17 Kayak Fly Fishing Tips to Know Before You Go

17 Kayak Fly Fishing Tips to Know Before You Go

Kayak fishing is not a new outdoor activity; in fact, conventional fishers have been using kayaks for decades. However, fly anglers have been quite slow to adopt this method of fishing. But, given the numerous benefits of kayak fishing, it is about time fly anglers started using this vessel. Check out these 17 Tips to get you started.

Kayak fishing is not a new outdoor activity; in fact, conventional fishers have been using kayaks for decades. However, fly anglers have been quite slow to adopt this method of fishing. But, given the numerous benefits of kayak fishing, it is about time fly anglers started using this vessel.

Compared to ordinary boats, kayaks are low maintenance, easy to store, and transport. A kayak can open up new fishing grounds that you never could access before. And the fact that it can give you the needed peace during your weekend getaway makes it an ideal fishing vessel.

So, if you love kayaking and fly fishing, then it's high time you merged the two and have fun. But you should be ready to make some changes to your casting and fishing techniques if you ever want to catch anything. So, here are the most important things you should know before trying kayak fly fishing. 

17 Kayak Fly Fishing Tips

17 Thing You Must Know Before You Try Kayak Fly Fishing

1.   Get a Reliable Fish Finder when Fly Fishing on a Kayak

Kayak fly fishing can be a fun and great experience. It is a great workout and an ideal way to relax and forget about your tedious week. Donnell Henderson says that nothing can make kayak fly fishing even more fun than actually catching some fish for dinner. Whether you are an experienced angler or fishing is just a hobby to you, there is nothing more disappointing than going home empty-handed after spending your entire day on the water looking for fish.

So, make sure you purchase a high-quality fish finder that fits your fishing style. A reliable depth and fish finder can help you position your vessel in a great place where you can catch some fish. A great fish finder can also make fishing even more fun. Make sure you know how to use the fish finder.

2.   When Fly Fishing in a Kayak Where Do You Normally Fish Most of the Time?

Before you even start looking for the right kayak and paddle, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where will I be using my kayak the most?
  • What type of fish do I usually catch?
  • Is the water salty or not?
  • What fishing style do you plan on using?
  • What distance will you be paddling?

Remember, saltwater fishers have different needs than the freshwater bass anglers. The distance you have to paddle to get to your favorite fishing spot matters a lot! After all, not all kayaks are designed for long-distance paddling. The vessel designed for long-distance paddling is quite different from the one engineered for short distances.

Some vessels are versatile by design, while others are specialized. So it's always a good idea to know where you will be fishing. Knowing where you will be fishing, 90% of the time can help you purchase the right kayak.

Striper Bass on Fly Rod

3.   When Fly Fishing in a Kayak How Are the Physical Aspects of Kayaks Affecting Their Performance?

As soon as you answer the above questions, you can start looking at how different aspects of kayaks affect performance. Kayaks are available in a wide range of sizes and shapes; therefore, we will consider some aspects of a kayak like a hull profile, width, and length.

Generally, the length of your vessel equals speed, which means that shorter kayaks are slower than longer ones. The length of your vessel affects maneuverability. Shorter kayaks are easier to turn than the long ones. Therefore shorter kayaks are ideal for river fishing where the turning radius is tight and currents change. However, they can't maintain a course efficiently.

The width of a kayak affects its stability and speed; therefore, narrower vessels are faster than the wider ones. But, if you plan on doing stand-up fishing, the first thing you must consider is stability. So, it would help if you went for a wider vessel. If you have a huge body, you should go for the widest model in the market. Narrower vessels are ideal for athletic individuals.

Another aspect that you must consider is the hull profile. Curved hulls have a huge probability of bowing like bananas. The flatter and straight ones are easier to use and track straight while holding your course. Flat-hulled vessels are the best option for paddling long-distance since they can stick to the course with minimal effect from the wind or current.    

Fly Fishing on Kayak

4.   Sit-Inside or Sit-On-Top When Kayak Fly Fishing 

Fishing kayaks can be grouped into two categories (sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks). The sit-inside kayaks are usually opened on top and have a seat inside the hull. With the sit-on-top, your seat is usually situated on top of the hollow

Even though they both have numerous advantages and disadvantages, the seat-on-top kayaks are more popular than the sit-insides. One of the main reasons for their popularity is the perception that the seat-on-top can't flood. However, that depends on the hatch design; luckily, they don't take in water from the side walls. Sit-on-tops tend to be safer when dealing with ocean waves. With a seat-on-top, you stand a few inches higher than on a sit-inside vessel. But, this affects the vessel's stability.

Sit-inside vessels appeal to individuals who have used canoes before or just want a sheltered ride. Most anglers feel safer on a sit-inside than on Sit-on-top kayaks. Sit-insides have great storage options with all your gear going inside; therefore, you will never have to worry about them falling off. So, make sure you test both before finally choosing one.

5.   Look for a Fly-Fishing Friendly Kayak

When you start your search for a fly fishing friendly vessel, you will be bombarded by a wide range of kayaks that vary in designs. Some are skinny and long, while others are rounded; fortunately, you will also find several kayaks designed for angling. While all the fishing kayaks work perfectly with conventional fishing, very few meet the needs of fly fishing.

The first thing to consider when looking for a kayak for fly fishing is stability. Casting fly rods can be more dynamic and active than lobbying baits. In fact, most fly anglers prefer casting while standing on their kayaks. Luckily, most fishing kayaks are designed for stand up fishing; however, this depends on the size and design of a vessel's hull.

Look for a vessel that is over 30 inches wide with a length of between 12 and 14 ft. For maximum stability, the best vessel meant for stand up fishing should have a pontoon-shaped or flat hull. You can also add a stand-assisting strap to help you stand up. You can pull yourself up every time you want to stand using this strap.

6.   Comfort is Key with Kayak Fly Fishing

Casting from a kayak can be quite tricky, especially when using a sit-inside kayak. So, make sure your vessel provides the needed comfort. Look for a sit-on-top kayak as this will improve your accessibility and comfort. Even though the sit-on-top vessels can be quite comfortable to use, they are challenging to cast from. Therefore, to improve your casting ability, make sure you have a knee pad.

The knee pads make it possible for you to cast while kneeling with fewer restrictions. Another advantage of a sit-on-top kayak is that getting up can be quite easy. Plus, it gives you a great view of what is below your vessel.

Man Holding Fly Rod on Lake

7.   Make Sure Your Kayak's Deck Is Clear of Any Line Catching Snag when Fly Fishing from a Kayak

If you have ever used a fly fishing rod, you will know how easy it is for your line to get caught when casting. Therefore, when buying a fishing kayak, look for a vessel with fewer protrusions on its deck area, especially in front of your seat. You can also make sure it has enough storage space below–deck and behind the seat. This way, all your gear will be stored safely and won't be in the way when casting.

However, space is usually an issue on kayaks, especially since you need extra gear for safety during your trip. The gear can be an issue when casting, and since stripping baskets can be quite costly, we recommend that you get a tarp. Look for a tarp of any size and cover the gear on your deck and attach one end to your wader or life vest. This will prevent your line from getting stuck on loose gear by creating a small ramp.

8.   Look for a Fly-Rod Specific Holder when Fly Fishing from a Kayak

Most fishing-specific kayaks were not designed for fly fishing; therefore, they don't have fly-rod specific holders. The rod holder on most kayaks fits only backcasting or spinning rods, and without the right holders storing your rods can be quite challenging. So make sure you invest in a fly-rod holder and install it on your vessel.

The right holder can keep your fly rods safe and make your experience enjoyable. After all, nobody wants to hold his/her rod while rowing the kayak. You can also make a fly rod holder using a PVC pipe. Look for a pipe that can fit perfectly into the flush mounts. Stick it into the mounts and measure the desired height. And then cut an inch wide stripe from the top to where you have placed your mark. Ensure the stripe is wide enough for the reel to slide inside and finally line the PVC pipe with the right padding material.

Man Holding Fly Rod

9.   Make Sure Your Vessel Has a Reliable Anchoring System to Help Fly Fishing in a Kayak

Kayaks are relatively small-sized vessels that can move freely on water and access numerous places where a normal boat cannot. However, due to their small size, kayaks can be blown off course by strong currents and wind. Therefore adding an anchor to your kayak can help you maintain your position or stay on course. But your kayak will still be twisting and twisting at the mercy of strong currents and wind.

Luckily there are numerous off-the-shelf anchoring systems for kayaks or DIY solutions you can use to solve this problem. Just choose an anchoring system, install it, and learn how to use it before going offshore. When fishing in a place with strong wind or currents, you can paddle to a fish holding spot and lower your anchor and start casting.

10. Keep the Backcasts High When Fly Fishing in a Kayak

One of the key challenges affecting beginners must overcome is slapping the water when doing a backcast. Being close to the water surface when seated makes it hard to backcast high enough to avoid spooking the fish. To resolve this issue, you must be ready to make a few tweaks to your casting technique. Instead of directing your backcasts straight backward, you can direct it back and up.

11. Improve Your Shooting Line when Kayak Fly Fishing

Even when you keep your backcast high, you might still find yourself struggling with slapping the water. You could also find yourself places that won't allow you to do long backcasts like in a small creek. So, one of the best methods of solving this problem is by improving your shooting line. By enhancing your shooting line, you can eliminate false casts and achieve great distance

You can achieve a significant distance by stopping your rod tip to a halt at the end of the forward cast. And then, let your line slip through your other hand as soon as a loop forms beyond your fishing rod's tip. The energy generated and the weight of the line will carry the line to your target.

12. Fight Your Catch From the Reel when Fly Fishing from a Kayak

All these tips can ideally lead to you catching a fish, and when this happens, you need to approach your fight differently. One of the key issues to watch out for is line tangle. And to reduce the chances of line tangles, you have to get your catch to the reel as fast as possible. You can reel up all the slack and pinch the line with your rod. Once the slack is reeled in, you can now fight the catch tangle-free. Huge fish tend to take up the slack while trying to escape and then continue to drag until it gets tired.

13. Choosing the Right Paddle when Fly Fishing from a Kayak

Selecting the right paddle is almost as important as purchasing the kayak. The best paddle should allow you to reach the water quickly. Just make sure it's not too long to be bulky. The best option is based on a formula of paddle-style, the width of your vessel and your height. An ideal paddle for beginners should be about 8'2".

Choosing the Right Paddle for Fly Fishing on a Kayak

14. Wear Proper Clothing When Fly Fishing from a Kayak

Kayak fly fishing is a unique outdoor activity that brings you very close to the elements. Therefore, you should always be dressed appropriately. Remember, kayaks don't come with a shed to protect you from rain or UV light.

When fishing in an open place, you are exposed to the heat and sun. Make sure you are wearing your sunglasses, hat, and a lightweight long-sleeved shirt to protect yourself from the UV rays. For extra protection, you can add a pair of gloves, neck gaiters, and shell pants. Don't forget to come with your sunscreen and water.

When fishing in a cold place, you should have a wetsuit. Wetsuits are affordable and can keep you warm during your fishing trip. For extra protection, you can pair your wetsuits with a shell jacket. And most importantly, since you will be near the water, don't forget to wear your floatation device. A life jacket can keep you safe when you fall off your kayak. Some life jackets have roomy compartments that can serve as small tackle boxes.

15. Take Kayaking Classes before Fly Fishing from a Kayak

If you have never used a kayak before, then this is the best time to learn kayaking. These classes can help you maneuver the vessel and know the different paddling techniques that can help you paddle for an extended period. And make sure you don't venture into the waters alone during your first kayak fly fishing trip. Experienced fly anglers can help you maneuver on water and show you how to do the basics like dropping the anchor, paddling, and casting techniques.

16. Start Slow When Fly Fishing from a Kayak

When you finally get your kayak ready for the trip, you will start feeling a high sense of freedom since you will no longer be limited to the banks. Now you can paddle anywhere and explore the inaccessible fishing spots on the water. But since you are still a beginner, you should start slow.

You can launch in a nice calm pond or lake full of hungry bluegill and bass and spend your morning paddling around and understanding the setup. It can take some time to get used to the vessel and also arranging your vessel how you like it. Once you are comfortable with the kayak, you can set sail and look for more adventure as you fish.

17. Learn How to Study the Weather Patterns before Fly Fishing in a Kayak

Unlike other huge boats, kayaks are very light vessels that can be easily blown off course by strong currents or winds. So, you should learn how to predict weather patterns and changes. If you notice that the winds are mild, you can either call it a day or paddle to a nice spot that is blocked from the wind and drop your anchor and start fishing. Remember, strong currents can blow your vessel off course and put you in danger.

Weather Patterns

Final Thoughts

Kayak fly fishing is a unique outdoor activity that merges two of the most relaxing activities on the planet. So, if you love fishing and have never tried kayaking, then you should learn how to operate these vessels and finally try fly fishing offshores. Remember, even if you don't catch something, paddling around the lake has several rewards.


Provided by Chelsea Smith.

Chelsea is the editor and content creator at fishermenspond.com. She's crazy about all things fishing and spends most weekends exploring lakes in her home state of Ohio. 

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