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Tips for Fly Fishing from a Kayak

Using a kayak for fishing has become more and more popular as fishermen discover the many benefits to be had from this versatile vessel. But, you might be asking yourself, is it possible to fly fish from a kayak? The answer is a resounding YES!

The same things that make kayak fishing popular with conventional anglers can attract fly casters as well. A kayak is stealthy; it is cost effective (cheaper than boats, easier to maintain, easier to store); it is easy to transport; it is wonderful for both solitary or communal fishing; it gets you away from the bank and into places nothing else can reach. With just a few adjustments, fly fishers can embrace the paddle and join the leagues of kayak fishermen. 

Fly Fishing from a Kayak:

Here are a few tips to consider as you embark on fly fishing from a kayak.

Right kayak

Kayaks come in so many shapes and sizes that you are sure to find one that works for you. But what should a fly fishman look for? Probably the single most important feature for flyfishing from a kayak is stability. While this is an important trait for all fishmen, the active, dynamic casting of a fly angler makes it imperative to choose a kayak that will meet this need.

Look for a kayak around 12-14 feet long and at least 30in wide, to offer side-to-side stability. Also, look for flat or pontoon hull designs as these tend to be more stable.

One nice addition to consider on your kayak for fly fisherman is a stand-assist strap. This simple strap (around 3 ft long) can be affixed to the deck a few feet in front of your seat. When you want to move from sitting to standing, just reach out and grab this strap for an assist to haul yourself up.

Right rod holders

Many kayaks today can be fitted with all kinds of gear and some come with rod holders already attached. However, many of these are for conventional rods. Ensure that your kayak is outfitted with holders specific to fly rods.

Right anchor

Ensure that you have an anchoring system. When it comes time to start casting, you are going to want to have both hands free. Make sure you have an anchor or a stakeout pole to keep you in place while you focus on the fish. An anchor trolley system is excellent addition for any serious angler. 


To stand or not to stand

Most fly casting anglers are used to doing so from a standing position. This is also possible on a kayak. Many kayaks, especially sit-on-top designs, provide a nice platform for standing. However, it does require balance and core strength that might take some time to develop.

It is also possible to cast from the seated position of your kayak. You will need to make a few adjustments to your casting but it is completely do-able to fly fish from your kayak.

Adjust casting

As mentioned above, there are a few adjustments (or at least cautions) to make the most of your kayak fly fishing experience. Because of the nature of the kayak, you are very close to the surface of the water; this means that your backcasts are likely to slap the water and spook the fish. Not the result we are looking for. So, keep your backcast high enough to avoid this. Focus on directing your cast up and back instead of straight back. (Don’t move your wrist past the 12 o’clock position on the backcast.)

In addition to keeping your backcast high, look to improve your line shooting and limit false casts. You might encounter any number of circumstances when you need to shorten your backcast - from small creek channels to backwaters. Learning to shoot the line by bringing your rod to a defined stop at the end of your forward cast and allowing the line to slip through your non-rod hand will let your loose line shoot forward to your target. Once you have some accuracy with line shooting  you can get even more distance by adding a double haul to your cast. You should only need one or two false casts to achieve all the distance you need.

Fight fish on the reel

So, all these tips has led to getting the whopper on the line. Now what? From a kayak, you have to approach fighting the fish a bit differently than if you were wade fishing.

Line tangles are a major issue with fly fishing from a kayak, so get the fish on the reel as quickly as possible. This will reduce the chance of a broken line and a lost opportunity. Take up any slack on the reel as quickly as possible. Of course, if it is a large species, it may take all the slack and take you on a ride. In that case, hold on and enjoy the fight until it tires out.


As with any new experience, give yourself space to make mistakes! Take your time, improve your skill, and enjoy.



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