Fly Fishing Kayaks: Explore the Freedom

If you’re an avid fly fisherman, you’ve probably wondered whether fishing skis or kayaks are suitable for your needs. The idea of combining the tranquility of fishing with the excitement of paddling is undoubtedly appealing, but is it practical? Many anglers have heard of people fly fishing from kayaks, but the question remains: is it comfortable and convenient?

One day, while browsing fishing websites, my eyes widened as I stumbled upon Freedom Hawk’s range of fly fishing kayaks. Instantly, I reached out to inquire about availability in South Africa. Xplorer Fly Fishing promptly responded, indicating that they stocked the product locally. My interest was piqued.

To get a firsthand experience, I borrowed a kayak from Xplorer Fly Fishing and a friend’s Eric’s Fishing Ski. This allowed me to make a fair comparison and explore the potential of fly fishing from kayaks and fishing skis. The Freedom Hawk range was initially designed for shallow water fishing, making Durban harbor an ideal testing ground. The timing aligned perfectly with the tides, allowing me to drift across the sandbanks in search of grunter or explore the drop-offs for kingies or springer.

Before delving too deep into the review, it’s important to note that fishing skis come in various shapes and sizes. As I had access to an Eric’s Fishing Ski, my comments primarily apply to that specific model. Sit-on-top fishing skis may have similar features, while sit-inside fishing kayaks could differ slightly. Since I haven’t fished off a sit-inside kayak yet, I can’t provide any insights in that regard.

With a suitable launch site chosen, we packed our fishing gear into both boats. The Freedom 12, equipped with two waterproof hatches behind the angler, allowed easy access to essential items while on the water. The ample deck space provided additional storage options. However, for surf launches, ensuring everything is securely tied down is crucial to prevent any accidents during rolling waves.

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The Eric’s Fishing Ski offered storage in the form of two hatches. A small, waterproof hatch behind the angler could hold items like cellphones, flares, wallets, and snacks. A non-waterproof hatch between the angler’s legs with a strap-down lid was large enough to accommodate split rods and other items you don’t mind getting wet. Additionally, netting on the front of the ski served as a holder for fish.

Carrying both the Freedom 12 and the Eric’s Fishing Ski to the water, I noticed that the Freedom 12 was heavier and slightly more cumbersome. However, removing the two outriggers reduced the weight and made it more manageable.

Once on the water, we paddled both boats around the flats to get a feel for them. It became evident that the Freedom 12 offered greater stability compared to the Eric’s Fishing Ski. While it was slightly slower, the difference wasn’t significant. Other fishing kayaks would likely have similar speed characteristics, given their weight and design.

Now, the crucial part – it was time to fish. I pulled the levers on the Freedom 12, extending the outriggers, and the change in stability was astounding. Adjusting the outriggers to their second position, parallel to the boat, allowed easy maneuverability without having to retract and redeploy them. This flexibility was perfect for adjusting drifts or repositioning when spotting a fish. On longer journeys, retracting the outriggers for additional speed was necessary.

Standing up in the Freedom 12 was a breeze. Its stability was impressive, allowing me to rock it from side to side without the risk of falling overboard. Even passing boats and their wakes didn’t pose a threat. We even attempted to roll the Freedom 12 with the outriggers out, but it remained remarkably stable.

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Casting from the Freedom 12 was effortless, allowing full freedom of movement in any direction. Concerns about the line getting caught on moving parts proved unfounded, as I only experienced that issue once in several hours of testing. For those who worry about it, a small, collapsible stripping basket would easily resolve the problem.

Drifting over the banks and along the drop-offs was a pleasurable experience from the Freedom 12. Excellent visibility allowed me to spot fish easily, and adjusting my position was effortless – thanks to the outriggers and the ability to paddle while standing. There was a momentary inconvenience when the casting brace obstructed my stroke, so I only left it up for short distances.

Next, I hopped onto the Eric’s Fishing Ski to see if it provided a similar experience. Although it was slightly faster, the question of whether it was viable for fly fishing remained. Attempting to stand on the ski proved wobbly, and maintaining balance while casting was challenging. Therefore, standing up to fish was not recommended.

Sitting down, I found that fly fishing from the Eric’s Fishing Ski was plausible but not as comfortable as the Freedom 12. Casting range and accuracy were diminished due to the lower position, and the lack of stripping space made quick line retrieval more difficult. The casting direction was also more limited, with front and side casting being the most comfortable options.

In terms of visibility, the Eric’s Fishing Ski offered slightly less due to its lower position in the water. Spotting fish required a bit more effort compared to the Freedom 12.

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After fishing from both vessels, it became evident that the Freedom 12 was the superior choice for fly fishermen. It offered easy casting in any direction, unmatched stability, and excellent comfort. On the other hand, the Eric’s Fishing Ski, although suitable for trolling and easier to paddle, didn’t provide the same level of comfort and convenience for fly fishing.

A notable advantage of the Freedom 12 was the ease of getting back onto the boat if you happened to fall into deep water. Climbing back onto the kayak with the outriggers deployed was effortless. The same cannot be said for the surf ski, which required skill and balance to reenter. However, it was still possible.

Both boats provided two rod holders for trolling and holding rods. The Freedom 12 had the added benefit of two drink holders and a motor mount for those who prefer using a small motor.

In conclusion, the Freedom 12 is undeniably the ideal tool for fly fishermen. Its stability, casting ease, and overall comfort make it a top choice for anyone passionate about fly fishing. The only drawback is the slightly more challenging process of loading it onto a car, especially when done alone.

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