Kayak Fishing with a Fly Rod

For seasoned anglers, a wide variety of techniques are in their past. Along with several past techniques are boat loads of equipment. Many of us have headed to the water with a cane pole, push-button spin casting outfits, open faced spinning, bait casting combos…and for some the lure of the fly rod.

fly fish from a kayak

For some reason the fly rod strikes fear in the hearts of fishermen. The most common complaint? “It looks difficult.”

In reality it's one of the simplest forms of fishing.

The rod varies in length and action like any other fishin’ pole. The reel is merely a place to hold the line. While there are drag systems on fly reels, the successful playing of a fish can be accomplished by “palming” the reels or with the manual pull or release of the fly line as is necessary.

So what’s the draw for fishing these feathers, foam and cork creations? It's simple, effective, different and fun.

Like most types of fishing, you can load up on tackle and lures—a.k.a., flies. You can conceivably carry just a few carefully chosen “bugs” and do just fine. There are legions of large mouth fans, trout (the most commonly associated target of fly folks), carp chasers and bluegill enthusiasts. There are even those who like the challenge of monster musky, not to mention a world of salt water anglers searching for ocean occupants. Want a world-class task? Tarpon on a fly rod.

For me, easily the most popular technique is the surface popper. My catches include bass, bluegills, crappies, trout and a giant carp I hooked and landed after a 45-minute epic battle. I also have a Canadian resume, with smallmouth bass and northern pike to my credit. 

The five weight fiberglass antique fly rod I have is much like a willow branch—ideal for spawning bluegill and trout. For a rod with some backbone to launch largemouth bugs, I have an eight weight rod.

My mini tackle totes have deer hair mice, dragon flies and reticulated frogs for surface-feeding fish. For subsurface there are streamer flies, wooly worms, wooly boogers (it’s true!) and royal coachman, black gnats and more.

Don’t get caught up in the rod lengths, actions, types of lines and fly choices. Go middle-of-the-road, maybe a seven-weight rod, and seven-weight floating line and a small selection of flies.

For the kayak paddler, the silent glide into a spot is a gigantic advantage. My Bending Branches Angler Pro Carbon is perfectly suited to this style of fishing.

As always, the incremental boat positioning and the access to inches of water mean every type of water is in play. Ponds, small lakes, creeks, steams and rivers all offer potential catches of trophy-size fish or a few to “stink up” a skillet. A stand-up guy when fishing, my fly fishing is no exception. The cast, hook set and playing the fish is easier for me when standing in my highly-stable Jackson Big Rig or MayFly kayaks.

I’m not expecting you to march to the trash can and ditch your other rods, but the fly rod can be your friend. The subtle landing of the fly, the gracefulness of the well-placed cast, the appeal of the simplicity of the entire outfit and the pull of a fish of any size makes it worthwhile to catch 'em…on the fly!