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Some people define a travel fly rod as a fly rod that comes in four or more pieces. Most manufacturers are now making four-section fly rods in most of their models, and while these may travel well, we will be looking at trout fly rods that come in more than four pieces.
The shorter sections (often as short as 16 inches) of a travel fly rod give you a better chance of getting it safely into the backcountry, or of fitting it in your suitcase for a plane trip.
Think about where you are going and if you will be walking through trees or brush. If the rod sticks up above your pack it will catch on the low-hanging limbs as you duck under them.
I often hike through the brush with my four-piece 11-foot switch rod stuck in my daypack while steelhead fishing in western Oregon. It sticks up behind me and easily gets caught in the brush if I am not careful. Of course I would not fly fish for winter steelhead with anything else but you need to keep this in mind.
If you really want to go ultralight on your backcountry hikes, think about a Tenkara rod. They weigh as little as 3 oz.
Do you really need to bring the rod tube? Some are over 3” in diameter. The more sections the rod has, the larger the tube diameter will be. Think about taking just the rod in its sock and leaving the tube at home. When we went to Alaska a couple of summers ago I put my three-weight in my suitcase. Yes, I took a three-weight fly rod to Alaska. Don’t laugh; catching the grayling around Denali National Park was fun. I left the tube at home and it worked fine.
Travel fly rods to consider would be the Orvis Frequent Flyer, Cabela’s Stowaway 7, L.L. Bean Travel Series, March Brown Hidden Water Series and the Winston Lt. Most of these will come in from 5 to 7 pieces and come with a rod sock and tube.
Probably your biggest decision (besides the normal budget questions) will be what is the best fly rod weight and overall length to buy. Will you be fly fishing a small stream, a lake or both? See our Best Fly Rod page for more information.