Fly Fishing From a Kayak: The Ultimate Guide

Are you a fly angler looking to elevate your fishing experience? Have you ever considered the advantages of fly fishing from a kayak? While conventional anglers have been using kayaks for years, fly anglers have been slower to embrace this method. However, with the mobility, ease of transport and storage, low maintenance, and cost-effectiveness, it’s time for more fly-rodders to grab a paddle and start fishing! In this article, we’ll provide you with essential tips to get started and overcome any challenges you may encounter.

Fly Fishing From A Kayak

1. Choose a Kayak That’s Fly Fishing Friendly

When shopping for a kayak, you’ll come across various designs, from long ocean kayaks to short whitewater bombers. Fortunately, there are kayaks specifically made for fishing, but not all are suitable for fly anglers. Stability is crucial for fly fishing, as many anglers prefer to stand while casting. Look for a kayak that is around 12 to 14 feet long, with a width of at least 30 inches for side-to-side stability. Opt for a kayak with a flat or pontoon-shaped hull for maximum stability.

Fly Fishing Kayak

To make standing up in your kayak easier, consider adding a stand-assist strap. This strap, attached to the kayak deck in front of the seat, helps you transition from sitting to standing effortlessly.

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2. Clear Your Deck of All Line-Catching Snags

Fly anglers know that fly line has a tendency to get caught on just about anything. When choosing a kayak, look for models with minimal protrusions and doodads in the deck area. The Jackson Kilroy, a sit-inside design with an expansive deck area, is popular among fly anglers. It provides ample space for line stripping and offers outstanding stability due to its wide hull and below-waterline weight distribution.

Organize your gear in a crate or below-deck hatch, keeping as many items as possible behind the seat. Secure essential tools, such as nippers and hemostats, to your PFD or a chest pack to prevent accidental loss.

3. Invest in Fly-Rod Specific Rod Holders

Having a secure place to store your fly rod is essential while on the water. While many fishing kayaks come with rod holders, they are often designed for spinning or baitcasting rods. Fortunately, there are aftermarket rod holders specifically designed for fly rods. Consider the Scotty Fly Rod Holder or the YakAttack Ram 2007 Fly Rod Holder, both excellent options for securing your fly rod.

4. Anchor Up in Wind and Current

The maneuverability of a kayak allows you to explore areas inaccessible to larger boats. However, its small size makes it susceptible to wind and current. Adding an anchor system to your kayak is crucial to maintaining your position. Numerous off-the-shelf anchor products are available, or you can find DIY solutions online. Choose an anchor system that suits your needs, learn how to deploy it quickly, and anchor your kayak in fish-rich areas in windy or high-current conditions.

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5. Keep Your Back Casts High

One of the challenges of kayak fly fishing is keeping your backcast from slapping the water. Being close to the water while seated can spook fish behind you. To overcome this, make some adjustments to your casting form. Direct your backcast up and back, performing a stop with a straight wrist at the top of your backcast. This will help you keep your backcast high and avoid spooking fish.

6. Shoot Line to Achieve Distance and Limit False Casts

Casting distance can be a challenge in certain situations, such as exploring small creek channels and backwaters. To reduce the need for long back casts, improve your line shooting skills. Bring your rod tip to a defined stop at the end of your forward cast and release the line just beyond your rod tip. This allows the line’s weight and casting energy to carry it forward to your target. With practice, you’ll achieve longer, accurate casts with fewer false casts.

Increase your line speed further by incorporating a double haul into your casting stroke. With a double haul, you can achieve greater line distance while keeping the line off the water, whether you’re standing or sitting in your kayak.

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7. Fight the Fish on the Reel

When you finally hook a fish, it’s important to approach the fight differently than when wade fishing. Prevent line tangles by getting the fish on the reel as quickly as possible. Reel up any slack line while pinching it with your rod hand. Once the slack is taken up, fight the fish from the reel to reduce the risk of break-offs. Enjoy the fight and hold on when larger species make hard, fast runs.

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Start Slow When Learning the Ropes of Fly Fishing from a Kayak

Before venturing into more challenging waters, take the time to familiarize yourself with fly fishing from a kayak. Launch your kayak in calm lakes or ponds abundant with bass and bluegill. Paddle around leisurely, getting comfortable with your setup. Starting slow allows you to work out any kinks and dial in your kayak before pursuing more adventurous fishing experiences.

Remember, even if you don’t catch anything, the simple act of paddling a kayak is rewarding on its own. Every trip becomes an enjoyable experience.

For more information on kayak fly fishing, visit UpStreamPaddle.