting the flies out there. But, you know, lobbing, I consider anything where you kind of have to have more of an open loop and you kind of use the weight of whatever you got on the end there to get it out there as opposed to using a fly line as the weight to get things out there. So it's a matter of semantics, but I'll try not to call it lobbing in the future, but, you know, I consider, most of the time, when you're fishing a sinking line, you're just lobbing it too, but maybe I shouldn't call it lobbing anymore.
Anyway, probably lots of stuff for you to investigate there if you're interested in fishing these mono rigs, because they are pretty interesting.
Gilbert: Hi, Tom. This is Gilbert in Upstate New York. I wanted to talk to you about the Isonychia nymph. I was reading about them in one of Ernest Schwiebert's books. And in it, he mentioned that the Isonychia was the most powerful swimmer amongst the mayfly nymphs. And it swam with a particular undulating motion. That brought to mind something I read in the "Stoneflies" book that Richards Swisher and Arbona wrote, whereby they described a wiggle nymph for fishing stoneflies.
Well, I thought the two ideas would work together. So I made a wiggle nymph Isonychia and I used a couple of separate hooks, size 12 barbless for the abdomen. And then I rustled up a weird little hook called a beak hook, it's a Mustad. And searching online, I found that it's used to fish bait with a salmon. So obviously, I'm not using it for that. So that worked for the thorax and I lashed the two hooks together with some eight-pound monofilament off my spin rod. I tied 'em up, looks pretty good. They wiggle, and I had a question or two about them.
First of all, have you ever used one of these things? And if so, how would you use it? Where would you fish it? And what would you do to make it move? And also, since I'm using two hooks, is that ethical? Should I get some wire cutters and cut one of them out of there? And if so, would it be the front one or the back one? And I have to add that the pattern, you could...if you wanna try this, check out the pattern for the regular Isonychia that's on the Orvis Fly-Fishing page. It's excellent and I can use that as the basis for making this new creation. Anyway, thanks for the time and have a great day.
Tom: So Gilbert, I have used wiggle nymphs before when they first came out, many, many years ago when I saw some of the wiggle nymphs that Doug Swisher and other people had developed. And I didn't think they worked any better than, you know, a standard nymph. I didn't see any greater effectiveness, and because they're so difficult to tie... I mean, they're not that difficult, but they're more complicated to tie, I never really spent much more time using them. But, you know, the...
You're absolutely right, the Isonychia nymphs do swim and stonefly nymphs and things like Hexagenia nymphs do quite a bit of wiggling underwater. The Isonychia nymphs actually, when I see them in the water, it's more of a darting motion than a wiggling motion. When you see an Isonychia nymph in the shallows scooting around, it looks more like a minnow than it does something that wiggles like a leech. You know, a leech kind of undulates, but they really dart through the water.
So, you know, I would fish these when you see Isonychia nymphs swimming around in the shallows, and I would fish it with some twitches. You know, you can swing it and twitch it or you can fish it upstream and give it an occasional twitch, but these nymphs, unlike most mayfly nymphs, do have a pretty good propulsion system and they can move around pretty quickly. So yeah, you fish it with some motion. You can try a dead drift too. You know, the Isonychia nymphs will dart and then they'll drift as well. They won't be swimming all the time. So you can do it both ways and see which works. And, you know, some days, the fish like a Isonychia nymph that's twitching, and some days, they seem to like one that's dead drift.
Regarding cutting one of the hooks off. Yeah, I'd definitely cut one of the hooks off because you don't need two hooks on something that's as small as an Isonychia nymph. That's just gonna get in the way. The second hook might cause the fly to foul. It might hook on the first hook or hook on the body of the fly. And I would definitely cut off the back hook. I think it'll wiggle better if you cut off the back hook. And also you're gonna have a better, more secure hooking by keeping the front hook and not the back hook because, you know, you need to set the hook very quickly on a nymph and you're gonna get a more solid hook set if you have the hook point itself closer to your tippet. So anyway, those are my suggestions. Good luck with your wiggle nymphs.
Here's an email from... I apologize, I forgot the...I didn't get the name. I didn't write the name down. Hi, Tom. You kindly answered my question about polyleaders and sink tips a while ago. You've covered polyleaders many times, but I don't recall you ever mentioning using a tippet ring to attach a tippet to the polyleader. Seems like an easy solution when you have a heavy tippet and a streamer.
And yes, I apologize if I haven't mentioned this before, I know I've done videos on it on the Orvis Learning Center, but when I use a polyleader, the first thing I'll do is either put a loop on the piece of monofilament that sticks out of the polyleader and then loop my streamer tippet to that, or a tippet ring. And a tippet ring is a great solution because there's piece of monofilament, permanent monofilament that comes out of the core of those polyleaders. And, you know, if you keep tying leaders onto that, you're gonna eventually run out of that permanent piece of material, so tying a tippet ring on there is a terrific idea. And I'd use the large size tippet ring for this, and then you just Clinch Knot your tippet, whatever tippet you're gonna use for streamer to the tippet ring, or you could use a micro swivel as well.
Here's an email from Gabe. Hey, Tom, I've been binging the podcast from the earliest episodes for a few weeks, so I have a ways to go before I catch up fully. Nonetheless, I love it. Thank you, and Orvis for all you've done. I've been fly-fishing and tying my own flies for about 10 years or so. I'm 21, and I've always been curious about leaders. I'm from middle Georgia and have caught hundreds of bass, brim, perch, creek chub and catfish on my fly rod, and a single stock rainbow trout as I typically fish ponds and lakes for bass and brim. And small creeks for creek chub and sunfish, I always use a 9 or 10-foot leader of 4 to 15-pound test monofilament or fluorocarbon from a spool of fishing line. I was just wondering the purpose of tippet. I've never had any difficulties in catching the fish I chase, but I understand that likely every fly angler, save for me, uses tippet or a tapered leader. Why is this? I've no doubt you've answered this before, and I apologize if so. Fly fishermen are a rare breed in my part, so I doubt anyone would call me out for my techniques. However, I'm always looking to improve my skills.
Well, Gabe, you know, that's working for you and that's great. The fish that you're fishing for are typically not quite as picky as things like trout or carp or a lot of the saltwater flats fish. And that leader that you're using is probably not straightening out very well. And there are times when you do want your entire leader to be, you know, 9 to 12 feet long, and you want it to straighten out. You wanna keep that fly line as far as possible from the fly, because a fly line landing on top of a lot of fish will scare the fish. And so you that leader to unfurl with the fly cast so that your fly lands way at the other end and your fly line lands 9 or 10 feet away from the fly.
With a non-tapered leader, such as what you're using, you probably notice, it'll land in kind of a pile. It won't usually straighten out, particularly if you go longer than about six feet, it won't straighten out very well. And you need to have some taper in your leader, just like you have taper in your fly line and taper in your fly rod, you need some taper in your leader to make that whole arrangement straightened out. So that's why people use a tapered leader, and tapered leader can be either a machine tapered leader where it's extruded, or you can just taper it down starting with heavier material using knots.
And tippet is just the last piece of leader material on your leader. So tippet is just the piece of material that you attach your fly to. And, you know, people sometimes need to change their tippet size because sometimes a smaller or larger diameter is more important. So people carry these tippet spools in their pockets, and then they can modify their leader to have a finer tippet or a heavier tippet, but tippet is just part of the leader. In fact, when you buy a knotless tapered leader, the last couple feet of it, we call the tippet, but they're integral to the rest of the leader, they're not a separate piece.
So hopefully, that clears things up. There are some videos on the Orvis Learning Center about leaders and tippet and what tippet is. I think they're under the Tom's Tips section of the Orvis Learning Center or on the Orvis YouTube channel. So either way, you can investigate this a little bit more, but, you know, that's where you'll find... I think if you go to the coast and start fishing for red fish, or if you're going to the mountains and start fishing for trout, you're gonna find that you want a tapered leader instead of that level leader, which is...level leader is what we call it when you just tie a single piece of monofilament that's not tapered to the end of your fly line.
Here's an email from Cody. When you fish two dry flies, what is your distance between each fly? I hope to hear your response.
Okay, Cody, I'm gonna give you a response. And it's fresh in my mind because I just got back from Chile where I was doing a lot of double dry fly-fishing. I don't do it often, but the fish weren't respond... I typically like to fish dry dropper, and the fish just were not responding well to nymphs and they were just very, very surface-oriented. There were a lot of grasshoppers around and some small mayflies, but nymphs didn't seem to work so well. So I was fishing a lot with a grasshopper and a size 18 or 20 atoms hung off the back of the grasshopper. I could see the grasshopper, I couldn't always see the atoms and fish would take the hopper or the atoms about 50/50.
And I found that if I made my section between the two flies too short, and I'm talking, like, a foot or so I found that the flies would sometimes float together a little bit too close. And, you know, it might work sometimes where the fish tries to get both flies at once, but I felt like it was more effective when I gave myself, oh, I don't know, about two feet of separation between the two flies because that second piece that's hanging off the first dry fly doesn't always straighten all the way. And sometimes they fall pretty close together. And I just didn't think that looked right and I didn't seem to get as many fish as when the bigger fly was further away from the smaller fly. I think that the fish come up and they sometimes look at the big fly and then, all of a sudden, they see the second fly.
And yeah, you might argue that, well, have the second fly closer to the first fly, maybe it would be better, but it didn't seem to work for me. I'm not sure why. So I would say somewhere around two feet, but you should experiment with that. You know, you should try a shorter distance between the two and even a longer distance, although the longer the distance you get between those two dry flies, the more difficult it's gonna be to cast. But I would experiment. I'd start with two feet and I'd go longer or shorter from there and see how it works.
Michael: Hey, Tom. Michael from Minnesota. Thanks for all you do. Just one more person saying that, and I mean it. And I have two simple questions for you. I've been Euro nymphing since I started fly-fishing about three years ago, and doing really well and enjoying it. And my two questions are first, why do your nymphers stand in the water and cast upstream not far, whereas traditional fly rodders are looking to get as far away or be as stealth full as possible and go as light as possible at a distance? It seems like they're opposite strategies. And yeah, I do really well standing in the water. Of course, I see fish spook, but if I walk like a heron or take my time, I don't have a problem catching lots of fish here in the Driftless of Minnesota. I shouldn't say that. You don't wanna come here. Weather's terrible.
And then the other question is, on Euro nymphing, we always talk about putting a tippet ring on before we put the 5 feet or so of tippet material, whatever it is, 3X, 4X, 5X, 6X. And my question is, why couldn't you just sub that for a micro swivel since you might be switching to a streamer? So those are my two questions. Thank you very much. Bye.
Tom: So, Michael, you know, Euro nymphing, for the most part, you really need to stand in the water and get pretty close to the fish. You can't effectively cast that far when you don't have a fly line on the end of your fly rod. So you're standing in the water and you're casting quite close, and that does sometimes limit the water you can fish in. You know, you need to be in a place where you can get fairly close to the fish. And there are times when the water's too deep or when the fish are too spooky when you can't get that close to the fish. And so, that's why, I think, you see traditional people fishing a traditional fly line and leader getting a little bit further away.
Now, that being said, you can certainly fish close in with a traditional fly line and leader, and a lot of people do it. You can fish just as short as you do with a Euro rig, you just don't put a lot of your fly line on the water. And also, you know, with the right Euro nymphing technique, you can get a little bit further out there, you know, well, a little bit more of a long line. So it seems the way it...generally, just because of the way those methods are, it's generally the way that works out. And, you know, a lot of people that I know that like to Euro nymph, if they have to do long line nipping, if they have to get out there further, they'll often switch to, you know, traditional fly rod and leader and indicator or dry dropper. Even though you can fish a dry dropper as well in Euro rig, you just can't always get as far away as you wanna get.
Regarding your second question, the micro swivel is a great idea for your nymphing instead of a tippet ring. They're kind of interchangeable. And I think that's a great idea and probably more people should do it that way.
This one's from Garrett. As you know, there are hundreds of fly patterns available, and honestly, going into a fly shop can be overwhelming. What is in your Fly Box when fishing small to medium streams, creeks versus medium large bodies of water? I've watched numerous videos and read plenty of articles about selecting fly patterns when going out fishing. Some say, present a fly that the fish wants to eat, make it look like a bug and the fish will probably eat it. Others say that I need to read up on entomology and research extensively on what trout like to eat. Should I just turn over some rocks and find a fly in my box that matches their color, shape, size, match the hatch?
Furthermore, what's your mindset when getting out on the water? Whether it's your first time on a stream or you've been there a few times previously, what do you look for first? Do you have a go-to fly pattern? If so, how do you pick that fly? As many others have stated, thanks for what you and Orvis do in this podcast and the numerous resources for fly-fishing are extremely valuable and much appreciated.
So, Garrett, first of all, for matching the hatch, one of the things I'd recommend is that you go to the Orvis Learning Center and watch the video series on hatches. That has lots of information on fishing hatches. But regarding your question specifically, it's interesting that you say, when fishing small medium creeks, streams versus medium large bodies of water, typically, I'll go with a larger fly on the small streams and a smaller fly on the big bodies of water. Fish in the small streams are often quite opportunistic and they don't see a lot of hatches, and so, they'll kind of eat the biggest bug they can see, and as long as it looks lifelike, they may very well take it, even if it doesn't look much like the aquatic insects that they occasionally see. Whereas in medium, larger bodies of water, typically, you have better hatches and more different bugs, and the fish can get a little pickier, and often, they're eating smaller flies. But that's a very broad rule of thumb, and you could see exactly the opposite.
Now, regarding entomology, I say this a lot in the presentations that I do for people at shows and things like that. I think you need to know aquatic insects to the order level. In other words, you need to be able to tell a mayfly from a caddis fly, from a stonefly, from a midge, because they have different life cycles. And some parts of those life cycles are more important to trout than others. So you don't need to get super involved in entomology to have fun and be a very, very successful angler. You can, if you want, and if you do get very involved in the entomology, man, maybe some days you'll, be a little bit more knowledgeable, but I don't think you need to go that deep. I do think that a trout angler should know insects to the order level, and that's about it.
Turning over rocks in a stream is sometimes helpful, at least it's a place to start. But, you know, the first thing I'm gonna do is look for flies in the air or especially on the water. Flies that are in the air probably have hatched recently. And those are the ones that are gonna be most available to the trout. So if you can see something on the water or in the air, that's a good place to start.
You know, you can turn over rocks and that's another place to start, but the flies that are under rocks are sometimes not available to the trout. Maybe they're not hatching and they're just under the rocks and not in a place where trout can grab 'em. But, you know, if you got nothing else and there's no flies in the air, it'll give you at least an idea for the size of the insects, not necessarily the color, because they do change colors when they hatch, but it doesn't always work.
Again, I was recently in Chile and we saw a bunch of stonefly cases on rocks. So stoneflies crawl out of the water and they fly away, and the fish don't get to the adults that often but they do eat the nymphs. So we saw these stonefly cases on nymphs and we put on big stoneflies that matched the size of the cases we saw on the rocks, and we didn't catch any fish. So I don't know how much good that did us.
You know, on the other hand, you need to be observant. And another lesson I learned was I went right out into this stream and fished typically until you can get away with a really big beetles and Chubby Chernobyl and grasshoppers and stuff like that, and the fish aren't that picky. And I put on, you know, a big, like, size 8 or 10 Chubby Chernobyl my first day there, and immediately started flailing the water and didn't even raise a fish. And then I got one small fish that splashed at it, I said, "Oh, that's funny. This worked last year." So I got up on the bank and I looked, and there were tons and tons of grasshoppers, but they were teeny tiny, like, a size 12 standard dry fly hook long, that's a pretty small hopper. And all the hoppers were small. So I switched over to the smallest hopper I had and started catching fish.
So, you know, the fish hadn't seen any big hoppers. They were seeing little grass hoppers, and so, that's what they're used to eating, and they were available and it was windy as it always is in Chile, and the hoppers were getting blown in the water. So, in fact, I didn't have that many small grasshoppers. I didn't expect that. And I had to go back to the Magic Waters Lodge luckily, has a fly-tying table set up by the dining room, and I was able to tie up some small grasshoppers that worked well. So I'm making a short story long, be observant and look for stuff that's gonna get in the water either flying in the air or in bushes surrounding the stream or, you know, on the banks, beetles and grasshoppers and things like that.
As far as go-to fly patterns, the aforementioned Chubby Chernobyl, if fish are on hoppers or big stoneflies, or I'm just looking to try to drum up some interest, is one of my preferred flies. And the other one is Parachute Adams. Parachute Adams in lots of sizes from size 12 down to size 20, those are probably my go-to dry fly patterns. But, you know, a lot of times, that philosophy changes and I see something different and I have to go to something else. But that's why we love fly-fishing because you can never have all the answers and you're gonna go out there and make mistakes and you're not gonna pick the right fly. And, you know, hopefully, and generally, through trial and error, you'll finally figure out what the fish are eating, but sometimes it's a big guess and, you know, there are no real good solid pieces of advice I can give you other than to be flexible and be observant.
Nicola: Hello, Tom and the Orvis team. I hope you're doing great. I know you're not a big believer in colors, but let's pretend the colors of our streamers had an impact on our trout fishing. Why don't we see more blue streamers in our fly shops like blues Zonkers, blue Woolly Buggers, the classics? You see a lot of these patterns tied in bright pink, yellow, purple, orange, red, and, of course, black, white and olive, but never blue. Is there a specific reason? Is it because of a superstition or are they not just effective?
I've got another question. How deep can you fish with a fly rod? I'm asking this question because last summer I found an amazing lake with Arctic chars in it. Once in the blue moon, they'll come up to the surface to eat some mayflies, and you can catch them on the dry, but most of the time, you'll find them deep at the bottom of the lake. This lake was about 60 feet deep and, I mean, there was no way I could reach them with my floating line. So I admit it, I cheated. I went back to the car and picked up a spinning rod and put on a spoon, and that did the job. I caught a bunch of them, but I want to redeem myself. Next summer, I wanna catch them with a fly rod. And I'm wondering would Type 7 sinking line do the trick with a streamer at the end of it? Or am I just better off targeting them with a spoon and the regular spinning gear? Let me know. And thanks for everything you do with Orvis for the community. We all appreciate it.
Tom: Nicola, I don't know why we don't fish more blue streamers. I do fish some blue streamers, but I've fished them mostly for landlocked Atlantic salmon here in the Northeast. And in saltwater, I fish a lot of streamers with blue because there's a lot of baitfish with some blue colors. But, you know, there aren't many baitfish, at least in North America, in freshwater, in trout streams that have a blue color. There are some blue crayfish and, you know, maybe we need to experiment more with blue, but you're right, there aren't many blue trout flies around and maybe that's gonna be the new secret weapon. I don't know. I've fished blue Glo Bugs for steelhead before, and they worked pretty well. So I would experiment with some blue and see how it works.
You know, we don't always need to match the exact color of what's in a stream. I mean, take for example, the hotspots that we put on some of our nymphs where we put bright orange or bright shark truce hotspots on our nymphs. That certainly isn't anything you see in nature, but they work and they catch fish's attention. So, you know, play around some blue streamers and see how they work.
Regarding how deep can you fish with a fly rod? You know, it's tough to fish really deep with a fly rod because unfortunately even with a fast sinking line, the minute you start stripping toward the surface that fly is gonna rise toward the surface. It's not gonna go very far at depth. And you know, your first couple strips are generally your most successful ones. After that, the fly rides out of the area, the water column where the fish are, if they're deep. I would say, and even this is no fun, but I would say you can effectively get a fly down with conventional sinking lines, conventional fly rods. You can probably get a fly down to about 20 or 30 feet. Beyond that, it's not gonna be any fun, and you might as well pick up that spinning rod.
You know, when the fish are that deep, it's just not much fun or very effective to fish with a fly rod. But you know, you can't get down 20 or 30 feet, but again, you're only gonna get a couple strips and you're gonna have to cast out and let that thing sink all the way down, and then you're only gonna get a couple strips and then you gotta bring in your whole line and make another cast again. So again, it's not much fun, but you can do it.
This one's from John. Hi Tom. This question might make me sound like a novice, but I have questions about fly rod weights and when one rod weight is more appropriate than another. When I started fly-fishing, I pretty much followed the norms when it came to fly rods, like 9-foot 5-weight being a great general purpose rod, a 7 or 8-weight being good steelhead or bass rod, etc. But the more years of experience I put under my belt, the more I seem to question rod weights. For example, I can cast a multi-fly indicator rig on my 9-foot 5-weight and land a 24-inch Rainbow on the North Platte in Wyoming without too much trouble. And it makes me wonder why I need a 7-weight rod for steelhead here at home in Minnesota's Lake Superior tributaries where the fish and the fly rigging are about the same size.
I also seem to hear a lot of conflicting information. Like, some say a lighter line weight is easier to cast into the wind because a smaller line has less air resistance, while others say a heavier line is easier to cast in the wind. Some, like you Tom, recommend an 8-weight rod for bonefish, but I've heard other guides say they prefer a 6-weight rod for more delicate presentation to spooky bonefish. I know that it's easier to cast larger flies on heavier rods, but is that really the only or most important factor in choosing a rod weight? What I have learned, however, is that while good advice and guidance is priceless, a lot of things boil down to personal preference, and when you find something that works for you, stick with it and you'll have more success with a lot more fun. Thanks for all your guidance, Tom, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on choosing rod weights.
Well, John, I totally agree with you. If you find something that works and it works for you and it's contrary to popular "wisdom," then do it. Depending on how big your steelhead is, I think you're gonna find on a 9-foot 5-weight, you may have trouble controlling those fish. You know, there are times when you need to get a fish in close or you need to lever it away from logjam or a snag or a rock or something, and you're gonna be able to put more pressure on a steelhead with a 7-weight rod than you will with a 9-foot 5-weight. But you can certainly land a steelhead on a 9-foot 5-weight.
You know, it's not so much about the size of the fish, it's generally about how far you wanna cast and the size of flies you're using, but it'll work. But, you know, you're gonna take a lot more time. It's gonna take you a lot longer to land a steelhead on a 5-weight than it will on a 7-weight. You just can't put as much pressure on a bigger fish with a 5-weight.
Now, I have heard that philosophy too, that a lighter line weight is easier to cast in the wind because the smaller line has less air resistance. And, you know, in theory it sounds right, but in practice, I don't think it works. You want mass, you need mass to drive your fly line into the wind and you won't find many experienced anglers telling you to use a lighter line when you're casting in the wind.
You might find some theoretical anglers, or internet experts telling you that a lighter line is gonna work better because it has less air resistance, but I'm telling you in my experience, you want that mass, you want that weight to drive your line and your fly through the wind. And the reason I like an 8-weight rod for bonefish is yeah, you can... If you got small bonefish, smaller average size, like you would in places like Belize or Mexico, 6-weight rod is okay. But, you know, you're gonna have those days when the wind blows and that 6-weight line, you're gonna struggle a little bit more, guaranteed you're gonna struggle a little bit more with a 6-weight line. And let's say the occasional permit swims by and you wanna put on a bigger, heavier crab fly, it's gonna be a lot easier deal with an 8-weight rod than with a 6-weight rod.
And yes, you could get a little bit more delicate presentation with a 6-weight rod for a spooky bonefish. However, I don't think you should ever be putting your fly line close to a spooky bonefish. And what I do with the 8-weight rod, is if the fish are really spooky, if the water's flat and it's not windy, and I need more delicacy, what I do is just make my leader longer. You know, I take an extra spool of 60-pound fluorocarbon with me. My bonefish leaders are always fluorocarbon because I like them. And I'll just lengthen the butt section of my leader. I'll add three or four feet to the end of my leader. And that way I can keep that fly line, that 8-weight line further away from the fish and get a pretty delicate presentation with that longer leader.
So anyway, again, those are only my opinions and my experience, but, again, I don't think you're gonna find many guides or experienced anglers that are gonna tell you that a lighter weight rod is better in the wind. I just don't think you're gonna find it.
Here's an email from Zach. I really enjoy the podcast. I have a question pertaining to an article recently put out on In this article, the author discussed whether a trout is eating a beaded fly because of the profile and materials that make up the fly, or because of the bead, especially nowadays with more flies with oversized beads and streamlined flies. He proposed the theory that the bead is drawing the attention to the fly, and that perhaps any other materials behind the bead draw more scrutiny from trout potentially causing a rejection. His challenge issued to the reader is to just tie a bead on a hook with enough dark thread to secure it in place and nothing more. Have you ever tried fishing just a bead on a hook? I know trout beads and egg flies are used in some scenarios, but I've not heard about anyone fishing just a metallic or a painted tungsten bead on a hook in place of a nymph. Thank you for everything you do.
And Zach, this is a really interesting question, and I'm kind of glad that Dom at Troutbitten put that challenge out to people. And I've thought about it myself many times, but you know what? I'm not gonna do it because I don't want to know. I'm a flytier and I don't wanna know that just a bead on the hook is gonna catch trout as well as a bead with all the stuff we put behind it to try to make it look like something the trout are eating. So I haven't tried it and I'm not gonna try it. You can try it and see what happens, and you know what? If it works, I don't wanna know about it. Please don't tell me about it because I just don't wanna hear about it. So it's gonna be interesting to find out the results of this, and I hope you try it if you're interested and see how it works, but you can leave me out of that study.
Here's another email, from James. Hello. I wanna thank you for the wonderful listening you produce that I can plug into at work. The last podcast with Dads On The Fly on getting kids into fly-fishing was a wonderful listen, especially, as I have four children I'd love to see get into the sport. Anyway, my name is James, and I live here in the Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, northwest of Reno. This place is a treasure for fly-fishing. First, I wanna congratulate the gentleman from the previous podcast on his new fishing partner. I hope I can help with some tips on keeping his partner out of his tying gear. As a father of four, ranging from 1-year-old to near 12, I have a bit of experience keeping things away.
First is, you have to realize children are actually little Loot Goblins. Think bipedal raccoon or a crow with a diaper on. If it's shiny, they will findy. I used to make flying model planes, so similar to flies, out of collection of pins, razor knives, and various adhesives. Treat your hobby and its equipment like you would a firearm when it comes to storage, simply because like pins and knives, hooks and beads could be harmful if ingested. So I figured if I treated it with that level of caution, all would be well. Locking drawers and boxes would be helpful. I hope this helps keep your new level one angling partner safe. Just never underestimate the curiosity or absolute persistence of a toddler who is full of love and wonder for whatever dad might be doing.
Well, thank you James. That's a great warning and yeah, it's really common sense, but sometimes, we don't think of fly tying materials as being dangerous, and with a little kid around, yeah, good idea to keep everything out of reach. Everything, everything. Roll top desks with a lock on it might be a good idea. And those drawer lockers that that we put on our kitchen cabinets, you know, in our storage cabinets to keep young fingers out of there are probably a good idea for drawers in fly tying desks.
Here's an email from...and I'm sorry I couldn't pronounce the name. Greetings from South Korea. I hope you're doing well. I'm a student with a passion for fly-fishing and tying. Fly-fishing isn't a thing here with about 1000 anglers in a country of 60 million, and I wish to thank you and Orvis for all the information made available for fly anglers around the globe. Your books and podcasts have been valuable sources in my new fly-fishing career.
Now, to the question, I have acquired a number of fly tying materials, including hackles and fur that are quite expensive for my student budget. The problem is that I'll be moving to the Bay Area for college this September. I know there are regulations on bringing animal-based products into the U.S. and my hackle and fur are such materials. I also fear that the flies I tie with them are also part of the regulation. Are there any legal processes I should take to bring my tying materials into the United States? How do you bring your flies to international fishing destinations? I really don't wanna leave all my costly materials and, potentially, my flies behind.
I also wanna ask you for tips on safely transporting my rods. I know I could keep two or three rods with me on a plane, but bringing five rods, including a spey rod onboard, seems physically impossible. Is there a special packing method Orvis uses to ship out rods in bulk? Oh, and I got a podcast suggestion, an episode on fly tying hooks and threads might be helpful for beginners like me. I often find it difficult to go through all the different hook shapes and thread sizes. Thank you in advance for going through this long email and answering my questions. I can't wait to fish in the United States.
Well, first of all, yeah, you could have problem bringing your hackles and your furs into the United States, particularly, with some cases of avian flus rearing their ugly heads. And it is probably illegal, and, you know, what I would do is I wouldn't try to bring...even though the hackle probably came from the United States originally, I wouldn't try to bring it into the country. And you know, as far as furs are concerned, if you have some synthetic furs, those are gonna be okay. The, you know, packs of synthetic furs and threads and hooks and things like that are probably gonna be okay, but you could... You know, if customs inspects your luggage, you could run into problem with some fly tying materials, so bring synthetics, but I would leave the natural stuff home.
Regarding finished flies, it's rare that completed flies or finished flies are not allowed into a country. I remember a number of years ago going into Chile when...and they're very, very protective of their agricultural industry. I remember that people that were carrying their flies on got them taken away. So it can happen, but in my experience, I've never declared flies and I've never had a problem with bringing flies into any country that I've visited, so I think you're pretty safe there.
The one thing you might wanna do is to contact U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service online and ask what the regulations are. The other thing is it is possible to get your flies fumigated by a veterinarian before you come into the states and have a certificate that says that they have been disinfected by, you know, a professional. But I don't think you're gonna have any trouble with your finished flies. Materials are gonna be an issue.
Regarding traveling with rods, you know, probably, the thing to do is to pack your rods either in a heavy cardboard tube or a PVC tube and wrap some bubble wrap around the rods. And they should be very safe. That's the packing method that most people use. So yeah, I think that, you know, as long as you got the outside of the rod protected in whatever kind of device, but heavy cardboard and PVC are good, and then bubble wrap to keep the rods from getting banged around, you should be fine.
Regarding your podcast suggestion, I get confused with fly tying hooks too. There are so many styles and so many brands out there, I'm not so sure that I could do a podcast on hooks. Threads might be a little bit easier. Threads are a little bit easier to keep track of and a little bit simpler, but, boy, hooks are a problem. And, again, I'm confused with all the hook styles and I'm not sure I could do a good job on a... I'm not sure anyone could do a good job on a podcast on fly tying hooks, but let me look into it and see. Let me talk to Tim Flagler and see what we can maybe come up with.
Isaac: Hey, Tom. This is Isaac calling in from Bozeman, Montana. I got a question and a comment for you. My question is about fly tying with partridge feathers. I love the look and the action of partridge soft hackles, but I can never find feathers that are the right size for patterns like 16 and smaller. And whenever I buy a bag of partridge feathers from the fly shop, only a few are small enough to use on these smaller patterns.
I've used Tim Flagler's trick of tying with the oversized soft hackles where you tie the partridge and halfway down the hook, wrap your thread forward and cover up the feather up to the hook eye, finish the back end of your fly, and then push the hackle fibers back towards the bend of the hook with a hollow tube and finish the fly. But this strategy is fairly time-consuming and it doesn't really work on the beadhead flies, like Guide's Choice Hare's Ears and stuff. So I was just wondering if there's another type of bird or a product that matches or that produces smaller feathers for soft hackles than the classic bags of loose partridge feathers that you can buy at the fly shop.
And my comments for anyone who plans to travel to the Bozeman area to fish The Gallatin this summer. I just wanted to encourage any visitors to take a few minutes to learn about the pollution issues facing this river when you make a trip out here and see what you can do to help the river out during your visit, whether that be with a donation to a conservation group, an hour or two of volunteering, or even just spreading the word either when you're on the river or in the restaurant or with your friends who are also coming out to visit.
The Gallatin is a truly iconic river in Montana. It's where "A River Runs Through" was filmed. It boasts some of the best walking way trout fishing in the country. And we wanna do everything that we can to protect this fishery, and we really need all the help that we can get from anglers.
I work for a conservation group in the area called Cottonwood Environmental Law Center, and we love working with visiting or local anglers to make this freestone river a better place. If anyone wants to get in touch with our group, to learn more about the pollution issues facing The Gallatin, just take a look at our website. The address is Lastly, I just wanted to thank you, Tom, for all the work that you do to advocate for clean and healthy rivers here on the podcast and for keeping us all company on those long car rides to the river. Cheers.
Tom: So, Isaac, first of all, thank you very much for the info on The Gallatin great work that you're doing. That's an important iconic trout stream, a beautiful trout stream, a productive trout stream, and any threats to that river need to be addressed. So thank you for providing us with that information.
Regarding your smaller partridge feathers, yeah, you know, partridge feathers don't get that small. First of all, I would advise you to buy partridge skins. They're expensive. I think they're less, I looked, they're about 50 bucks apiece. But generally, in a bag of partridge feathers, you're not gonna get any smaller feathers. When you buy a whole partridge skin, there are some feathers down toward the bottom of the neck and then along the edges of the wings, they're a little bit smaller, and you can probably tie a size 16 with those, but it's not gonna get any smaller.
You know, there's a lot of Hungarian Partridge in your part of the world. And if you can get hold of a upland bird hunter, you can probably get, you know, a better variety of feathers or get 'em to maybe skin it out for you, or maybe they can bring you a bird and you can skin it out for them if you're, if you're capable of doing something like that.
There are some similar colored feathers that are available to flytiers that are a little bit smaller. Quail, you can find quail skins online, and quail skin will have slightly smaller feathers. I don't think you're gonna be able to tie many 18s and 20s with quail feathers, but they're generally a little bit smaller.
The other thing you can do is not quite as pretty as partridge, but you can use grizzly hen hackle dyed brown. That's gonna get, you know, a little bit closer to partridge. And, you know, you can get quite small if you get a... Don't get a hen saddle, get a hen cape. You can get some smaller soft feathers to tie soft tackles and nymphs and things like that with that.
And the other thing you can do with the partridge feathers is you can use kind of, like, a distribution wrap. In other words, take one of your bigger partridge feathers and snip the center stem out of it, and bunch all the fibers together and kind of even 'em out while they're still on the stem. And then tie those into the length you want in front of the hook. So you're laying the stem of the feather away from the eye of the hook, and you're just tying the tips in near the front of your fly. And then kind of distribute those around the hook shank before you tighten up on your thread. And, you know, sometimes, you might need to tie a second bunch in, but you'll be able to get know, you can use a longer feather for tiny flies if you do it this way. It's a little clumsy and not the easiest thing to do but, you know, that's another way to skin the cat. So none of those... That's not gonna be probably much easier than the Flagler method for you, so I would look for maybe some quail feathers or some grizzly dyed brown. See how that works.
All right. That is the Fly Box for this week. Let's go talk to my buddy, Seth, about packing fly-fishing gear for travel.
Well, my guest today is Seth Berger, and Seth works for Orvis Adventures and Seth's title is Fly-Fishing Travel Specialist. So I think we got the right guy here to talk about air travel and fishing gear, which is... I get a lot of questions about that, you know, can I carry this rod on? Should I do this? Should I do that? Should I check it? Should I mail it ahead of time? And what about flies? Can I take flies and reels on the plane? So Seth, you're gonna answer all our questions, right?
Seth: Well, I'm gonna try, Tom. So yeah, thanks for having me on. And it's an honor and a pleasure to be on with you. And you know, as you can imagine, when we help people plan trips all around the world, we get a lot of those same questions as well. So I'll try and answer the ones that you have as best I can. And if I can't answer 'em, I'll get back to you.
Tom: Yeah. Not only do you answer a lot of questions, but you, yourself, visit a lot of the international lodges and so you're in the air a lot with fishing gear and you've experienced some of these things. So we got the right guy here today. So let's first...
Seth: Yeah, that's right. I'm definitely fortunate enough to visit a couple places, so that's the really fun part of the job.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So let's start with rods. And, you know, can I carry a two-piece rod on a plane? Can I carry a four- piece? Can I carry it in a tube? What have you learned over the years and what tips do you have for us?
Seth: Sure. So it does vary a bit if you're traveling internationally or domestically. And so, the answer I tell people always is it does depend. And ultimately, domestically, it's at the discretion of a TSA agent or a gate agent, whether they're gonna let you carry it on. Each airline has their own rules and some of them list fishing equipment and rods as an exempt item from the standard carry-on size, and some don't. But I've traveled on just about every major airline domestically and haven't had problems bringing things on. If you have a gate agent or a TSA agent that tells you, "Hey, that's too big to carry on," I've politely told them that it's a fishing rod, and as I understand it, I'm allowed to carry it on. And usually they'll say, "Okay, yeah, no problem. Just put it in the coat closet. Or don't forget to get it out of the overhead bin." Which if you have a rod in a rod tube and you've traveled on a plane, you know, they do roll to the back, and for guys of your and my height, it can be difficult to get 'em out of those overhead bins.
Tom: Without a stool.
Seth: Yeah, exactly. So, you know, remember that they're up there, and if they tell you that you gotta check it, just check it. So you always wanna be prepared to check it. So traveling with a rod in a hard tube or a carry-on case is beneficial, but whether it's two-piece or four-piece or a three-piece rod, it shouldn't be a problem in most cases. And if you are carrying it in a tube, what I've done in the past is I'll put a piece of duct tape on the tube with my name and my address and my email and my phone number. So if you do have to check it and it gets lost, at least somebody might know whose it is and how to get it to you.
So, internationally, it's kind of the same thing as a lot of places, you can carry it into the country because it's whatever the regulations are leaving the U.S., but you might have to check it on the way home. Or if you have a domestic flight within the country, you might have to check it domestically. And a lot of times those domestic flights are non-stop from a major city like Santiago or Buenos Aires, down to the nearest airport to where you'll be fishing. So if you can carry it into the country and then you have to check it, pretty good bet that it's gonna make it to where you're going since it's a direct flight. But having 'em in those larger carry-on, like, we have that carry-it-all case, it's less likely to get lost if it's in that than if it's in a tube. You know, a rod tube could roll off a luggage cart pretty easily. So that's why I like to travel with those.
Tom: And the carry-it-alls will fit in into overhead, right?
Seth: They do fit. They're bigger than your standard carry-on size. So a lot of times, what I've found is in a flight that's pretty full, they may ask you to put it in the coat closet or gate check it if they don't have enough overhead space. And I always like to put it in the coat closet anyway, if there is one on board. That way, it's right at the front of the plane when you're getting off and you don't have to carry it down the aisle when you're getting on. And the agents are usually very accommodating with that. So when you're boarding the plane, when you get to the end of the jetway, you just ask the agent or the flight attendant, if you can put it in the coat closet and 9 times out of 10, they'll say yes.
Tom: And using the carry-it-all eliminates the need to take a hard rod tube, which is, you know, heavy and kind of clumsy, and they roll.
Seth: Correct. Yeah, exactly. And in those carry-it-alls too, I pack a lot of other stuff, you know, whether it's fishing equipment or a change of clothes in case my other luggage gets lost or some check in stuff. It's a good way to carry all your essentials in one thing.
Tom: Okay. And then how about, have you ever had problems with reels? I know that right after 9/11, they didn't even allow fly lines on board because, you know, theoretically, you could strangle somebody with a fly line. Is that pretty much gone away?
Seth: I haven't had any issues with it. And I've, you know, traveled pretty extensively. And I don't know of anything out there that's written that says you can't bring reels on, but it's certainly possible that if you went to a different country, you wouldn't be allowed. But domestically, anyway, when I travel, I try and carry my rods on, and in my backpack, I put my reels and all my flies. So I try and keep those with me, and I've never had an issue with it. So I wouldn't expect that anyone would at this point.
Tom: And flies are not a problem, right?
Seth: Correct. Flies are not a problem either. You know, a lot of countries, internationally, have really strict rules about bringing in animal parts, so fly-tying materials can be an issue. So if you're traveling internationally and you wanna bring fly tying materials with you, bring all synthetic materials and you shouldn't have any problem. But for whatever reason, once they're tied onto a hook, it's no problem. And the hooks themselves aren't a problem either. So you can put those in your carry-on and feel safe that you'll be able to bring 'em on board.
Tom: Although, I remember many years ago, I was flying to Nova Scotia to Salmon fish on Air Canada, and they wouldn't let me bring flies on board. This is even before 9/11, long before 9/11. Again, it's always best to check with an airline because, you know, I think I said something wise like, "What do you think I'm gonna stab somebody with a size 8 double salmon hook?" But anyway, they wouldn't let me carry on flies. So you never know, you know, you always gotta check.
Seth: Right.
Tom: And I suspect that...
Seth: And so, you know...
Tom: Sorry, go ahead.
Seth: I was just gonna say, you know, it's a good idea, when you're checking in for the flight, regardless of what you see online, if you don't see rules or you do see something, talk to the gate agent, because ultimately it's at their discretion. So if you don't see anything online, you know, you might wanna just ask the gate agent, "Hey, I have some flies for fishing in there." You know, they might not know what they are. You might have to take 'em out and show 'em to 'em and they might say, "Yeah, you're good to bring those on." And then you should be good, or they might tell you, you have to check it and then at least you haven't checked your bag yet and you can put it in your check bag and get 'em there.
Tom: I remember another time I was going somewhere and I had a fly tying vise in my carry-on bag and it was a tool over X number of inches, whatever the TSA rules are. And, you know, I put it in my carry-on because the damn pedestal is so heavy. And they were gonna take it away from me. I did talk... Luckily, there was a TSA agent that fished, and he said, "Oh, fly tying vise. Yeah, that's all right. That's all right." But they weren't gonna let me carry that fly tying vise on, so, you know, God, you always gotta check to make sure.
Seth: Yeah. And those tools regulations, I believe TSA has it set at seven inches is the maximum size or they need to be under seven inches to bring a tool on. So, like, pliers for saltwater. I know our pliers are just under seven inches, but if you're going saltwater fishing and you wanna bring pliers, that's something to certainly keep in mind, or if you're traveling with a vise too.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah. It must have been a big vise. I don't know. I don't remember what kind it was, but must have been over seven inches long. It was broken down. Dude, it was the best vise, but it was broken down. But anyway, you know, you never know. So it's always good to check.
Seth: Yeah.
Tom: So, Seth, what other tips do you have about...yeah, let's talk about what you actually carry on to the plane with you, and then some other tips on traveling with fishing gear.
Seth: Sure. So I guess the first tip I have for anyone traveling with fishing gear or otherwise is make a list. And, you know, we're after Christmas, but make a list and check it twice. You know, I find that if I make a list of all the things that I need, inevitably, and then I pack and then I check back on my list, inevitably, I forgot something. You know, whether it's floatant or forceps or, you know, wet wading socks or something. I always make a list.
And one of the things towards the top of my list that, you know, I don't carry with me every day is, like, a little external battery or like, you know, one of those battery packs to charge your phone or, you might be able to charge your camera off it depending on which one you have. You know, especially, if you're traveling internationally or even domestically and you download a bunch of stuff on your phone and you're watching things, and maybe you haven't been able to charge it for 18 hours or something. And you get to where you're going and then you need to call a taxi or an Uber or call the lodge you're going to and let 'em know you're gonna be late and your phone's dead, having that can be really handy.
So I always pack that. I always bring a simple first aid kit, so nothing big and crazy, but I have, like, a little Cinch bag and I'll throw some athletic tape in there. Especially if I'm going somewhere saltwater or I'm gonna be doing a lot of streamer fishing, I always have athletic tape to put on my fingers. I don't really like those stripping guards, but I do tear up my fingers pretty good more in freshwater than salt for whatever reason.
So I bring that, and then I bring, like, a hand lotion. I like that, you know, O'Keeffe's Working Hands. I don't know if you're familiar with that. Not to promote them, not a free ad, but I think that stuff's awesome. So I always have that with me. And, you know, some Band-Aids and Advil or some other, you know, anti-inflammatory, if you're casting for six days, you know, your shoulder might get pretty sore or you might twist an ankle wading or something. So I always bring that kind of stuff.
And then a big one is backup documents for all your travel stuff. So right before I'm traveling, I always take pictures of my passport and my driver's license and, you know, any confirmations I have for hotels or transfers or anything like that. And I kind of go old school and print out my itinerary and everything like that. So you know, if you lose your phone or you lose your passport, God forbid, at least you have something. And I actually, you know, am a little embarrassed to say one time I was out in Montana and I left my wallet in my cousin's car the day before I was going home, and I got to the airport and I realized I didn't have my wallet, so I couldn't check in. I didn't have my ID. Luckily, I had a couple fishing magazines with me. I have TU's quarterly magazine and something else that had been addressed to me at my house. And they asked me if I had any prescriptions or things with my name and my address on 'em, and luckily, I had two magazines and they let me check in with that.
Tom: Oh, my God.
Seth: You know, if you have prescriptions with you... Yeah. Got really lucky. I was really embarrassed, you know? I was out there hosting a trip and then spent some time with family and I was the travel specialist who forgot his ID to check in for the flight home. So it worked out well. But luckily, you know, I had stuff that said who I was and where I lived. So having anything like that, you know, whether it be something you printed out or a magazine or prescription can be a lifesaver.
Tom: Will they accept a photo of a driver's license when you check in?
Seth: It depends. So generally, no. So, what I had to do was I had to fill out this form and they had to call some government office in Vermont and confirm some things. And I think they had to call my mother, because I listed her as, like, my emergency contact, so they had to call her and she verified who I was. I'm not sure why they took her word for it, but, you know, with all those things combined, they said, "Okay, we believe you are who you are." And, you know, getting through TSA took a little bit longer. They checked through all my things really thoroughly, but I made the flight and got home on time, so...
Tom: Oh, that's great. Wow.
Seth: ...worked out.
Tom: Yeah. That's amazing. You forgot one very important thing for travel, a bottle of Imodium.
Seth: What's that?
Tom: A bottle of Imodium.
Seth: Oh, yes. Yes. I always keep Imodium. That's a good one, and can be a lifesaver, especially if you're, you know, going to somewhere and eating some different foods or airport food for that matter, that's a big one. And then internationally, too, if you live in North America and you're leaving North America, you'll want to have an adapter for outlets. So I have one that has all kinds of different plugins so that I can use it in Asia or South America or Europe, but having one or even two of those so you can plug all your things in when you get there. That's a pretty important thing that can be essential when you're abroad.
Tom: Yeah. And another thing that I like to carry, they sell these little packets of laundry detergent, like, cold water laundry detergent that take up almost no space. And, you know, if the lodge you're going to, or the place you're going, doesn't have laundry service, you know, you can pack a lot fewer shirts and pants and just wash 'em in the sink. I always carry that with me because it allows me to, you know, pack fewer things, pieces of clothing.
Seth: Yeah, that's a good one. And I've done that in the past, for sure. And a tip on that is if you do your laundry, you know, in your hotel room or lodge room, wherever you're staying, after you ring it out as best you can, what I like to do is lay out a towel and lay my clothes flat and then roll 'em as tightly as I can. And that helps dry 'em, you know, especially if you're in a humid place, things might not dry that quickly. So if you can get 'em as dry as possible before you hang 'em up overnight, that can help a lot.
Tom: Yeah. A lot of it depends on where you're going. I mean, some lodges are really remote. They don't sell flies. They don't have any tackle, they don't have any loaner equipment and others, they don't have any spare adapters for your plugins. So it really varies and its best to check again, best to check with the lodge and find out what they can provide.
Seth: Yeah, absolutely. And I always recommend to people too, regardless of what the lodge can provide, is bring as much of your own gear as you can. That way, you know, your waders and your boots are gonna fit. You're gonna like the way the rod casts. You know, it can be a pain to pack waders and boots, but if you stuff all your socks and underwear in your boots and roll your waders up really tightly or fold them nicely, they don't take up that much more space. And if you can dry 'em the night before you fly home, they're not too heavy. And certainly you want to have 'em dry and clean before you travel, regardless of if you're traveling halfway around the world or just a few states away. You can clean your boots and your waders and let 'em dry for a couple of days before you go. It'll help not bring invasive species or bring species from one watershed to another. And in some cases, internationally, it's essential that you do that before you bring your gear. So it can be a pain to pack that stuff, but if you pack, use your boots as a way to hold some other things, they don't take up too much additional space.
Tom: Now there are some countries, I think Iceland and New Zealand, where they're very concerned with invasive species and there are special things you have to do with your gear, right?
Seth: Yeah. So you'll find some conflicting or contradictory information on those. Both countries, certainly, very concerned with invasive species coming in. You know, they're small island nations and have a lot of native species that they're protecting. And you might find information that says your gear has to be sterilized before you come. And it used to be that you could take your waders and your boots to a veterinarian and they would clean it in a solution and give you kind of a certificate or a receipt that said that you did it, and you'd present that upon arrival. And I've talked to a couple vets here locally and they kind of scratch their head and think you're crazy if you ask 'em to do that. So I don't think many vets out there are doing it anymore.
But you don't need any type of, you know, documentation saying that you've done it. What happens, in most cases, when you get to those two countries is you let 'em know that you're there fishing, or they can just tell and they'll ask to see your gear. So like, if you're going to New Zealand, whether you're there hiking or fishing or doing mountain biking, doing anything outside, they're gonna wanna check your gear. So what I've done before going to those places is I take my boots in the shower with me about a week before I go. So they have plenty of time to dry and I don't forget to do it. And I'll take, like, an old toothbrush and some soap and really scrub the soles of my boots and get all the little rocks out of there and all the dirt off of 'em and make 'em look as good as new as I can.
And that's enough. You know, as long as your gear doesn't have any visible dirt or residue from the river and that kind of thing, and it's dry, you shouldn't be transporting anything. So they'll let you come in with that. And, in some cases, they may sterilize your gear upon arrival if they don't think it's clean enough. And there might be a small fee for that, but it's not like they're gonna take your boots and throw 'em out, they'll just clean 'em there on site. So it might delay you a little bit if you have a connecting flight, so you wanna keep that in mind.
Tom: Didn't New Zealand at one point require that all wading gear had to be new when you went?
Seth: Yeah, they did. And that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. We had a group go down in December and I know some people had new gear, but some had old and they didn't have any issue. I went back in 2019 and the same was true. You know, I didn't have any tags on my stuff and it certainly wasn't new and you could tell, but it was clean. But one thing there that, you know, people should be aware of is they do not allow felt sole wading boots. So you have to have rubber soles, and you can have studs in them if you want.
A lot of the wading down there is quite a bit easier than what we have here, anyway, in the Northeast, you know, that could be pretty slippery and felt soles are great to have. But in New Zealand, they don't allow felt soles, so you gotta have rubber soles. So you know, some people have boots where you can change out the soles, which is great. Or if you have felt soles, it might be a situation where you can borrow boots while you're down there, or maybe you get a new pair. Good excuse to buy a new pair of wading boots. So that can be good. And same thing true in Yellowstone National Park now. You can't have felt sole boots there. So those are the two places that really jump out to me as limitations on what kind of gear you can have.
Tom: I think there's rivers in Alaska too, where you can't wear felt, but I don't know which ones they are. I've heard there are certain rivers that don't allow felts, but no other countries as far as, you know, won't allow felt.
Seth: Yeah. Not as far as I know. Certainly possible though. You know, I don't know the rules and regulations off the top of my head for everywhere. So it's another case where it's good to contact an outfitter or a lodge if you're going to one of those places, or if you're DIY fishing, look up as much information as you can because you don't wanna do something illegal or, you know, bring a species to a different watershed that you shouldn't be. And, you know, it'd be a bummer to show up and not be able to fish because of it.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah. What other tips? You must have more tips, things that people forget, things that you always carry.
Seth: Other things I carry. I mean, I always try and travel with a book. I don't read as much at home as I'd like to, but when I get on a plane, I love to get through a good book. So I'll do that. Kind of back to medical things, you know, make sure that you have enough toothpaste because you don't know where you're gonna be able to get some when you get there. You know, you might not be able to carry on a full tube, but, you know, make sure you have all the essentials. Just assume that you're not gonna be able to get anything when you get to where you're going. So that can be a big one.
And, you know, sunglasses certainly. And I always try and travel with at least two pairs. You know, I'll bring a pair of kind of "regular polarized" sunglasses and then I'll bring a pair of low lights and I fish in low light sunglasses probably 90% of the time, unless it's a blue bird, no clouds in the sky kind of day. I like to wear my low light or yellow lenses, most of 'em are yellow. And that can be really helpful when spotting fish, but also just crossing the river and, you know, seeing what's in front of your feet so you don't trip over a log or something. So, I always travel with those and I carry 'em on with me because they're an essential item that I need to have. So I bring that.
You know, I try and remember my chargers. Inevitably, sometimes, somehow every time I pack, it seems like my phone charger and my computer and my camera charger, those are the last things that make it into my bag. And, you know, they're...especially for a camera, you know, you're not gonna be able to go pick up a charger in the airport necessarily. So I always bring those.
Sunscreen if, you know... I mean, I guess regardless of where you go, you're probably gonna wanna have some sunscreen, so you bring that and bug spray too. And a big one on the bug spray is, you know, if you can't travel with those aerosol bug sprays, you know, the ones with the compressed air, either those wipes seem to work really well. So I'll bring those, or one of those bottles that has just a little hump spray. I try and bring the bug spray.
What else? You know, a buff and some extra layers and a rain jacket. You know, a rain jacket can be your most essential item that you should carry with you every day. So it's amazing. You know, how many times I've been on trips with people and they leave the lodge in the morning and it's 75 and sunny and there's no clouds in the sky and they come back at, you know, 4:00 and they're soaking wet. And yeah, the weather changed. So you gotta bring your rain jacket with you every day regardless of what the weather looks like outside.
And then I always travel with a hook sharpener too. You know, especially if I'm going DIY fishing and I don't know where the nearest fly shop is. And I travel with more flies than anyone should ever have, but, you know, if that one fly is working for you and you ding it on a rock or catch a bunch of fish and the hook starts to go dull, you wanna be able to sharpen it and keep it going. So I think that's one that people probably often overlook, and I try and always have with me.
Tom: Oh, God, I keep two in my sling bag. Always. Always, always, always. Because I might lose one.
Seth: That's good. Yeah.
Tom: They're easy to lose.
Seth: That's good. Yeah. And then a big thing that I try and tell people before the trip, you know, is practice your casting.
Tom: Oh, god. Yeah.
Seth: Especially if, you know, you're traveling to go somewhere, you're paying a lot of money, whether it's just in gas to drive for a couple hours or you're flying halfway around the world. It can be tough, you know, right now, I don't know, we have 15 inches of snow on the ground and it's blowing 20 miles an hour outside and it's just 30 degrees. But, you know, if I was going down to Patagonia next week, I'd be outside practicing my casting. Especially in this wind, it'd be a perfect opportunity to practice. So, you know, practice your casting. A lot of times people are taking trips that are outside of your main fishing season, so you might not have picked up a rod in a month or two or three. And, you know, it takes a little bit to get back into it and you don't want those first 10 casts to be your warm-up, because that might be your opportunity to catch the fish of a trip. So you know, practice your casting and practice it as much as you can.
And a resource that I always think of that is actually how I learned how to fly-fish is the Orvis Learning Center. I think it's, maybe.
Tom: Yep.
Seth: And the videos on there are amazing, and if you're going to a place where you've never gone, say you're going storm fishing for the first time, all the little two, three-minute videos on there that you can watch are really digestible. They'll teach you a lot. And then when you show up, you'll at least have some information and some knowledge and as you practice your casting, there's, you know, tips and tricks there for working on your double haul or if you're trout fishing, maybe it's you know, high-sticking or something like that. So tons of great information in there that often gets overlooked.
Tom: Yeah. And, you know, most other trout fishing destinations, whether it's northern hemisphere or southern hemisphere, are windier than what we're used to. I mean, Chile, Argentina, I've never been in New Zealand, I don't know how windy it gets there, but, you know, Chile and Argentina, man, the wind blows every day, hard, and it frustrates people.
Seth: Yeah, it does. And I know, you know, there have been plenty of times here in the past where, you know, it's been kind of windy for Vermont and I'm like, "Oh, man, it's..." And we get a lot of pretty strong wind down here in Manchester and there have been days where I'm like, "Oh, man, I can't go fish in this." But if you're in Patagonia, I mean, that's a normal day. So, you know, once you get used to it, you know, you learn how to use the wind to your advantage to get the fly to where you want it to go. And it's just a different condition. It's not necessarily unfishable. You know, if it's 60 miles an hour, I don't know if I'd go fish, but if you got a 15, 20 mile-an-hour wind, like, if you practice in it, you can go fishing it.
Tom: Yeah. And again, on the Learning Center, there are a number of videos that both Pete and I did on tricks to get your fly out there in the wind. So it's always good to research those before you go. And practice 'em. Don't just watch the videos, you gotta get out and practice 'em in the...
Seth: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yep. Get out and practice. And, you know, if you've been down there and you've done it before, watching that stuff can just be a good refresher too. You know, every time I go and take a trip down and do some flats fishing, I go in there and I watch it because I don't go flats fishing very often. You know, it might be once a year or every two years, so it reminds you of something that you learned in the past, but you might have forgotten since then.
Tom: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. And a lot of the lodges and guides and so on have videos of their locations, so you can actually see what the conditions are gonna be like and how much pressure there's gonna be, how windy it's... Of course, they never shoot on windy days, right?
Seth: Right. Right.
Tom: They only shoot when the sun is shining and the wind isn't blowing, but boy, you can run into some wind.
Seth: Yep.
Tom: And, you know, extra tippet material. Chances are place you go, you're not gonna be able to buy a spool of tippet material. And boy, if you run out of 5X or 4X on a fishing trip, trout fishing trip or 12-pound or 16-pound on a bonefish trip, you gonna be in big trouble. So extra spool of tippet, or at least if you're gonna carry a spool, check it and make sure it's full. I've made that mistake so many times where, you know, oh, I got 5X tippet and I throw it in my bag and then I get there and I got about 20 inches left.
Seth: Yeah. Yeah. You're not gonna be changing five too much if that's the case.
Tom: No tippet's cheap and, you know...
Seth: Yeah, definitely check it and...
Tom: Yeah.
Seth: Yeah. And it's a good excuse to go to your local fly shop and get a new spool and, you know, stock up on things. And a couple extra leaders doesn't hurt. They don't weigh anything.
Tom: And maybe get a casting lesson while you're there.
Seth: Yeah, that too.
Tom: You know, people worry about flies and you and I are both flytiers and, you know, I'm like you, I have more flies than I can use in a lifetime on most trips. Because I like to experiment with new patterns and I like to tie some local favorites before I go, but chances are if you've done much fishing at all in North America and you go somewhere, you're gonna have flies that work. You know, it's very seldom that you find that, oh, you need some very, very special fly. I mean, there are exceptions. There are exceptions, but...
Seth: Yeah. And I like to tell people too, you know, regardless of where you're going, bring your favorite fly. You know, if it's not on the packing list, it doesn't mean it's not gonna work. It's just these are the flies that the guides down there use most often, and so, we're telling you about 'em and if you...this is what you can expect to use if the guide ties 'em on. But if you love fishing a Autumn Splendor or a Royal Wulff or a Pheasant Tail, and I can't imagine a Pheasant Tail won't be on a list of trout flies. But, you know, if you got something unique that you like or maybe you tie something or your local shop does and you have it, you know, throw a box in of your favorite flies, even if the lodge is gonna provide 'em or your guide's gonna provide 'em, because you never know what's gonna work. And I've been places and had flies and the guides that are like, "Oh, I've never seen that. Why don't we try it?" And then it's the only thing you use for three days because it works great.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah. I've had that happen too.
Seth: Don't be afraid to bring your own flies. And, you know, I know from talking to you and listening to the podcast in the past and I've talked to people and they say, "Well, can I use this there?" Well, of course, you can. And you know, if you want to, give it a try. And on the same side of that, you're paying a lot of money for a guide if you're going with a guide, or a lodge and listen to what they're telling you too. You know, you might wanna try a fly and if you fish that fly for two hours and nothing happens and the guide says, "Hey, what do you think about changing the fly?" It might be time to change it. So give it a try, but also listen to the guide and try what they're giving you too, because you might pick up some different flies that might work in your area or different techniques that you've never tried before that they use. And that stuff can be incredibly valuable to pick up techniques and flies and knots from different places. And then you bring 'em back to your local waters, and all of a sudden, you find you're catching more fish because you're doing things just a little bit differently.
Tom: Yeah. I mean, for the most part, trout are trout, I mean, you travel somewhere and you're probably fishing for brown or rainbow trout, and they have mayflies and they have stoneflies and they have caddis flies. And they're often almost exactly the same as mayflies and caddis flies we have here in the States. So, you know, there are exceptions, like, probably if you go to New Zealand, you want a cicada imitation because they're important there. That's something that, you know, people do fish 'em here in the States, but it's regional. And then Chile and Argentina have very large beetles and, you know, you might want...your beetles are probably gonna be 12, 14, 16. You gonna want some size 6s and 8s in South America. I learned that, that you need some really big beetles down there.
Seth: Yeah. Yeah. It's pretty shocking how big those cantaria beetles are the first time that you see 'em, but you understand why the trout are looking for 'em all the time. And the first time I went down there, I didn't have anything like them and you needed it in some places, but also one of the best days I ever had fishing down in Chile, I caught almost every fish on a size 14 caddis. And, you know, it's just like I just had it and, you know... And an orange stimulator for me has been super productive down there too. And the guides don't have size 14 stimulators because they fish a lot of Fat Alberts and some size 10 Parachute Adams. And, you know, for whatever reason that day, that was the fly and I brought it because I really like them, and I use it a lot for trout fishing. And I said, what the heck, I'll bring a half a dozen of them. So it's good to have some of that stuff that's a little different sometimes than the trout are used to seeing.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah. But don't overthink the fly thing and don't agonize over it because you're gonna have something that works, right? You're gonna have something in your box that works.
Seth: Yep.
Tom: You always got a Black Woolly Bugger in your box and that's always gonna work, no matter where you go.
Seth: That'll always work. I hate when I tie on a Black Woolly Bugger at the beginning of a day of fishing because I feel like I kind of have nowhere to go. You know, that's my when in doubt and nothing else is working, throw on a Black Woolly Bugger. You gotta always have some.
Tom: And I found too that in a lot of places you go internationally, trout fishing, the trout are so unsophisticated, they're still trout and they still can be snotty, but they don't have the fishing pressure we do in the states. And you know, people have told me in Chile, you know, "We're, like, 40 years behind you guys in sophistication in our fishing methods." And boy, it shows, you know, the fish are not as picky as they are.
Seth: Right.
Tom: In a lot of places you go, and if fish are eating caddis flies, you just put on a size 14 caddis, you don't even pay any attention to what size or color of the fly it is and it works.
Seth: Yep. Yeah. Yeah. It certainly can. And I think to the other side of that point too, is that, you know, people should remember that they are still trout, you know, they're wild trout in most cases. Or even if they're stocked fish, you know, they're basically a wild animal and they don't wanna get caught. So just because you paid a ton of money to fly somewhere and get a guide and go out fishing, doesn't mean that they're gonna jump on your hook. You know, they see less flies and they see fewer anglers and so they can be a bit easier in that respect, but, you know, if they're really keyed in on something or you walk up to a pool and you wave your arms in the air or make a dozen false casts before you put your fly down, it doesn't mean that just because you went there that you're gonna catch more fish or you're gonna catch bigger fish.
You know, there are plenty of places where you can go and catch some incredibly big fish and you'll see pictures on Instagram and Facebook and watch websites of these giant brown trout or rainbow trout and or a huge permit and, you know, people are like, "Oh, I wanna go there and catch that." And it's like, "Well, yeah, I do too. That's the biggest fish they've caught in the last five years, and they put it on their Instagram, and, you know, it's been caught once." And so, it's important to manage your expectations regardless of where you're going. And, you know, when you talk to someone, don't ask how many fish you're gonna catch in a day because you're gonna be different from the last angler and the weather on Tuesday is gonna be different than the weather on Monday, and who knows?
But, you know, understand what's the average size fish and set your expectations there. And enjoy all the other aspects of the trip other than just the fishing, right? Like, the people you talk to and the scenery. I always tell people, you know, don't forget to look up. You know, don't just stare at your indicator or your fly or the water all day long. You know, a lot of these places we get to travel to are beautiful, beautiful places and it can be really easy to be in a boat and stare at the water all day long and completely miss the beautiful scenery. So, you know, don't be afraid to take five minutes and just kind of look around and soak it all in. And that may be the part of the trip that you remember most other than, you know, a nice fish that you caught. There's so much more to it than just the fishing.
Tom: Oh, you know, another thing that I always forget is a bird guide for the area I'm going to. Guides often know the birds pretty well, but some of 'em don't and, you know, looking around at the scenery, you're on a trout stream, you're gonna see birds. And I always try to bring a bird or a wildlife guide for the country or the area that I'm gonna fish. Now, a lot of people use their phones for bird ID now, and I don't know if, like, the Merlin app has a South American... I don't know if they have a South American download that you can get. I'm not sure, you know, for bird songs and ID, but you can probably get something on your phone for South American birds or New Zealand birds.
Seth: Yeah, I would, I would think so. So I've used that Merlin app a lot too in the US or in Canada, but I don't know about South America. And it's such a great one. You know, it's such a big part of being out there, seeing that wildlife, and it unfortunately gets overlooked if it's not a moose swimming across the river or a bear on the bank. There's a lot more small things that if you take a little bit of time and look around, you might see some really cool stuff.
Tom: Yeah. Absolutely. Well, thank you, Seth. Those have been some great tips, and I hope both of us answered people's questions about traveling with fishing gear and what not to forget, and I'm sure we forgot something, but making a list is essential. What I do for my list is I have an app on my phone that's kind of a common app. Let me see here. It's called To- Do, I think it's, like, a standard app on an iPhone. And you can make a packing list and then as you pack the things, you delete them, but they don't go away. And then on the next trip, I just go down through the list and I undelete 'em, so they go back into my packing list. Now I have a master list that's about, you know, six or seven years old and there's a lot of stuff in there, I'm not gonna take on every trip, but I can go down through the list and it's like, "Oh, I need that," and I'll undelete it. And yeah, that helps a lot.
Seth: Yeah. That's a great way to do it. Yeah. I think one thing I don't think we touched on, but, you know, if you're going to a lodge, they're gonna have all the info and everything there. But if you're traveling and doing a DIY trip, I always encourage people, and I do this myself, is stop by a local fly shop. They're gonna have a ton of information and if you go in and you buy a dozen flies, you know, they might give you a place to go fish that you didn't find online. And so, you know, go in there, talk to 'em. Don't ask 'em, you know, "Oh, where are all the fish?" Or, you know, "Where's the best place to go?" But, you know, maybe tell 'em where you're going. You know, say, "Hey, I'm going here. This is what I have, this is what I might need," and they're gonna steer you in the right direction. And, you know, they might give you a little bit more information and, you know, it's great to support your local fly shop and, you know, buy a hat or a t-shirt as a souvenir of where you went fishing. That can be a great thing to do too.
Tom: Well, I always buy some flies because there are invariably local favorites that you're not gonna have in your Fly Box, and that makes 'em happy when the cash register rings.
Seth: Yep.
Tom: All right, Seth. Anything else we forgot?
Seth: Cool. I think that's it. Just like when I'm packing, I'm sure I'll think of something in five minutes that we forgot, but I think we covered it pretty well, so yeah, it was great. Thanks so much for having me on, Tom. And hope to see you on the water soon and enjoy your trip down to Chile in a few weeks. I'm pretty jealous.
Tom: Yeah, it's a little over a week and I'm back to Chile again. I'm looking forward to it.
Seth: Thanks.
Tom: All right, Seth. Well, we've been talking to Seth Berger who is a Fly-Fishing Travel Specialist with Orvis Adventures and a seasoned world traveler, and really appreciate your tips.
Seth: Yep. Thank you, Tom. It was a pleasure.
Tom: Okay, Seth, talk to you soon.
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