Even pre-9/11, traveling with fishing rods was a cumbersome process, but it seems that every year it gets a little tougher. The other passengers look at you a little bit more suspiciously, the desk agents give you an extra hassle, and the airlines create new rules and restrictions that limit your options.
On our most recent trip to Mexico, we encountered a new problem: an embargo on taking oversized luggage on smaller planes into Mazatlan. Several of our friends and traveling companions ran into this same issue, and they emerged with varying results. Some had to leave their rod tubes back in the States, which was not a huge problem if: (a) you could borrow rods in Mexico; and (b) you had a vehicle at the airport in which you could leave your rod tube. Others managed to upgrade to First Class for a nominal fee, which suddenly made them not subject to the embargo.
Hanna and I did not get the upgrade offer, and we were fortunate to have a compassionate desk agent. She hadn’t dealt with a rod tube before – I’m guessing that many or most of them have not – but she was willing to work with us. She also didn’t understand when I explained that the airline’s policy is to count the tube and a tackle bag as one piece of luggage. Only when I put it in more familiar terms did she understand – I realized that she’d probably checked in dozens of skiers over the years and that the concept of a ski bag and boot bag roughly translated into fishing gear. If they don’t speak your language, it always helps to bring it back to familiar territory. We finally convinced her, but the struggle wasn’t over. Because of the embargo, the machine wouldn’t print multiple luggage tags. Fortunately she was able to manually create a tag.
Our rods made it with us, and they made it home, in one piece. I could’ve survived with the loaner sticks at Anglers Inn, but I like having the option of using my own gear. Now I have some additional tools for the next time, at least until they throw me another curveball.