Please note: this article is now quite old. Whilst some of the information is still relevant, the standard and range of travel tackle available to buy has increased exponentially and I haven’t had chance to revisit the article to bring it up-to-date. I continue to host this page mainly for archival reasons.
Deciding to take fishing tackle with you on a family holiday can be a potential excuse for divorce! However, if your situation allows, with a little bit of planning and careful purchasing, a lot of great fishing can be enjoyed – whether you’ve got a spare couple of days, or just the odd free hour here and there. The rewards can be excellent – catching exotic species you would never dream of catching at home, or if you’re a coarse angler on a trip to the coast – holidays at home or abroad can be a chance to add new species to your PB list!
Sure – there are tailor-made fishing holidays where tackle is supplied, and then there are fishing trips to Ireland, France, etc – where plenty of tackle can be taken with you in the car or van. There isn’t much I can say about these trips which hasn’t been said before, so this article is based on both long-distance fishing holidays and holidays where angling is not the main focus, but a welcome interlude!
Back in 1987, when I was just 5 years old, I caught my first ever fish whilst on holiday with my family. The fish was a small mullet and I caught it on a telescopic rod my dad had bought for me. Little did I know that this rod would change my life. It helped sow the seeds of angling passion within me and this passion has only grown since that day.
Left, Those were the days – five years old, with my first fish – a mullet caught using a telescopic rod. My fish-holding style has changed slightly since then!
There are many things to consider when planning to fish on holiday, but in this article I shall concentrate on the primary aspect – tackle. Which tackle should you pack? How much should you pack? Are telescopic rods worth bothering with at all? What other alternatives are there? These are the types of questions I shall try to answer in this article – based on my own experience and the tackle available today. First, I shall tackle the broad field of travel rods.
If you’re travelling with just a suitcase for your belongings, there isn’t much room to fit your fishing tackle in – especially the most bulky item – rods. The past 15 years have seen vast improvements in travel rod technology. With more people holidaying globally, many manufacturers have realised there is money to be made in the market of quality travel rods, so we now have great and diverse ranges available from manufacturers such as Shimano, Wychwood, K-Class, Shakespeare and Fox.
In the past, buying a telescopic rod meant buying a 5-section collapsible glass-fibre rod, sold in the region of £10. These rods are fine for some occasional spinning or float-fishing from the docks, but they are quite weak and cumbersome when compared with some of today’s superb carbon-fibre telescopic rods. If you expect to be fishing on holiday regularly, or if you want to target larger specimens whilst there, then it is definitely worthwhile investing in one of these rods.
The majority of rods built for travelling are still designed as spinning rods, which are suitable for most holiday situations as they are quite versatile. However, more and more rods designed for specific purposes are emerging all the time, so it may be worthwhile considering what you intend to target before dashing out and buying any old rod. Shimano in particular, have managed to produce a thorough range of multi-piece rods under their STC (Shimano Travel Concept) banner. Many models of telescopics are also available under the Shimano brand.
If you intend to only occasionally fish on holiday, one of these value telescopic spinning rods would be the way to go. Capable of a multitude of tasks including float fishing, light legering and light-medium lure fishing, they are good fun to use, but lack the power to control large fish once hooked. Six feet is usually as long as you can buy these rods, which can be a little restrictive. They also lack the finesse you may be used to with your rods back home.
Left, A budget telescopic rod can provide hours of fun on holiday, for not a lot of money
A more expensive model, such as this Shimano Exage Mini Tele Spinning STC rod (currently the smallest telescopic rod range in the world!), which has 9 collapsible sections, besides a detachable butt section – allowing it to reach 2.7 metres in length, but collapse down to a tiny 31 centimetres for transport! Because there are so many sections and rod rings, the curve of the rod is much more natural and controlled when put under load. This, combined with the carbon construction gives excellent strength for playing bigger fish and it allows you to fish much more confidently.
I use this rod with a very light reel and fish ultra-light lure tackle, or light float and leger tackle. The rod tip is extremely sensitive, so it can be used for bite indication when legering, and will flick out a float with ease. All Shimano STC rods come with a semi-rigid rod tube for extra protection. This also means there’s a nice, clean tube to be easily stowed in the suitcase or bag, instead of a scaly, dirty, smelly rod!
Left, The tiny but powerful Shimano Exage STC telescopic spinning rod with it’s detachable butt section, alongside it’s protective tube case.
Another method of producing a travel rod is to make it take-apart with smaller sections than a standard take-apart rod. I currently own a four-piece Shakespeare Ugly Stik medium spinning rod. This is a hollow-glass construction, with a clear glass tip which helps when using the rod for legering. This rod is nice and comfortable to use, but a little heavier than it’s carbon and graphite counterparts. One problem with this rod was when it was new, the spigot joints worked loose after a few casts – sending sections flying into the water on the cast, which is very impractical for a rod designed for spinning! This looseness does disappear after a while though, as the spigots appear to “bed-in”. I found that until the joints bedded in, a quick push on all the joints every 10 casts or so would ensure they remained in place. If you are keeping mobile, then maybe check the joints before your first cast on every new swim.
I had some great fun in America with this rod, where I purchased it for a bargain £20. I used light lure tackle to take fish of four different species, including Largemouth Bass and beautiful Chain Pickerel; on Ondex spinners and cricket-imitation floating plugs. Later in the trip I switched to float fishing with the rod, in search of Walleye and I landed a few Rainbow Trout and some hard-fighting Catfish on this set-up.
Multi-piece rods are generally shorter in their packed-away state than telescopics. However the pieces are loose and must be packed properly to prevent them scratching or chafing each other.
The lightweight 4-piece Ugly Stik, and a small but very pretty Chain Pickerel caught with the rod in 2004
Carp & Specimen Rods
Whilst travelling Asia and Australia a couple of years ago, I used my first ever telescopic carp rod. It was a “K-Class Globetrotter” model (The carp brand of Keenets), of 12 feet in length, 2.5lb test-curve, of graphite construction, complete with “carp-style” abbreviated Duplon grips. I have to say, I was thrilled by the action and overall fishability of the rod. It really did not feel like any telescopic rod I’d used in the past – more like a standard 2-piece carp rod!
Whilst on my journey, I landed many fish with the rod, in both fresh and saltwater. Species included small Catfish and Mahseer in Malaysia and Shovel-Nosed Rays, Golden Perch, Giant Trevally, Reef Sharks, river Carp, Australian Bass, Barramundi and Whiting in Australia (there were more species too!). So, without my trusty rod I would’ve missed out on a wide range of new species into double-figures!
I did a variety of legering, float fishing and lure fishing with the rod, and was most impressed all round. Even when I had a Giant Trevally tearing line from my reel at unbelievable pace, I still had confidence that my rod had the power – and enough sensitivity, to land anything I hooked.
At one point during my trip, I had an accident which snapped the tip section of my rod. Despite this, I still managed to catch many fish with the rod – it just lost a little bit of give in the tip, which was especially tricky with small fish and bite indication.
My very battered K-Class Globetrotter carp rod, along with one of it’s captures from Australia – a Giant Trevally
This rod really surpassed all of my expectations of telescopic rods, and gave me confidence in using them for far tougher applications. This rod is still missing a tip section, plus it had to put up with the equivalent of 20 years’ holidays packed into 1 hectic year, so I have purchased a new one with more backbone, in hopeful anticipation of my Mahseer fishing in India this May.
My new rod is a 12-foot, 2.75lb test curve, 7-section “Wychwood Rogue” carp rod – again, with abbreviated Duplon grips. I have yet to use this rod, but it looks and feels very good quality, and extremely good value-for-money.
My brand-new Wychwood Rogue telescopic carp rod will hopefully get a good workout from a mahseer, in India!
Because a telescopic carp rod is quite long, you may struggle to fit it inside your case or bag. Plus, the longer it is when collapsed, the more likely it is to snap during transit if the case is flexed or crushed. I alleviated this problem by making my own travel rod tube, specifically sized for my rod.
To accomplish this, I take an old rod tube (drain pipe can be used for larger diameter rods, or if you require stronger protection), and cut it down, about an inch longer than the rod when collapsed-down – this is to leave room for a bolt and some foam.
I then cut some 4mm thick rubber into a thin strip, to act as a hinge for one end-cap. The other end-cap is secured with either strong glue, or preferably pop rivets. I then rivet another strip of rubber onto the side of the tube, to use as a carrying handle.
The last thing to consider is how to hold the lid closed. For this, I drill through the cap and the tube, then push a round-headed coachbolt straight through. A hole is then drilled through the end of the bolt, to enable a padlock to be secured.
The whole thing is given two or three layers of gaffa tape for extra security.
Once the rod is placed inside the tube, push a small amount of foam into the end, to prevent the sections vibrating and chaffing against one another. If, like me, you travel with a large rucksack, the tube containing your rod can be strapped to the outside of your bag. If you take a suitcase, the tube won’t take up much more room than your rod alone, but it will protect your rod against damage.
Photographs detailing my home-made holiday rod protection tube, which is slightly battered from my travels, but has stood the test of time and protected my rod well.
If I am going to a country with rich inshore reefs, or decent trout fishing, I like to take along a telescopic fly fishing rod. The one I have at present is a small #7/8 weight rod, made by the recently resurrected “DAM” a few years ago, but I doubt the new brand makes telescopic fly rods at this time.
The #7/8 was perfect for reef fishing and I managed to catch a few small snapper by wading and casting shrimp-pattern flies on a shallow reef in Seychelles on the outfit. Casting was hard work due to the small rod rings on this particular tele, but it was good fun all the same.
My small telescopic fly rod made by DAM, and a thumbprint snapper caught wading in a shallow reef, Seychelles
Many manufacturers are now producing a range of fly rods suitable for everything from light flies for trout, mullet, etc. right up to salmon, bonefish and sailfish! The cheaper travel fly rods tend to be telescopic versions, while some very nice multi-piece versions can be extremely expensive, but reputably fish as well as conventional fly rods. Mullet can be great fun on fly gear, or indeed on light float tackle. They live in almost every sea in the world, like to stay inshore around harbours and estuaries, but they will also venture some way upstream into freshwater rivers.
If you’re looking for a travel fly rod, take a look at the ranges available from Shakespeare, Shimano and Daiwa; which have a huge selection of telescopics and multi-piece rods available between them, with prices ranging from £25 to £370.
Sea fishing is what I’ve done most of when I’ve been on holiday, as most resorts have nearby harbours, breakwaters or piers, which are good to fish from.
Besides the odd bit of saltwater fly fishing, I have one main sea rod, which is a “Mitchell Neptune” telescopic, capable of casting 50-150g (1.75 to 5.25 ounce). This rod is designed for beachcasting and has a bright white tip for easy bite indication. If your intended quarry is not likely to be on the sea bed, a large sliding float, or fixed bung can also be hurled a great distance with this rod. There is an extreme amount of power within it’s construction, so it will handle almost anything you’re likely to catch from the shore.
Matthew Liston, who I fish with regularly was impressed last summer when he managed to pick up a telescopic 12 foot “Storm” surf rod for £20. This rod is rated for even larger casting weights (4 to 6 ounce), and Matt landed plenty of Mackerel last year, by casting feathers off rocks on Anglesey, punching out a 4 ounce lead with ease. This highlights perfectly the amount of power available from these modern telescopic rods. Despite this power, the rods still manage to be sensitive. During the same holiday, Matt also caught plenty of whiting by beachcasting baits out and watching the rod tip for bite indication.
My powerful Mitchell sea rod, left, will cope with casting weights of over 5 ounces!
If you’re heading off-shore and would rather catch a fish on your own tackle than that supplied by the boat, there is now even a wide selection of boat rods made in 3 or 4-piece designs!
Shimano’s “Beastmaster” and “Exage” ranges include boat rods and stand-up rods with line ratings of 20lbs, right up to 250lbs, with trolling rods available in sporting 20lb to 50lb classes.
I currently own one travel boat rod, which is a 4-piece model produced by Harris Angling, called the “Poacher”. This rod has heavy-duty, lined chrome rings, a heavily padded butt and handle with a capped fitting for a gimbal belt or trolling rest. It’s 30lb line class is possibly even a little light, as this is an extremely powerful rod, suited mainly to fishing with lures – reaching just 6 feet in length when fully assembled. I have yet to test this rod to it’s full potential, although I have used it for lighter work. The spigot joints are very firm and appear to be graphite. I have not found the same problem with this rod as I initially did with the glass four-piece rod – once the joints are pushed into place they will remain so for the rest of the session, resisting numerous casts without working loose.
The Harris Poacher, left, packs down very small, but has stacks of power when it’s required
So, that’s rods covered…
What about everything else? Obviously the reel, line and terminal tackle you take with you is dependant on the species you intend to catch and the methods you intend to use. It is best to have at least some idea of your potential quarry, before you start to pack your tackle. The internet is a great way to “do your homework” on your destination and it’s fishing potential before you leave the UK. Search for fish, angling or fishing and the name of your destination and you should find pages telling you what species and conditions to expect. Also, make yourself a member of at least one of the many angling forums. This way you can ask specific questions to the people most likely to know the answers – other anglers! Most angling forums are very friendly and welcoming to new members – don’t be afraid to ask the questions because it will save you time and worry when it comes to packing your tackle to take on holiday.
In order to keep the space taken up by your tackle to a minimum, purchase a small box for floats, weights and terminal tackle. I find that the triple-seal food boxes are perfect, because they’re available in a variety of shapes and sizes and cannot pop open in your suitcase – sprinkling hooks through your underwear! If you fit your tackle to the box, rather than vice-versa you’ll be surprised at what you can fit in such a small space. If I’m going with an open mind of species and techniques, I’ll take two or three floats, some swivels, split shot, a variety of hooks, two or three lures and some leger weights. This way I’m prepared for the majority of situations I’m likely to encounter.
It’s surprising just how much tackle will fit in a lock-lid food box. The contents shown are from a half-filled box!
A little tip – take some floating putty with you, available at fly fishing shops. This stuff is so versatile and you can make emergency floats by moulding some around a split shot or swivel. You just add as little or as much as you need to reach the required casting distance. It is luminous in colour, so it is quite visible at range. I also use this for surface-feeding carp. It makes a far less conspicuous “plop” as it lands in the water than that of a controller float.
The putty saved my blushes in Canada in 2003, when I was failing to catch anything on lures, but repeatedly saw fish rising at around 45 yards into the lake. So, I dived for some mussels from the lake bed, made a putty float set at 2 feet deep, and proceeded to catch a seemingly endless supply of bull trout. Once again, my trusty telescopic carp rod was the tool of choice.
A small fish caught by improvising a putty float, when other methods had failed
If you are intending to bait fish in another country, I strongly advise you to purchase your hooks at home and take them with you. In the majority of Countries, angling is a popular pass-time, but usually the prime reason is for food, not sport. Some tackle will be available to you out there, but in the UK tackle is generally more refined than most other countries. Hooks can often be of questionable quality and they may not be available in the size you want – especially if you are looking for small hooks, for mullet, etc. Try purchasing a pack of size 20 barbless and an insert waggler in any other country and I promise you, you’ll struggle! On the other hand, if you’re lure fishing in America, Australia or Canada for example, there are some stunning bargains to be had on lures, braid and even rods, so it’s possible to pick up all of your kit once you get there – or at least stock up on tackle for use back home!
Make sure you always take a good disgorger with you if bait fishing, or a good set of forceps/hook-outs if using trebles or large hooks. I’ve had tiny wrasse swallow hooks when fishing from breakwaters, while sunfish and crappies will swallow impossibly large baits and hooks, if you’re freshwater fishing in the USA. I don’t believe that not being able to remove a hook is a viable reason to kill a fish, and it is the angler’s responsibility to go fishing fully prepared and have the right tools to remove the hooks humanely.
Unfortunately I’ve seen sickening sights in the US, Malaysia, Australia and the Canary islands, where small fish are killed because the angler simply cannot be bothered to remove the hook properly from the unfortunate tiny fish. I think that in Britain we are lucky in the fact that most anglers are responsible and take good care of their catch, regardless of size or species, but this is not the case for the whole world. As ambassadors for our sport, it is important to take this respect for the creatures we seek, with us when we travel. You may get some funny looks if you put back a good fish to fight another day, but if you aren’t going to eat your catch, it should be handled with care and returned quickly and safely to the water, just as you would at home.
A tip born from experience when using telescopic rods is – when you’re first setting the rod up, don’t ever ‘flick’ the sections out as if you were casting! Instead, pull the sections gently into place, starting with the tip section; making sure all of the guides line up with each other. If you do flick the sections into place, there is an extremely high risk that they will jam into place permanently – so your handy 60cm telescopic rod becomes an impossible 3 metre one-piece rod in a split second! Grit and salt can also cause sections to stick in place. Occasionally, a dunk in warm water and/or some WD-40 around the joint will free it, but once a joint becomes stuck it is usually permanent.
If you are fishing in saltwater, make sure that you thoroughly rinse your rod, reel and line in fresh water as soon as possible, to stop any corrosion, or in the case of line – rotting. A shower is great, because you can direct small jets of water into all the nooks and crannies. Doing this will ensure your reel continues to run smoothly and your rod rings do not become scaly and corroded. It will also help prevent a build up of salt around the rod joints, which can make them jam, or even chip them at the ends.
If you would like to discuss anything related to this issue, or if you have a question I may be able to help with, please feel free to email me.
Good luck and good fishing to you all – wherever in the world you go!