When you’re out fishing, transporting your rods safely can be a challenge– especially if you’re in remote locations. It’s one thing to be fishing on a lake in the comfort of a bass boat… but another thing entirely to be trekking through the brush to get to the best trout streams or remote mountain lakes.
Additionally, if you’re trying to remove a fish from your hook, tie on a new leader or tippet, or untangle a snag, having something to securely hold the rod while you’re working makes everything much easier. This is where rod holsters and carriers come into play, offering a practical solution to keep your rods secure and easily accessible.
What is a Rod Holster?
A rod holster, or rod carrier, is one of the most useful pieces of gear you can take with you when you go fishing. Both spin fishers and fly fishers use rod holsters to keep their hands free while moving between fishing spots, and all of the options featured here will work with both fly rods and standard rods.
Typically, rod holsters clip to your belt. Other types of rod carriers may be mounted to the side of a boat or attached somewhere else on your person. Using a rod holster or other type of carrier makes rod management easier and more convenient. It also makes it a lot easier to stow your rod while your hands are otherwise occupied, or to keep a second rod ready to go.
Rod holsters also make it easier to get your catch off the line. When you’re releasing a fish, you need to do so carefully– especially if you want to increase the survivability rate. Having a holster is like having a third hand to hold the rod while you remove the fish.
Rod holsters can even be used for securing your rods on short car trips– although for longer trips, it might be more comfortable to use a rooftop rod carrier.
The Best Rod Holsters
Here are our favorite rod holsters and carriers on the market today.
O’Pros 3rd Hand Belt Clip
O’Pros’ 3rd Hand rod holder is the first (and only) fully adjustable belt clip rod holder. The base plate has 360 degrees of rotation to hold your rod at any angle, and the elastic cord provides extra security when you’re on the move. The two big hooks fit any standard cork handle, making this rod holder work with any of your rods. It’s easy to use and easy to move with, making it a good choice for an angler at any skill level.
We think this is probably the best waist rod holster on the market because of the ease of placing the rod in the hooks. No other system is this simple and this well made. It is one of those tools that you don’t realize how awesome it is until you have it.
- Attachment: Belt
- Price: $24.99-$25.99
- Best Use: Fly fisherman looking for a holster for knot tying / fly changes
- Buy on Amazon | Buy at O’Pros
Booms Fishing RS4 Rod Carry Strap
This rod holder isn’t really a holster, but it is a good option for carrying your rods. It is a sling that rides over the shoulder and makes it easy to carry your rods from place to place. This rod carry strap is easy to use– simply wrap your rod (or rods), attach the clips on the neoprene strap, and carry your rods with you.
This is a great option for spin rod fisherman, and potentially less ideal for fly fisherman. That being said, this is a quick and easy way to carry rods comfortably for long distances without fully breaking down the rod.
- Attachment: Shoulder
- Best Use: Spin fisherman walking medium to long distances.
- Price: $10.99-$11.99
- Buy on Amazon | Buy at Booms Fishing
Fishpond Quickshot 2.0 Rod Holder
Fishpond’s Quickshot 2.0 redesign eliminated many of the issues with their first rod holder. The biggest change was the elimination of their original magnetic release. While a good idea on paper, it wasn’t the most secure system– and now, their side release buckle gives a much more secure hold. A coated webbing loop holds the butt of your rod and adds support for the reel, making it both secure and easy to use. The adjustable connection clips on to your wading belt and is compatible with all Fishpond packs.
We really like the versatility of this system. The ability to strap to a waist pack, use as a long distance carrier on a backpack, or as a holster for knot tying, it is great. It is a little more complex to place the rod in securely than the Booms VO5, but this is an even more versatile solution.
- Attachment: Belt
- Best Use: Fly fisherman for knot tying, or short to medium hikes in.
- Price: $29.95
- Buy on Amazon | Buy at Fishpond
Smith Creek Rod Clip
This innovative design is a small but mighty rod clip. It attaches directly to your chest area, keeping the top of your rod at easy reach. Keeping your rod and reel elevated means that it’s easier to keep out of the water– which is especially great if you’re fishing in turbid waters or on a muddy bank. Your rod is cradled in supportive UV foam, which is attached to you by a zinger leash.
While this isn’t the perfect tool for walks, it serves the great function for knot tying or releasing fish. It also has some great versatility in where and exactly how you hold your rod in the olster.
- Attachment: Vest, pack, jacket, wader strap, other torso attachments
- Best Use: Fly or spin fisherman tying knots, changing flies/lures, releasing fish
- Price: $23.49
- Buy on Amazon | Buy at Smith Creek | Buy on Orvis
Vedavoo Rod Holster
This lightweight (only 2 ounces!), minimally designed holster uses repurposed vinyl for a sustainable rod carrying solution. Featuring a welded butt loop and a snug buckle strap for the cork handle, this design keeps your line from snagging and lets your rod easily pivot out of the way. Because of this, it’s ideal for keeping a second rod ready to go in case you need to make a quick switch. The straps fit most wading belts.
This is a great carry option for fly anglers that is very secure. We feel that this design is a bit harder to take the rod in and out of than other holsters. This makes it more secure, but a bit more of a pain when trying to quickly secure your rod.
- Attachment: Belt
- Best Use: Fly fisherman looking for a very secure hip mount system
- Price: $16.15-$29.95
- Buy at Vedavoo
Booms Fishing V05 Rod Holder
This simple, effective rod holder offers great security and support at a budget-friendly price. It uses a triple-layer hook and loop fastener to keep your rod in position. The straps fit over virtually any wading belt, and the hardened bracket keeps your rod supported.
It is extremely easy to use, and a fly fisherman’s best friend when untying knots.
- Attachment: Belt
- Best Use: Fly fisherman who want hands free knot tying or untangling.
- Price: $9.99
- Buy on Amazon
Mounted Rod Holders
There are dozens of styles of mounted rod holders that attach directly to a boat. These generally are clipped or mounted to the side of the boat and make it possible to fish multiple rods at once or stow your rods during motoring. This video provides a quick introduction to some of the different styles of mounted rod holder, but these are generally not used for fly fishing.
Rod Handling On The Fly
Fly rods are elegant, sensitive pieces of equipment that can be annoyingly cumbersome when it comes time to tie knots or make adjustments on the river. Here are some of our favorite rod management techniques.
The Over-the-Shoulder Balance
Stick the butt of the rod on the ground or bank behind you and balance the tip over your shoulder. This should put the end of the line easily within reach and close enough to your face that you can see what you’re doing.
The In-Between-the-Legs Squeeze
Position the rod between your legs and hold it in place with your knees/thights. Be careful not to squeeze too hard or bend the guides. Make sure that your feet are planted firmly, too– you don’t want to stumble or trip over your rod and potentially break it.
The Under-the-Arm Squeeze
Tuck the rod under your armpit and hold it securely against your body. Let the top of the rod fall over the crook of your elbow. Hold it just above the reel seat for the best grip, and be mindful of your guide locations.
Put your cork handle in your mouth and squeeze tight! Be careful for your teeth! Plus, you do cause slight damage to the cork. I’m not particularly proud how much I use this one.
Butt On The Ground
This one is pretty simple. Place the butt end of your rod on the ground, or in the water, and lean the tip over your shoulder. It is easy on the ground, and a little more difficult in the water. It works, but you can get a dirty reel, or in moving water, the rod can slip off your shoulder.
Rod Carrying Direction
Should you carry your rod with the tip pointing forwards or backwards? If you carry the rod by the cork handle with the tip facing forward, you can guide it through the brush and branches. However, this leaves you open to breaking the tip by hitting it on something.
You can also carry the rod by the handle with the tip facing backwards, which allows the rod to slide under branches. This often leads to a snagged leader if you’re traveling through heavy brush. However, a snagged leader is annoying, but a broken rod can be devastating and ruin your whole trip. Unless you’ve got plenty of clearance ahead of you, it’s better to avoid carrying your rod with the tip pointing forwards.
You can also carry your rod by holding it in the middle, which gives you better control of the tip. The rod will extend in front of and behind you, but at about half the length– which some people find easier to maneuver around.
All of these methods work perfectly fine on well-worn trails or in open areas. Use whatever method feels the most comfortable to you if you have clearance. But in brushy or rocky areas, you should carry your rod with the tip pointing backwards.
Breaking Down Your Rod for Carrying
Breaking your rod down entirely can be time consuming, there is a way to essentially break it in half for easy travel through dense brush. Here’s how it works:
- Start by finding your middle ferrule and break the rod down, but don’t unstring anything. Hold the two pieces parallel to each other and together.
- Put the fly in the first guide of the tip section.
- Pull all the line until it’s relatively tight.
- Reel in most of the extra line.
- Take your fly line and run it around the back of your reel.
- You now have a loose piece of line outside of the guides. Take this line and wrap it two or three times around the stripping guide.
How do you carry your fly rods? The next time you find yourself wishing for an extra hand out on the water, try one of these holsters. You’ll be glad you did!
Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued his frequent adventures in the mountains, always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about