Tips for Fly Fishing From a Kayak

Tips for Fly Fishing From a Kayak

Navigating low water in a bass river can be a real pain in a conventional boat, but a kayak can be perfect for just these situations! 

A nice summer evening paddle in a kayak is certainly a nice thought, but fly fishing from one sounds even better!  When summertime trout streams are at unsafe water temperatures, there’s nothing better than packing up a kayak and some bass/panfish flies for a trip out on a local lake or river. To the uninitiated it can be quite the challenge, however. Moving through low water with a nine or ten foot rod can be tricky at best, so doing a few things to help the process run smoother is well advised.  There are specially designed fishing kayaks that make things easier, but you don’t need to invest thousands in one of these special watercrafts to successfully fly fish from a kayak!

Build Rigs at Home

One of the most awkward parts of fishing from a kayak is rebuilding a leader/fly setup.  It’s a matter of room availability, and in a kayak there just isn’t a ton. When wade fishing a stream it’s easy to go sit on the bank or on a log and methodically re-tie.  While it is possible to pull the kayak to the bank and do this, anglers should always be aware of public/private land boundaries since nothing ends a day sooner than a run-in with law enforcement.  A great thing to do to combat this is building multiple setups at home and have them ready to go for an easy transition.  Empty toilet paper rolls provide a cheap, effective way to complete this task. Build a damsel dry rig from the leader on down the fly, and then wrap the leader/tippet around the toilet paper roll before securing the hook to the cardboard.  In doing this, the line won’t get to be a snarled mess and it’s right there for a quick transition if you want to put this setup on.  Do the same thing with a streamer rig, crayfish setup, and popper to cover all the scenarios you may encounter.  That way, when the inevitable happens and there’s a bird’s nest on your line, all you have to do is cut it off and use one of the pre-made setups you built the day before!

Pack the Right Rod

Moving from spot to spot with a fly rod can be an arduous task in a kayak.  Long rods can be cumbersome and catch on overhanging branches or limbs.  A four piece rod that can be easily stowed at your feet is critical to avoiding these headaches.  It’s not a big deal if you’re slowly working with the current or creeping down a likely weed bed, but when you want to paddle at speed to get to the cove on the other side of the lake or cruise through a shallow riffle section, it’s far better to reel in and pack the rod away rather than negotiate it sticking straight up as you move. 

Avoid The Crowds

Fly fishing should be a relatively solitary activity, but that’s accentuated even more when you’re in a kayak.  Casting long distances on a lake or river that’s packed with pleasure boaters or other anglers can be stressful bordering on dangerous.  Going early or late at night, and paddling to remote coves or stretches away from boat launches can be a good way to get away from others.  Avoiding weekends, and especially holiday weekends, is another suggested move. Boaters, even kayakers, should always yield to shore anglers so popular parking areas and launches can often have numerous folks trying their luck from the bank.  Use the kayak mobility to your advantage and get to areas that are hard to reach and as such, will have less competition from others. 

Being out on a lake in a kayak as the sun comes up and fish surface in the shallows is something every fly angler should experience.  Summer is the perfect time to explore this type of fishing, but it isn’t without challenges.  The process is more than just casting to a feeding bass or bluegill since there is the added element of being in a boat. There is a learning curve that comes with this territory, but it doesn’t have to be a steep one. Those who do things to help themselves, whether it be building fly rigs at home or avoiding other boaters, will find their time on the water is far more enjoyable and productive!

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