The obvious advantage of a multi-piece "travel" fly rod for backcountry use is that they are more compact and unlike 2- and 3-piece rods, they can be stowed on the side of a backpack without you looking like a walking radio antenna.
Recently, I had an interesting, if not purely philosophical conversation, with a fishing guide about the merits of say, 4-piece rods vs. 7-piece rods. Obviously a purist, he noted that he'd never use anything but a 2- or 3-piece rod because as you increase the number of ferrules connecting the rod pieces, you not only increase the weight of the rod, you lose sensitivity and casting accuracy.
I reminded him that most of the time, we are dealing with pretty stupid fish in the backcountry reachable with short casts, and thus, weigh and compactness were more important considerations for a backcountry outfit.
Let's look at a case study.
I have two travel rods here – both of them Cabela's Stowaway Rods. Both of them are 8.0 to 8.5 feet in length and rated for a 3- or 4-weight line. One is five pieces and the other is seven pieces. When I hike, both of them are protected in a sleeved 0.9 oz/yd2 nylon sack (homemade) and then stowed in an ultralight rod case that is cut to fit the collapsed length of the rod.
Here's how they stack up against each other:
Rod Description Rod Weight Sack Weight Tube Weight Total Package Weight
8'6" 3wt 5pc 2.9 oz 0.3 oz 2.8 oz 6.0 oz
8'0" 4wt 7pc 2.6 oz 0.3 oz 2.1 oz 5.0 oz
Obviously, there is little difference (but meaningful! note the difference in package weights as a percentage) here – only an ounce (but an ounce = 125 to 175 calories of food!).
The real difference, that is more meaningful than weight, is that I can stow the 8-ft 7-pc rod (which now compacts to a length of 15") into the inside of a rather tiny rucksack, which is quite nice and elegant.
Cabela's is rumored to be releasing a 9-pc Stowaway series, which should result in collapsed rod lengths as low as 12 inches.
For now, I'll be satisfied with this kit, when combined with my ultralight reel (a Sage 3100 loaded with 50 feet of 4-wt DT line and no backing), an extra leader (7.5' 3X), two spools of tippet (4X and 5X), a tiny foam fly box loaded with 36 flies (24 dries, 12 nymphs), a tube of floatant (Hydrophobe), and my license, all stowed into a Simblissity Unslack Pack.
The whole thing weighs only 12 oz.
Which begs the real question:
How much food can I eliminate from my meal plan if I bring 12 oz of fishing gear?
We'll find out in July, when I head into the Bob Marshall on an expedition via foot and packraft along some of the best backcountry creeks and rivers in the lower 48. As it stands now, I'm budgeting an average of 20 oz of food per day (4 to 6 oz/day less than my normal ration of 24-26 oz), which means such a light fishing kit can be beneficial for weight savings on a trip as short as a few days…