There is nothing, and I mean nothing, more frustrating than arriving at your fishing destination, opening your rod tube and empting out a pile of material that looks a lot more like kindling than your prized fishing rods.
While many of us may be inclined to blame the rod manufacturer, I would suggest that you look in the mirror - because more often than not, it ain't the rod or the folks that built it that are to blame.
Most of us don't have the first clue how to store and transport our fishing rods safely - and there was a time when I certainly fell into that category. I'm not just talking about driving over to your local fishing hole - although I can't begin to count the times that I have seen unsecured rods and reels bouncing around in the back of a boat or pick-up truck while racing along the highway - I'm referring to those of us who entrust our precious cargo to the commercial airlines while we are winging off to what is likely that fishing trip of a lifetime.
If you think you know the sort of abuse that your rods are subjected to - think again. When you check in at most major airports, you are invariably directed to Special Services", who will be taking "special" care of your fishing rods, golf clubs, skis, dogs, cats etc. Don't let the word "special" or "services" lull you into a false sense of security. It's actually code for, throw it further, harder and drop it from a greater height than would be the case if they let you check it through as regular baggage.
If you transport your rods in a commercially made plastic tube, they don't provide much visual evidence of the trauma they are subjected to, even if they do manage to arrive in one piece. Some years ago I was lucky enough to acquire a heavy duty 4" wide aluminium tube that could accommodate several spinning/casting rods. While plastic tubes are for the most part relatively resilient and do not show much in the way of dents and scratches, this aluminium tube gave me more than enough graphic evidence of what my rods had been through. It has all manner of visible impressions and scratches, including a series of small round dents, which I believe were made by someone with an anger management problem wielding a ball-peen hammer.
Travelling with a one piece rod over 5' 6" is challenging enough, but if you want to transport any rods that are 7' or over, its almost impossible to do so safely using the containers that are currently available to the average consumer. I have transported my rods on "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" and the only rod container that has ever managed to frustrate the folks in "Special Services" and withstand the other forms of abuse your rods are subjected to while in transit is made of Schedule 40 PVC pipe.
Heavy black ABS sewer pipe will also work but it has a few drawbacks. One being that it is heavier than ABS and the other is that it has a decided "military" (as in weapon) look about it. In today's post 9/11 high security airports, you can spend a great deal of time unscrewing the top, emptying the contents and attempting to explain to security that your rod container is not capable of launching a surface to air missile. If you decide to go with black ABS, get to the airport extra early.
Once you select the appropriate length of pipe, fit each end with a screw cap that you have bolted AND glued in place. Prior to securing them, fit each end with a foam pad that is at least 1" thick. Soft furniture foam is a good choice.
Ok, so you have now built yourself and indestructible rod vault, but what happens to your rods once they are locked away? The answer is very simple. If you don't secure and insulate them properly, they will bang around and rattle so hard that you may just as well hand them over to "Special Services" without bothering to place them in any type of container.
Let me give you a few simple suggestions on how to protect your rods from each other while they are in the tube.
- Each rod should be in its own bag (either cloth or plastic will do) to protect them from vibrating against each other and the walls of the container. This is especially important if your rods have any type of ceramic guides or tip tops, because if they bang together they can fracture or dislodge from the guide frame. Believe me you are going to be some ticked off if a fractured guide cuts your line while fighting a trophy fish in the middle of nowhere.
- Pack you rods with the tips and butts in alternating directions, ensuring that you inset the tips about 1" from the adjacent butt cap. Once you have them laid out strap them tightly together in the middle and at each end - one to two inch Velcro straps are ideal. This will help you pack more rods and will keep the tips from touching the ends of the tube. In the event that your rods don't fit snugly into the tube, wrap a thin towel around the middle of the rods and secure it with additional Velcro straps so you get a nice tight fit.
- For those of you who want to give "Murphy" a chance to engage in his usual mischief by travelling with a single rod, I would suggest that you either find another rod or two to keep it company or, once you place it in its bag, tape it to a three quarter inch wooden dowel or a 1'x 1' wooden stick that is at least one inch longer than the overall length of the rod. Failure to do so will give "Murphy" the opportunity to have his way with you, because there is a very good chance that your tip will be broken off once you arrive at your destination. Today's high modulus graphite rods simply cannot stand to have the weight of the handle and guides applied directly to the top 6" of the blank. This is very likely to happen if the rod is thrown (see comment regarding "Special Services") or slides forward in your car or the bed of your pick up when the brakes are applied.
Put your name, address and a phone number where you can readily be reached on the outside of the tube with a permanent marker. I would not bother with a lock because any one who has designs on your rods will simply take the entire tube and the folks at security will definitely want you to unscrew the tube so they can have a look at the surface to air missile they will assume you have hidden inside.
Don't use your rod tube as a billboard by plastering it with all manner of stickers or labels that will inform a potential crook that your tube contains several hundred or thousands of dollars worth of high end rods. I can assure you that anyone who is likely to steal it knows the difference between a Loomis and an Ugly Stick. It's also a good idea not to emblazon your tube with "Fragile" or "Handle with Care," because this will not only present a very special challenge for the "Special Services" crew, many airlines have fine print in their baggage liability statements that limit their liability to 2 rods. So if you have more than 2 rods and they won't allow you to check your tube through, ask to speak with a supervisor and offer to sign a waiver that will confirm if something does happen they will only be liable for a maximum of 2 rods. It's also a good idea if you are travelling with a mess of expensive rods to check and see if your home owner's policy covers them (particularly in cases of theft) and if not, see about getting some supplemental insurance.
A word about travelling with fly rods. Those shinny little aluminium tubes that have "Sage" or "Orvis" written all over them are nothing more than eye candy for crooks. I would strongly suggest that you send them along incognito in a tube of your own making.
Last, if you are travelling from a cool to a warm climate there is a strong possibility that the screw cap on your tube will expand and become difficult to open. If you use an end cap with a square protrusion, just throw a pair of channel-lock pliers into your bag that are large enough to fit the square end of the cap. Should you forget your pliers, find some ice and pack it around the end of the tube to cool it down. You should then be able to unscrew it by hand. The leftover ice can be used to mix a well deserved drink after a long day of travelling.
Whether you are travelling by commercial airline, bush plane or using your own vehicle, take some extra time to properly store and secure your rods for transport. Just about all of the materials I mentioned can be purchased for a reasonable price at your local hardware store or building centre, so you shouldn't have to run from place to place trying to find everything you need.
A little bit of extra effort on your part will ensure that your rods arrive in perfect fish catching condition rather than facing the prospect of using the remnants to play a game of "pick up sticks" instead of enjoying the experience of fishing with them.