My days of travelling through airports with those infernal rod tubes have been essentially over for a long time now, indeed for many of the trips I go on for my work I am taking no fishing gear at all - just cameras and hard drives etc. I will never forget arriving at Windhoek airport in Namibia to find four smashed beachcasters rattling around in my rod tube. Through the course of what I do I have travelled a lot with fly anglers, and longingly I have looked at their four piece fly rods packed easily in their hold luggage with the rest of their clothes etc. But there are of course various trips I do where I can take some fishing gear, and the Florida Keys jaunt last week was one where I grabbed the chance to fish my socks off.
I have spent a long time looking for what I would call "proper" travel-style fishing rods that can cope with the rigours of bigger and harder fighting fish than we might catch here in the UK, but believe it or not it's not remotely easy to find this kind of gear. I am guessing that building "proper" multi-section rods is not remotely easy or perhaps financially viable, because it seems to me that you can get hold of any number of lighter and cheaper spinning rods that pack down into a typical size holdall - but where are the travel rods for serious travel fishing ? It's ok for the fly guys, but what about the lure and bait anglers ?
Over the years I have used and abused various travel-style spinning rods especially, and some of them have worked pretty well - but they have then struggled when it comes to effectively fishing different methods for various species of fish. I need rods that can effectively go from say casting a popper for barracuda to then freelining a big crab over a wreck for permit, or ledgering a fish bait for small to medium sharks and then bounce a soft plastic along the bottom. Much as we would love to take all our fishing gear when we fly, we can't (why do you think I love taking the ferry over to Ireland ?), and therefore we need to compromise and find gear that can successfully cover a multitude of applications. I have looked and looked, but essentially I drew a blank until I was reading a recent copy of the awesome Fishing Wild magazine that comes out of Australia. The editor Col Roberts was writing about travel rods and about how hard it was to find good ones - and he mentioned that the new Fox Sport Fishing Trek travel rods were fast gaining one hell of a reputation out in Australia. And if the Aussies rate them then they had to be worth checking out.......
But surely it could not be the Fox UK company making these travel rods ? Until I began researching these rods I assumed that the editor was talking about another Fox fishing tackle company - but no, it's the huge Fox carp brand making these rods and then putting them out under their Fox Sport Fishing banner - check out the range here. I was somewhat intrigued. My Florida Keys trip seemed to be a perfect excuse to try some of these travel rods out, and I got hold of the Bonefish and the Permit models - both retail around the £150 mark. I took them out of their hard tubes and then managed to fit them snugly into one single tube that fitted very easily into the bottom of my holdall. No rod tubes, no excess luggage, no hassle.
Now I have to be completely honest and admit to worrying what on earth an admittedly hugely well respected carp and freshwater fishing brand would know about making travel rods, but further research threw up the fact that there are numerous people within the company who travel extensively for their fishing. Beginning to feel more confident, but how would the gear stand up to the levels of abuse that I like dishing out to it ? Well if you were following my blog when I was out in the Keys then you will know that I am utterly blown away by how good these rods are. Believe me, I did my best to see if I could snap them on big fish (ask the guys I was with on the trip), but never once did I feel undergunned or in danger of causing the rods any real hassle at all. I feel a little hesitant to say that after all this time spent looking around that I have finally found some travel rods that I am completely happy to take away with me, but I am, and that is how much these two rods have impressed me. There is simply no better way to test gear out than to use it very hard on the kinds of fish that they were built to tame.
The Bonefish Trek Spin is a four-piece, 7ft long rod, rated for 5-15lb lines, but I have to admit to loading up my Shimano Stella with 30lb 8-strand braid and giving this rod absolute hell. I never actually used it for bonefish, and hand on heart I think it might be a little overgunned for fishing small bucktail jigs on the flats for these fish, but use it for spinning, lure fishing and say livebait fishing for permit and I can't fault it at all, indeed I really began to enjoy working poppers for example. 7ft works very well on a boat, and the lures were getting out there plenty fast enough when required. It seems to have a pretty fast action to me, and I like the balance when used with a small spinning reel. I am not sure that this, the lightest of the Fox Sport Fishing travel rods, should technically be used for something like freelining live baits for permit over the wrecks, but I landed them to about 30lbs doing so. And those permit are just off the scale when it comes to how hard they fight. I pushed the rod hard and it just kept on going.
The Permit Trek Spin is also a four-piece 7ft long rod, but it's rated for 10-25lb lines. I was using it with a Daiwa Seagate 3500E spinning reel loaded up again with 30lb 8-strand braid (what a reel, review in due course, speak to these guys here about it, Cian was using one as well), and yes, the Fox Permit rod does just fine for permit on the wrecks. There is a huge amount of power in this blank and I thought a good test for the rod would be on the various shark species that are so prevalent in the Keys. You would never have caught me fishing gear this light for sharks say ten years ago, but now I feel that I have a much better understanding of what certain items of gear can actually cope with, and I felt entirely confident that the rod, reel and line would deal with some fairly large sharks. No problem at all, and huge fun into the bargain as well. I even tried out for the amberjacks on this Permit travel rod, but the one decent fish I hooked with it came off. Seeing how stupidly powerful these mad fish are I am actually not that sad to have had the AJ come off, but I did hook a nice jack down deep that gave me the run around. But again, the rod was more than up to the task. This Permit rod has a very fast action and in my opinion is a lot more powerful than the Bonefish model, indeed I reckon it might cope pretty well with all manner of heavier travel style fishing. All in all I can safely say that I have stumbled upon a couple of multi-section rods that I will be more than happy to travel and fish with again and again. I like the price, I love the fact that they so easily fit in my hold luggage, and I think they fish very, very well indeed. There are a bunch of other rods in this Fox Sport Fishing Trek range that have to be worth checking out, but for now I am one very happy travelling angler.