Kayak Fly Fishing - What To Look For and Some Pointers

July 04, 2022

I was recently debating back and forth between getting a new float tube, or a dedicated fishing kayak.  Previously, I had been fishing from a regular old tandem kayak that I had repurposed as my fishing crafty of choice.  I weighed the pros and cons of the tube vs the kayak and ultimately went with the kayak.  I am extremely happy with my decision.  

For portability purposes I went with the AIRE IK Angler 11, as I was looking for something inflatable.  Inflatable kayaks are perfect for anglers looking for an easy way to get on the water. Compact, light and simple, a blow-up boat can be stored in a closet and transported in the trunk of your car.

My two favorite aspects of the kayak are the Integrated Gear System (IGS)  that accepts Scotty accessory bases (more to come on this), and the seat....AIRE designed an elevated seat that brings comfort to an inflatable kayak.  A high seat back and lumbar support covered with mesh padding make the IK’s throne comfortable for all day paddling and the seat sits six inches off the deck to improve fishing position.

All that said, I thought I would offer up a few points I have learned over the years of what to look for in a kayak, and then how to approach fishing once you're out on the water.  Hopefully these are helpful to some!

Choose a Kayak That’s Fly Fishing Friendly

Stability is perhaps the most important factor to consider when choosing a kayak for fly fishing. Since casting a fly rod is more active and dynamic than lobbing a bait,  look for a kayak wide enough to offer adequate side-to-side stability — generally at least 30 inches wide. 


Clear Your Deck of All Line-Catching Snags

If you’ve spent any time at all with a fly rod in your hand, you know that if your line can get caught on something, it will get caught on something. Never is this more true than when casting from a kayak.  When kayak shopping, look for models with the fewest protrusions and doodads in the deck area, especially in front of the seat. 

When arranging and organizing gear in your kayak, try to place as many items as you can behind the seat in a crate or stashed away in a below-deck hatch. Any tools you need on hand — nippers, hemostats, etc. — should be secured to your PFD or a chest pack so they won’t accidentally get swept overboard by your fly line.

Invest in Fly-Rod Specific Rod Holders

On the topic of storing gear, having a secure place to store your fly rod is critical. The problem is that while most fishing kayaks come with rod holders, they typically only fit spinning or baitcasting rods. Fortunately, you can buy aftermarket rod holders designed specifically for fly rods.

One of the benefits of the IGS system I mentioned is it takes the Scotty Fly Rod Holder.  This is holder is money.

Anchor Up in Wind and Current

The relatively small size of a kayak allows you to move freely around the water, going places most boats would never fit. At the same time, because of a kayak’s small size, it’s extremely easy to get blown off course. To combat the inevitable outside sources like wind and waves, adding an anchor system to your kayak is a must. There are many off-the-shelf anchor products available for kayaks and even more DIY solutions found online. Whatever route you decide to take, choose an anchor, install it, commit to it, and learn how to deploy it quickly.  Again, Scotty makes a quality product that goes right with the IGS system if you should chose the same kayak I did.

Keep Your Back Casts High and Shoot Line to Achieve Distance and Limit False Casts

Slapping the water on the backcast is one of the main challenges new kayak fly anglers have to overcome. Particularly when casting from a seated position, being so close to the water makes it difficult to keep your backcast high enough off the water to not spook the fish behind you.

The key is to direct your backcast up and back instead of straight back like normal.  Even when trying to keep your back casts high, you still might struggle with hitting the water behind you. You may also find yourself in positions that don’t allow for long back casts — like when exploring small creek channels and backwaters. One of the best ways to eliminate this issue altogether is to improve your line shooting skills to cast further with fewer false casts. This allows you to keep your back casts short and tight instead of having to carry the entire belly of line through a drawn out series of false casts.



I could go on and on with tips, but these five will get you off and casting.  When you get your fishing kayak all rigged up and ready for the water, you’ll feel a tremendous sense of freedom. You’re no longer limited to the bank. You can paddle just about anywhere you want to and explore new waters inaccessible on foot.  Remember, even if you don't catch all the fish in the world getting a good paddle provides enough of a pleasant experience to make the entire day on the water worthwhile.

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