Special considerations for fly fishing from paddle craft.
Put together the stealth of fly fishing with that of kayaking, and you have a great way to sneak up on fish.
For starters, kayaks allow fly anglers to access waters powerboats can’t. That means a chance to make a shorter cast to unpressured fish. Casting from a kayak takes a little practice. In a lot of cases you will be fishing around structure and you’ll need to keep your cast low and your loop tight. A side-arm cast is a great way to put a fly under a dock or overhanging mangrove. A roll cast is a great way to work a fly along a shoreline for bass and bream. A long cast is seldom needed when you use the stealth of the kayak to your advantage.
Once hooked up, you may need to stake out your kayak to keep the fish from taking you into structure. Over hard bottom you can put a foot down or get out and fight the fish. Bringing in a fish can be tricky, too. Holding the rod with your left hand (if you’re right-handed) and extended out, bring the fish along the right side of the kayak. There you can use a long-handle net and use your right hand to scoop up your catch. If you don’t have a net, bring the fish along the right side of the kayak using your left hand extended out to hold the rod. There you would use your right hand to lip your catch. Be careful not to lift your rod too high and break the tip.
Look for a kayak that you can stand in, even if you are not planning to stand and cast. The extra stability will make for a more comfortable day fishing, even from a seated position. Look for a kayak 12 to 15 feet long, about 30 inches wide, with a clean, flat deck. Some kayaks have a lot of compartments that can catch your line. Use a stripping basket or lay a towel across the deck to keep the line from getting snagged.
Hybrid kayaks have been favorites of fly fishermen for years. The canoe-style kayak has a lower center of gravity and is easy to stand in, or you can cast from a seated position.
Some sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks, like the Native Redfish, were designed with fly fishing in mind. It has a simple and clean design and is stable enough to stand in. Kayaks with a frame seat, elevated from the deck, allow you to cast from a higher position and also make it easier to stand up in. Pedal-drive kayaks are an option.
You will be using your feet to power yourself away from the structure or chase a fish down, but you will have to take care not to get your fly line in the foot pedals. A stripping basket or towel is a good option with any pedal drive.
Paddleboards are another option. You paddle from a standing position, giving a better angle for sighting fish on the flats. Like kayaks, not all paddle boards are set up for fishing. Look for a paddle board with a V hull. This will take out the wave slap. Also find a board that has a flat deck. This will help keep the fly line on the board when stripping line.
Transport your fly rod with an iFly for Kayak, Scotty or Ram fly rod holder. They allow you to carry your rod at different angles. Mount the rod holder behind the seat to keep it out of the way when casting. You can also bungee the rod to the side of the kayak, but be careful not to have the tip sticking out where it can snag and break. The iFly company also makes a tip holder with various mounting options. FS
Fly Out of Your Kayak: 3 Ways
›› Wade: Use the kayak to get to your favorite spot, maybe that flat that’s not accessible if you were wading from shore. Stake out, anchor or tether your kayak to you with a short piece of line. With a tether, the kayak is easily pulled behind you and with a quick pull on the line the kayak is at your side, making a great platform to rig or release a fish.
›› Take a Seat: Many styles of kayaks are suited for casting while seated—especially those with higher frame seats. It will take a little practice to get comfortable with your casting. From your low position, you’ll be able to make short casts to your target.
›› Standing Room Only: It’s a balance act, but the payoffs are big. Start by practicing standing with nothing in your kayak. Go through the motions of casting. Once comfortable with standing, you’ll be able to make longer casts and spot fish like a heron.
First published Florida Sportsman October 2013
By Peter Hinck