im getting the specifics figured out for my trip next week, and im wondering if my gear is carry on friendly. im hoping to travel light with just my medium alice pack. ive got a four piece 8'6" rod, broken down it fits well slid thru the webbing on the side of the pack. it will carry well, but sticks out about 8" beyond the bottom of the pack. logically, it shouldnt be a problem, but airline rules arent always logical. has anyone carried on a fly rod? what about tackle? aside from the few flies im bringing, ill also have some crankbaits and hooks for soft plastics, are those going to be considered "weapons" in my carry on?
Edit Ha! Blake beat me to it while I was hunting and pecking on the keyboard, but here's my response for what it's worth....
Do you have a rod tube? Potential breakage would be my main concern. A 4 piece 8' 6" rod should be able to be carried on and placed into overhead compartment, at least as far as the TSA is concerned. Individual air carriers may have more restrictive policies, but since you're flying to Florida most airlines are going to be pretty used to people bringing rods along. The exception might be if you were flying on a puddle jumper with no room for overhead luggage.
Here's a link to the TSA's website regarding fishing tackle--- note flies and reels can be considered OK to carry on. I would print this out and have it with you in the event anyone tries to give you grief. The rules on hooks and lures though are different. They're considered dangerous and would need to be checked along with other potentially "dangerous" stuff like pliers, hook files etc. and uh .... filet knives and spearguns
I travel with a Fishpond Rodeo hard-bottomed roller duffle. Everything goes into it; rods, reels, landing net, vest, flies, waders, boots, backpack and layered clothing.
Some people won't pack their rods; preferring to travel with them as carry-on, but I've never had a problem doing it that way and my gear has been all over the US, to Europe, Asia and South America. It isn't packing lightly, but it gets you there with one piece of luggage that you can check with a fair degree of confidence.
I do use small electrical ties to hold the zippers together (I know, its contrary to the checked baggage reg of open bags, but I've never had anyone open it on me; and with electrical ties all they need is scissors or a small knife if they need to perform a visual inspection).
Since I travel on business all the time, my gear goes in my Samsonite rollerboard. Just to eliminate the potential for hassle, my flies and tools, along with waders and boots, gets checked. I carry my rod (in the tube) on the plane with my laptop and work material. I take a large plastic garbage bag and put the waders and boots in it. The suitcase is pretty stuffed, especially with my business clothes. Someday I'll get a Fishpond or other bag that has a separate wader compartment.
I think things should be handled differently on a paid trip to a lodge than if you are going on a business trip and you take along some fishing gear. On a business trip if your rod or reel doesn't get there with you then it is a minor inconvenience. If you get to a remote lodge or island and your gear doesn't show up it is a major problem.
On a lodge trip I want to have a complete outfit in a carry on with a couple pair of shorts, a tooth brush and paste, my meds and sun glasses. Now I might not have waders or other items but I can go fishing. I would do my darnedest to get a box of flies in the carry on. If I was making a trip to Alaska I would not be worried about packing everything in checked luggage. When I got to Anchorage and things were missing I could buy replacements. Not so at some remote locations and you need to be more cautious. In a state like Alaska the airlines are a bit more lenient about what you carry on.
I checked the TSA information and flies are not on the prohibitive list. I think you stand a good chance of getting some in your carry on baggage. I would not take a bunch but just a few to get you fishing. Even if they take the flies someone at the lodge will help you out. I think the Fishpond Dakota Carry On Rod & Reel Case is a terrific piece of luggage to carry on.
One other thing on a style of baggage for a place like Alaska. I would be careful of taking one of the huge bags with wheels when flying to a lodge. They will hold everything but in some cases you fly to the lodge in a small plane. The big bag can be a problem. I prefer two smaller or medium sized bags that can be stuffed in a small compartment.
You guy,s are so lucky as here in Australia we are not allowed to take ANY fishing related product on as carry on. Flying with the local "Flying Kangaroo" if the airline does not "lose" it then it has a fair chance of being so badly damaged that it is a throw away. I have seen a sage alloy rod tube squished so badly that the rod was in bits that could not be repaired. I even flew to the USA last year with the same airline and they " lost" my sage Z Axis. and I have not heard a word for over a year. I hope to get to Colorado next June and will pack a travel rod in both mine and my wifes bags.
Somehow I've been lucky enough to fly with my 2 pc 9' 6wt as carryon for the last 4 years. Twice I flew to Jackson Hole and recently to Denver. I wasn't sure recently but SW let me carry that rod on the Airbus. I'd prefer a 4 pc but I don't want to stop using this rod for trout.
This is probably too late for Soyavenger as he's likely already left on his trip, but might be helpful for other members thinking of fly-fishing trips by commercial air.
As my moniker indicates, I have to fly for most all of my fly-fishing trips. I usually take Southwest, which is much more user-friendly than others I've traveled (like - ugh - Delta), so these comments are offered with that context.
I've never had problems with pliers, flies, nippers, hook hones (Peregrines - you must have had one mean flight, probably Delta), short scissors and so forth. Obviously, knives and Leatherman-type tools with knives have to be in checked luggage.
As Peregrines and Blakejd suggested, it's a good idea to print out and cary the TSA's regulations on carry-on for the gear you plan to take carry-on. In addition, I use florescent-colored cable ties to tie shut the zippers on checked bags as Pocono suggested, although I don't think as Pocono does that doing so contravenes any regs. As he mentions, they can easily be cut open, but I think that the fact that I use unusually-colored ones gives pause to errant baggage handlers who might otherwise consider going on a "shopping expedition" through my checked gear, as they wouldn't be able to easily match the cable tie color to cover up their theft (& if TSA had cut the cable ties, there would be a note in the baggage that TSA had inspected the baggage).
One other thing I should mention (& which has given me a number of occasions to "discuss" TSA policies with TSA baggage inspectors). I carry with me in my carry-on luggage a CO2-inflatable waist belt PFD with two CO2 cartridges. This is specifically allowed by TSA and FAA regulations (& by all airline regs that I am familiar with). Nevertheless, of the many times I've carried these onboard with me through airport security, two-thirds of the time TSA would have confiscated the CO2 cartridges had I not had with me a printout of the TSA regs allowing them to be carried onboard. What this says is these overworked public employees often aren't up to speed on what their own regulations allow, even those regs going back several years as in this case. So, it's a small precaution to carry recent print-outs of the relevant TSA regulations on what can be carried on. Needless to say, I would NOT check items like CO2 cartridges since you wouldn't be there in baggage to inform the inspectors of the relevant regs allowing them to be checked/carried on.
Finally, as Frank W. mentioned, there is NO WAY I would check essential fly-fishing gear. Never mind the cost; as Frank mentioned, losing your gear on a fly-fishing trip could mean that the whole purpose of the trip was also lost. That even goes for 2-piece 9' rod cases, which I used to carry on without problems before I bought more-suitable 4-piece rods.