Flying in a Kayak or Canoe


According to kayak flyfishing expert  Kevin Fenn, paddling flyfishers enjoy a gratifying way to fish!  The combination of this ancient angling art with a paddle craft can a most exhilarating challenge. Fenn says that fly-fishing from a canoe or kayak is yet another fascinating side of paddle fishing. “I’ve personally found fly-fishing easier and productive from a paddle craft, so I’m going to provide some tips to make it a hassle free way to fish.

First, let’s talk about the rods used when fishing from these type of vessels. Since anglers are sitting or are standing just a few feet above the water, some find it difficult to cast. One solution may be  a longer fly rod. Most anglers opt for the ever-popular nine-foot rod. But choosing a ten-foot rod, you will gain more height over the water and be able to make a cast rather than having your line slap on your casts. However, you should weigh the advantages of additional length against losing some of the accuracy that you might need.

Something else you may want to try is going with a bigger rod weight. I often find myself using a ten weight in my kayak. I choose the heavier rod weight so that I can load up quickly and, because of the line size, I can get my cast out with a minimum of false casting. While others see the heavier rod weight as a bother, I feel it helps you look at the water more (sight-fishing) rather than blind casting.

Another way to help get your casts off faster when paddle fishing is using a rod with a larger line size. What I mean is, if you have an eight-weight rod, try a nine or ten weight line. This will help you load quickly and enables you to make more casts than if you were throwing that ten weight rod.

Once again, I have to stress that these are just tips to try. I often read advice telling you not to load up on fly line. I can tell you from my own experience it works.

There are many different kinds of reels on today’s market to entice fly fisherman.. One that is gaining popularity among the paddle fishing and wading crowd is the Dan Reel. Here is a plastic polymer reel with no parts to corrode or get damaged. Also, if you fish from a paddle vessel or wade, it floats should you happen to drop it in the water. Because the reel is so light, it floats because of the buoyancy of the cork in the handle of the rod. And the reason I really like this reel is the price; it sells for only $59.95 in many stores. Not bad when most things in the sport are relatively expensive.

The best advice I can give when talking about fly-casting is practice, practice, practice! Fly-fishing is tough enough regularly, but when you are sitting down or kneeling, it only gets even more difficult.

One problem solver I discovered is shortening your cast. Remember this: in a kayak or canoe you are as silent and stealthy as the fish you stalk. Therefore, you should only make short casts (10-30ft.) to your target. Speeding up your tempo on casts will also help. It will keep line speed up in the air and not flailing behind or in front of you. Also try casting side arm; it is more efficient and allows you to punch through the wind.

Often when I go to trade shows I can tell who fly-fishes in saltwater versus fresh water by the style of casting the angler has. Trout fisherman usually cast straight over the head while flats-fishermen cast more to the side.

Line management is also an important thing to consider. Often I take out a client that wants to try and fly fish from a kayak. It’s not the casting that kills their enjoyment; it is the tangle they get when casting that does! One solution, as mentioned earlier, is to shorten your cast.

Another good tip is to take along a beach towel (if in Canoe) or a common bath towel (if in Kayak). The towel will keep you from getting your line hung on gear and rigging on your vessel. Where do you place that towel? Lay it across your lap (if in Kayak) or lay it across the gunnels (if in canoe). If the towel won’t stay put, dip it in the water and it will surely grip. You might also try stripping your line out of the vessel and into the water.

Something else to try when fly-fishing is teasing up a fish. Often I will take a spinning rod, grab a top-water plug, remove the hooks from it and cast it out. This way when a fish attacks the lure it will not get hooked and I can find out where he’s hiding. I can then make a cast with the fly rod and hook up. I learned this method watching sail-fishing in Costa Rica. I promise you this is a sure fire way to cover those grass flats when your arm is too weak to cast or your new to that water.

Lastly I’d like to say that fly-fishing is, without a doubt, the most artistic way to fish. Combine that with the fastest growing segment in fishing, and you’re sure to connect with a powerful experience!