BY JOHN PELTIER
We’re all tempted by it, right?
When we go hiking or backpacking we bring everything that will fit in our pack and we’re left carrying what feels like a sack of bricks.
And often, it’s all the food that takes up extra weight. Especially if you’re going on a long, multi-day trek.
So one way to reduce the heft is by investing in a top-notch fishing rod that’ll work for backpacking.
Although, you could eat ants instead. They taste like lemon drops, but good luck trying to dig up enough of them to equal an entire fish.
So here are three of the best backpacking fishing rods that, with a little luck, will keep you well-fed on the trail (and by the way, there are affiliate links below).
My top pick for spinning rods…
My choice for ultralight spinning rods goes to the multi-piece rods. They take slightly longer to set up than telescopic fishing rods, but unless you’re fishing on the run (like really running) this shouldn’t be a problem.
They’re generally constructed better than telescoping poles, and this is pretty darn important when you’re trying to catch your dinner! As long as they’re assembled properly they won’t come apart while casting.The Eagle Claw Trailmaster’s 4-piece spinning rod has been a favorite ultralight fishing pole for backpacking fishermen for years. This rod & reel combo comes in a durable travel case and assembles to a 6’6” length, weighing in at just under 13 ounces.
It has a classic cork grip, composite construction, and medium action. This kit does include a smooth 6-bearing reel with an excellent drag system – most fishermen end up keeping the supplied reel. The rod will work from 6-14 pound line and is sensitive enough to feel even the little guys biting.
You can get the Eagle Claw Trailmaster rod on Amazon for about $65.
My top pick for fly fishing ultralight rods…
Compromise is the name of the game when choosing an ultralight fly fishing rod.
You’ll need one that breaks down into greater than five sections to fit inside your pack, or strapped to the outside without fear of getting it decapitated by tree branches or rocks.
A 5-weight rod is versatile enough to be used with respectable tackle and in varying environmental conditions. Combined with an 8 or 9 foot length, you should be able to cast in all but the tightest of tight spots and also to the other side of the river.
That’s why I chose the Redington Crosswater Classic Trout 590-6. This is a six-piece rod that assembles into a nine-foot freshwater 5-weight rod with moderate action.
The rod itself weighs a mere 3.1 ounces and comes with a lightweight ballistic case that will fit in your pack nicely. You can get the Redington Crosswater Classic for around $300.
But if this is too much rod for you, Redington also makes the less expensive Classic Trout 380-6 (3-weight, eight feet, six pieces).
And then there’s The Game Changer…
If you want the attention while you’re out on the trail, consider the Emmrod Pack-Rod.
This coiled rod is a mere 24” long when assembled and breaks down to 13”. It was designed for fishermen to use from a seated position, like kayakers, but it’s also becoming a quick favorite for ultralight backpackers.
The Emmrod Pack-Rod is extremely responsive due to its short length, and it casts very accurately with a little practice (casting competitions are popping up throughout the country).
Due to its design and simple stainless steel construction, this rod is virtually indestructible. It also comes with Emmrod’s quality DCM open face reel.
You can get the Emmrod Pack-Rod Spin Combo for about $100.
These ultralight rods will make great additions to your packs. Of course, you won’t catch any record-breaking bass with them — but if that’s your goal, you probably shouldn’t be concerned with ultralight backpacking poles anyway.
Have you tried any of these backpacking fishing rods?
If so, tell us about your experience in the comments below.
John Peltier is an internationally published photographer and author, based in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. He spends his summers exploring the Sierra Nevadas by foot and the winters exploring the Caribbean in a 27′ sailboat. You should check out his website and follow him on Twitter.