Tips for making the most out of these versatile boats.

freshwater fly fishing from kayak

Writer with bluegill. Pros and cons to fly fishing out of a kayak are discussed in the article.

First time you fly fish on a kayak may be awkward. But you’ll soon enjoy the results of fishing out of this stealthy type of craft.

A couple of tips:

For starters, forget about standing and fishing. Focus on a kayak with a comfortable seat. A sit-on-top model with an adjustable high-low seat is a good option. Find the highest seat available. It’s much easier to make longer strips of your fly (the higher the chair the greater the distance from your reel and the floor) and your legs and back will be more comfortable. Armrests are nice when you want to relax when not paddling, but they get in the way while fly casting.

Recently I borrowed a kayak that had an after-market swivel-mount seat, and it was terrific. I could twist to open my body to my casting side, swivel in either direction to cast, fight and land fish, and reach behind me to grab gear or un-snag my line from the stern. Should you need to stand to reach something at the bow, or just to give your back a break, the higher chairs make it much easier to get up than a flush-mount chair.

Number two, clear the deck to minimize the chances of your line snagging gear or gadgets. Many kayaks designed for fishing have dry storage hatches; short of that, stow gear behind your seat under those stretch mesh nets. Take only the length of line off your reel that you expect to cast. Fish quietly in your kayak and you’ll catch lots of fish with short casts.

Note that stripping baskets don’t lend well to sitting in a kayak. I spread a wet towel below my seat to cover snags and keep my line clean.

how to fly fish on a kayak

Take only the length of line off your reel that you expect to cast.


A pedal system frees up your hands to fish continuously without stopping to paddle to position the boat. But that pedal apparatus can snag your loose line, and I found that stripping my fly was tricky while pedaling. I had to strip it to my right side (I am left-handed). I do not care for the way my body is positioned while pedaling—my feet and legs are too high (rather than flat along the floor of the kayak as I fish or paddle). I can’t point my rod straight ahead, or swing it from the right to the left side of the boat without lifting it up to clear my knees. For that reason, I prefer a kayak without a pedal system while fly casting.


While paddling, you must either place your rod center-deck somewhere so it will not go overboard, or strap it in when making a longer paddle. Scotty makes flyrod holders for kayaks and other boats, and Austin Kayak offers its Ram-Rod 2007 flyrod holder, and YakAttack’s Omega holder is similar. One drawback to a flyrod holder is that it may interfere with paddling or fishing. Consider an alternative that keeps your flyrods secured behind your seat or flush along the gunnel alongside.


Less line on the deck means less line that can snag something on board.

I prefer short rods in a kayak. I fish both an 8- and a 7-foot, 6-inch rod that allows me to more easily control a hooked fish alongside the boat. Choose a so-called “quick cast” line, one that is labeled as a Saltwater Taper, or Bonefish Taper, because it has a short head that loads your rod with less line outside the rodtip. Less line on the deck means less line that can snag something on board. Remember that a kayak, no matter how stable, rocks along with your body motion. It will send out pressure wakes that alert fish. So eliminate excessive false-casting. Use the double haul. Pick up your line, haul and shoot line on the back cast, and haul on the fore-cast to deliver the fly. FS

Florida Sportsman Magazine April 2019

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