Last year I was finally able to bring a long standing dream through to reality. I had wanted to fish for Buffalo carp from the very first time I saw a picture of one and it was something I had kept on the back burner for quite some time. Eventually the situation arose where I could actually fulfil this dream. I found myself picking the telephone up and asking Ron Key if he fancied doing something a little different this coming winter by accompanying me to Texas in the U.S.A.
I had fished with Ron in France a few weeks earlier and to be fair it was the first time I had fished more than a couple of nights on the same lake as him but knew after that week and a half that he would be the ideal person to ask. We appeared to have plenty in common from our humour sense through to our drinking preferences as well as having similar views on what we wanted from our fishing – little did I know at the time that Ron would become quite a regular angling travel partner.
So, with me busying myself with work it became Ron’s job to find us an affordable flight to Dallas Airport in Texas for the last two weeks in January which I had been assured were the best weeks to be there. I had been corresponding firstly with ex pat Richard Somerville who I had actually fished the same lake as here in good old Blighty in the mid 80’s before he wandered off to a new life in the States. I could hardly believe it when I first spoke to him again on the telephone he sounded American! Amazing how quickly we pick up different accents.
Anyway to cut a rather long story short Richard had then put me onto his friend top Buffalo angler Jason Johansson.
Now I had seen pictures of Jason with a huge Buffalo Carp in a number of places and when the opportunity arose to go fish some of his venues I wasn’t going to turn the chance down. Originally I had planned to do a week over there but Jason assured me two weeks would offer better prospects of catching a fish as the weather could vary quite dramatically during the time of the year he was suggesting we travel.
So with the return flight booked for a two week stay we were left with the prospect of how much of our own tackle we were taking and how much we would borrow off of Jason. Now having seen Jason’s set up it is clear he has total quality gear for his clients to use. Much of it is English branded gear which you see over here. His rods and reels are all quality but being quite a stubborn type of person I really wanted to use my own rods and reels. You know how it is, you get used to your own gear and with being used to using the very best in rod design the thought that something else might not perform quite the same when I really needed it to I knew would ruin my trip.
It sounded as though the waters we would be fishing could be quite varied and we could be casting at range as well as fishing at relatively close quarters so it sounded like a perfect trip for my Free Spirit Hi ‘S’ ‘ives and Shimano reels.
Jason had told us that all we would need to bring would be terminal tackle, reels and waterproofs but with me explaining I preferred to use my own rods too he was quite alright by it and not offended in the slightest. So, it was now a case of sorting out our maximum baggage allowance as apart from the rods and reels etc I particularly need to take my own bait with me. Now Jason catches incredibly well on his baits and had offered to sort all the bait for us but with being the owner of Quest Baits I obviously wanted to catch on my own baits. Told you I was stubborn didn’t I?
So after Ron had played a blinder of which I will be eternally grateful for the amount of calls he made on this one. No-one seemed to be sure how much gear we would be allowed to take without having to pay excesses. Finally he managed to speak to someone from American Airways who confirmed that we were allowed to take our 6ft plus travel cases along with two separate bags/holdalls. The weight limit was 50kg for one bag then another 50kg for our rod tubes and another bag combined. This seemed to be more than we needed until I actually came to pack. It is amazing how much bulk you have once you take into account your various footwear and winter clothing etc plus a good selection of bait to try. To be fair it was the bulk more than the weight which was the problem although I had decided that come what may I would use up every last gram of weight allowed with bait. Well, you have to don’t you?
I must admit I had to pack several times in order to get everything in safely enough to survive the rough treatment
the bags get by the baggage handlers. Skipping the story forward I was rather alarmed to be sat on our plane watching our luggage directly below my window being thrown into the back of a small lorry. My rods at one stage were spread over other cases with a gap below them and huge cases including my 50kg carryall containing my delicate reels being thrown onto them and then becoming buried under others themselves. I was sure I was going to be starting my trip with bust gear but my packing was obviously good enough so let’s look at some of the things I did in order to be able to get everything into the allowed luggage on American Airways to the States.
I carried the following….
1 x SporTube
1 x Free Spirit Standard Rigid Carryall
1 x Kevin Nash Globetrotter Bag
1 x Hardy canvas shoulder bag.
The Sportube was something I purchased especially for the trip and turned out to be a brilliant piece of kit. My friends have mostly used Kis cases for aeroplane travel and to be fair I had never owned my own but felt it was time I did so went out to see what was available. The Sportube was a little wider than the Kis cases which was the thing that swung my decision as I prefer 50mm guides on my heavier test curve rods such as the 3 ½’s I had planned to take and I would be taking four of them with me. Ron managed to squeeze his 50mm rung rods into his Kis case but it didn’t leave a lot of room for extra padding.
I had already decided I would use the tube as a means of carrying a few items of clothing. This served two purposes. Firstly my rods ended up with extra protection as I dressed them in my thermal underwear before wrapping them in fleeces. Secondly it allowed more packing space in my main bag for essential items such as bait.
A useful tip here. I fitted a Karabiner to one of the loops on my tube and was then able to simply clip it to my trolley in the airport and let the tube drag along on its wheels behind me. I got a few strange looks but it saved having to carry it.
The Free Spirit Standard Rigid Carryall is another brilliant piece of kit and squeezes inside the maximum dimension allowance for the flights. These appear deceptively small but hold a massive amount of gear. The high density foam sides obviously help to give protection against knocks but I was also able to fit along the bottom of this three of my Quest Baits 2kg oblong tubs. These weigh very little but gave a massive amount of rigidity to the base of my carryall.
Into two of these tubs went my four Shimano reels. Now a very useful tip here is to totally remove the handles, folding them down takes up a surprising amount of extra space. Take the handles off and you will be amazed how much more gear you are able to fit in around the reels. I also removed the spools for the same reason.
I took a massive range of different hook baits with me from pop-ups to hard hookers in all sizes and some glugged and some not. These were used for filling up any gaps as well as socks etc being used to stop my reels knocking around. I had never fished for Buffalo before so was really unsure of what to take but with hindsight now after a very successful trip if I were to go again and I very much want to I will only take with me my Quest Baits Fruity Trifle boilies in 10mm and 15mm. The Buffalo were definitely singling these out but interestingly the common carp were showing a distinct preference for the Rahja Spice. I did catch Buffalo to 47lb on the Rahja when my Fruity Trifle supplies were getting desperately low but I know that fish would definitely have accepted a Glugged Fruity Trifle boilie anyway.
After an incident at Birmingham airport years ago I made sure my catapults were sealed away in this bag. I had once tried to board a plane with a catapult in my hand luggage and they thought I was going to hold the plane up with my Whopper Dropper! Seriously it was most embarrassing. It had never occurred to me that it would be classed as a weapon but I guess it’s pretty obvious really. I made the mistake once so be warned.
In a similar vein Ron had once had trouble at a different airport for having his terminal tackle in his hand luggage. The various hook link materials were deemed dangerous in case he garrotted someone. It is small things like this which are definitely worth considering when travelling by plane. Particularly in this day and age when everyone is rightly paranoid about their safety.
So, think and think again, try and avoid any problems and keep anything which could even remotely be classed as dangerous out of your own reach. You only need to have a couple of items taken off of you to potentially ruin a holiday.
The rest of the space in my carryall was taken up with two accessory/rig pouches and half of my bait.
It is worth mentioning here that in order to be able to take extra bait with me I had totally air dried several kilo of boilies. This not only made them much smaller (less space) but also reduced the weight considerably. 5kg of boilies suddenly drops down to around 3 1/2kg! It was a simply job once in Texas to pour some into the 2kg tubs I had used to add extra rigidity to the carryall then cover them in water to re-hydrate. This method is so simple but allows so much more bait to be taken.
The Globetrotter bag was basically stuffed with clothing and washing gear as well as half the bait. I had decided before I had even started packing that I would spread my bait around then if an item of luggage went missing then at least I still had my own bait. Believe me it would hurt to have to use something else.
My boots were causing me problems trying to fit them in the bag. I definitely wanted a spare set with me. The thought of wearing the same pair of boots for two weeks wasn’t very appealing so I decided to travel in a pair and pack some smaller more sensible shoes in case we were to be going to restaurants etc. I knew the moment I was on the plane I would be able to slip my boots off anyway.
Similarly I wore a lot more clothing than I really wanted – it simply enabled me to carry more spares although I did regret wearing so much. I was absolutely roasting walking around Heathrow in big boots, and several layers of clothing.
My oldy canvas Hardy bag is very much an old friend and has been to many places with me. I carried this on board with me and it contained my camera gear and a pair of croc’s for comfort wear whilst on the bank along with my diary and reading book, passport, sunglasses and tiny binoculars etc.
I would like to say everything went without a hitch but it didn’t and it is well worth mentioning that we were told on the way out of the U.K. that we had too much baggage and would have to pay a surcharge. Obviously we argued this and ended up having to get someone else over in higher authority before we were let through. Fortunately Ron had printed bits from the American Airways website confirming what we were allowed.
Coming back we had a total nightmare. The people at Dallas airport were adamant that we paid 300 dollars to bring our rods back home with us. All hell broke out I can tell you. Now you just don’t tell a tight Northerner that he has to pay money for his own rods when he knows he doesn’t have to!
We ended up with 4 people trying to sort us out before a 5th person found something on their own website saying we were right. I did comment to Ron at the time that there would be an awful lot of people who would have ended up paying that money. I have always been quite a good negotiator and can usually swing things around. I can assure you we both struggled with this one despite knowing we were right. So PLEASE do yourself a favour and print off all relevant paper work that you can before travelling a long way. It’s the things you don’t expect to go wrong which often do.
Well hopefully there are a few hints and tips in this piece which may help a few of you out. Out trip was a great success. We caught several Buff’s over 40lb from two different waters with the largest falling to my rods at 54lb 12oz.
The weather was un-real. Very hot some days reducing me to shorts but frosty every night with the worst of the weather dropping down to minus 12 with a minus 19 wind chill factor! It was suddenly a good job I wore those extra clothes around Heathrow airport to travel in.
Happy travelling and best fishes.