Destination Flyfishing: The Dark Side

The Dark Side of Destination Flyfishing:

It is better to travel well than to arrive.  ~Buddha

(see part 1: Destination Flyfishing: The Good News and the . . . )


While flyfishing destinations are proliferating, the lodges becoming more comfortable, and more and more great fishing locations become accessible, travel for the destination flyfisher is not easy and in fact, it’s getting more and more difficult.

First of all, more people are traveling. I recently flew out of Buenos Aires for London on crowded terminalEaster Sunday after fishing in Tierra del Fuego.  I expected people in this largely Catholic country to be at church or at Grandmother’s for a family dinner. But no!  The entire population of the city seemed to be flying somewhere, and they all converged on the international airport. Lines snaked around the floor of the terminal as people waited to check in with mountains of baggage. In 2012, 3.2 billion passengers took to the skies, compared to just 1.7 billion in 2003. And much of this growth in air travel has come in the developing world regions of Asia, China and South America.

It is not only population explosion that is hindering destination travel, but thanks to two entirely different sets of  criminals, it has become nearly intolerable.  Who are those criminals? The first was Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terrorists.  This small band of fanatics have forever changed the face of air travel.  I fully expect strip searching to be just around the corner?

And the second criminal element? The Department of Homeland Security, the TSA TSA-agentsecurity screening thugs, and airport security agencies worldwide. In the days before 911 the  traveling flyfisher could carry onto the plane  expensive fishing rods and reels, and even flies. We travelled with our gear so it wouldn’t become lost luggage, discovered a week later in Outer Mongolia by mistake.  Many an expensive destination trip has been ruined by missing or damaged equipment.  So we carried our tools of the trade on the plane, keeping it safe in the overhead racks.

Destination fishing travel reminds me of Chinese food; sweet and sour!

No longer.  The “airport security gestapo” now actually believe fly rods and number 12 hooks to be implements of terrorism.  And they are getting more strict and paranoid.  Just last week I was coming home from a fishing trip to Argentina.  Having checked into baggage my rods, hooks, flies, nippers, pliers and other implements of mass destruction, I approached airport security screening with my reels, fly lines and multi-sink tips safely in my carry on bag (along with iPad, camera, battery chargers and notebook). I confidently approached the zombie-like security team, put my bag on the x-ray belt (like I have done dozens of times before) and walked through the metal detector. My mind was already focused on a cold beer and a short wait before departure and my flight home.

Suddenly my reel bag became the center of considerable excitement as several armed guards were hurriedly called over by the screening agent. “Senior, we must look in your bag. Please wait a moment.”  I thought to myself, did I accidentally leave my clippers or pocket knife in my bag?

One of the armed female guards pulled out my 15 foot coiled sink tips and extra fly line and proceeded to tell me that these were dangerous items and not allowed on the airplane! I just stood there with my mouth open in amazement. I did my best to explain, getting more agitated each time, that sink tips are only dangerous to fish. The answer came back firmly each time, No, No, No!  Not allowed. Dangerous!

Then like a smart ass I pointed to another passenger’s shoelaces and asked if they were going to confiscate his shoes as well! Very dangerous!

I was sent all the way back into the terminal to the Check-In desk.  It was either check my carry-on bag as luggage or the dutiful and ever vigilant security team would confiscate all my fly lines, even the ones on the six reels I was carrying. Only an idiot would check a bag full of expensive reels and lines in a carry on bag as luggage, without a lock (not that luggage locks do much good since most are cut off by ever vigilant security inspectors looking for cameras and other expensive items to steal).

And I was one frustrated idiot as I finally made my way back to security with a paper bag (kindly provided by the airline desk clerk) holding my camera, iPad, and other things I wanted to keep in my possession. My many reels and flylines were now tagged luggage. Since it was Easter I prayed extra hard everything would arrive intact.

cancelledAnd if the airport security guards don’t make your trip difficult, the airline will do it’s best. Many a destination traveller has watched helplessly as one of their flights was cancelled, often in a foreign country where our language skills are minimal and the airline staff culturally unsympathetic. Recently I was delayed coming home for two days due to a flight cancellation and missed connections. Not an uncommon story these days.

Airplane travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo.  ~Al Gore

Ah! The glamour of international destination fishing travel. Great fishing can make up for the travel hassle, but I must confess, less and less as I get older!

Tight Lines . . .  (if you ever get there)

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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