If an airline has ever lost your luggage, you’ll understand why I always pack at least one rod in a carryon bag when I travel to fish. I also throw in a reel and a small box of basic patterns, so I’m able to fish when I arrive at my destination, even if the rest of my gear winds up in Mexico.
This approach used to mean I had to sacrifice some performance, as most pack rods were unfeeling and stiff. No more-these models fish like two-piece rods for comparable prices.
**[BRACKET “1”] Cabela’s LST **
Perfect for tight water, the LST has a medium action with increased flex that allows you to load the rod without a lot of room to cast. It’s a killer for bass out of a boat or in a float tube. Nicely finished with titanium coatings on the reel seat and guides, the four-piece rod assembles smoothly and combines medium- and high-modulus graphite to provide great strength. It’s not safe from car-door mishaps, but if the rod breaks during normal use, Cabela’s will replace it for up to 25 years. The 7-weight is 9 feet 6 inches. $160; 800-237-4444; cabelas.com
**[BRACKET “2”] Cortland XC **
Small enough to fit in a briefcase, this eight-piece 9-footer casts so well for its size and price range that I forgot that it connected in seven places. Balanced, if a little heavy, the XC punches a 6-weight line with great control. Each ferrule connection has set-up markers for quick assembly. The blanks are made from a durable high-modulus graphite. It’s a great rod for trout, panfish, and small bass. _$160; 607-756-2851; cortlandline.com _
**[BRACKET “3”] Orvis TLS Power Matrix **
If big trout or smallmouths are waiting for you upon arrival, this is the perfect rod, a 6-weight that has the reach and power to throw a big fly in a stout wind. For a fast-action stick, it’s highly sensitive and more forgiving than many others. It compares to more costly brands and has an impressive 25-year warranty. It comes in four pieces and measures 9 feet 5 inches. _$325; 888-235-9763; orvis.com _
**[BRACKET “4”] Browning Blackwater **
Small, compact, and perfect for panfish or tiny-stream trout, the six-piece Blackwater is just right for beginners. The 4-weight rod measures 7 feet 9 inches and casts accurately. Its hardware finish is better than I expected. It’s a great buy. $79; 800-277-7776; basspro.com
**[BRACKET “1”] **Always make sure your rod’s ferrules are secure and snugly placed together. Using a loose rod can cause an outright break or a stress fracture that will ultimately lead to the rod’s failure.
[BRACKET “2”] Keep your ferrules clean. After every two or three days on the water, take a damp cloth and wipe them down. If you suspect any dirt is inside the female stem, clean it with a Q-tips swab.
[BRACKET “3”] Don’t store a damp rod in a sealed tube; mildew will grow, often changing the ferrule fit.