How to Fly Fish from a Kayak

I have always loved fly fishing and pretty much any way to go about it, but up until about a few months ago, I had never been successful fly fishing from a kayak! That was until I truly figured out all the tricks and to do it well, so here I am, sharing it with you so you don’t waste years trying to figure it out like me.

So, how do you fly fish from a kayak? Kayak fly fishing can be performed sitting or standing and is done very similarly to fly fishing from anywhere else. There are more techniques that make it more challenging. It can be more relaxing because you are on the water and can float closer to the pool of fish you want.

Obviously there are so many new techniques as I mentioned. I will explain more in detail.

Tactics For Fly Fishing From a Kayak

There are a lot of things different from a kayak, even though it is still fly fishing. you still have the same goal and the same idea in mind, but you are now on a floating piece of equipment that is easy to move on top of the water. So while everything is the same, everything is different.

I will say, I think you should be very comfortable fly fishing and kayaking before trying to two together. Fly fishing gear isn’t cheap and if you don’t know what you are doing, the kayak can easily flip and your day or week or month could be ruined.


I think casting was the biggest adjustment for me. When I first started I got so frustrated! It was like I knew what I was doing was wrong from my years previous fly fishing before I stepped into a kayak, but I couldn’t do anything to fix it.

I think adjusting and relearning how to cast was one of the most frustrating things. Although, I might be saying that again later on because several things frustrated me.

When you cast while you are sitting, your line is no doubt a lot closer to the water than you are used to. Something that got me and I’m sure gets most people, even experienced anglers, is tagging the water on the back cast. Something that I had to adjust to was keeping the line speed instead of trying to carry it.

Keeping the line speed higher helped me in so many ways and I became a lot happier once I did that. If you can shoot line on a double haul as well, this can really help you out on your speed and distance.

The main struggle again is hitting the water on the back cast. The key is to direct your backcast up and back instead of straight back like normal. If you can prevent that then you will be okay!

A really good thing about being in a kayak is we can float a lot closer to the pool of fish we are seeking, so having those long hard, accurate cast, aren’t necessary anymore. Well, for the most part.

Reeling Stripping and Fighting

A lot of you might be thinking, “well what if you catch a big fish and he’s fighting, wouldn’t he just carry you and the kayak?” Well, you are right, it is significantly different than fighting a fish on land or while you are in a bigger anchored boat.

First thing is you want to quickly reel up any slack you may have. Tangles are the most annoying thing for me when fly fishing and it becomes a lot easier to get them when you are on a kayak. so try and prevent that first and it will make your life a bit easier. once you have done that then you can fight him a bit.

The only real advice I can give you is to make sure your line is a bit tighter, and enjoy the fight. the kayak doesn’t move as much as you think it might.

If you have the right equipment it will make it easier as well. You should have a bit of a longer rod for when you fly fish on a kayak as well. Use the leverage of the longer rod to work the fish and listen to the drag sing.

The amount of pressure on a fish increases as rod angle decreases, so get down and dirty when you need to really work a fish. The added length of a fly rod is great for reaching around the front of your kayak when a big fish makes a surge and runs under your boat.

When you hook a fish, try not to bring it too close. Try using a wrap of leader and bring the fish on board. A net is always a good choice, but it is hard to have that on a kayak. You want to limit your equipment as much as possible and that is something I choose to leave behind.

Like I said before, you shouldn’t have to be doing these long haul cast anyways. If you stay close to you, it won’t be much of a fight, no matter how big that salmon might be. If you think about it, 10 fish power probably doesn’t even equal one horsepower, so you will be okay and enjoy the fight.

Handling Yourself, Your Equipment, and Nature

Wind can be a big factor when you are on a kayak. if there are big drifts, it will make you drift in whatever way it wants.

An important lesson is to not fight it. If the winds are really strong, I would just say your day is over. In the more frequent light winds, you can manage and deal with this.

The more of you and your kayak is exposed, the more the wind will catch. So if the wind is going up or downstream, point yourself in that direction so less is exposed. If you can manage, try and make the wind take you shoreline to shoreline.

Normally, the wind is blowing not directly into shore, but at an angle. As long you are casting ahead of yourself as you move along, you will minimize dragging your fly.

When you are casting with the wind. try to cast where you are going to go in a few minutes. Since you are in a kayak, you can still move to where ever it is you want by paddling, don’t forget that.

You kind of just have to accept the fact that the wind is going to move you around a bit and the best thing you can do is move with it. Don’t try and fight the wind. You won’t have a fun day fishing and will struggle.

Knowing what equipment is super important because you really don’t have that much space or room on a kayak.

You can set up your own ways of things you think you will use the most because it really is all based on personal preference. If you have too much stuff, especially lines, they WILL get all tangled up. As I mentioned before, I hate that and try to prevent it in any way possible. Things just get cluttered on this little thing and can be frustrating for some.

You can buy ready-made stripping baskets, or you can make one from a collapsible laundry basket. There are things out there to help you stay organized, just find what works best for you.

With all your things, paddle, and rod, it can be hard to manage. I have found it easiest that when I need to make a new tie or use my hands in any way, to just put the rob between my legs.

If you have never been kayaking before but are an angler, try just taking the kayak for a spin and challenge yourself. Go when it is windy may not be the ideal day. This way you can get the right practice in, so when you are out there fishing with a ton of other things on your boat, you will be a little more prepared.

Oh, and always tie everything down in the boat. Your paddle, tackle box, whatever else you have because there is a chance it will tip until you become more of an expert.

Types of Kayaks for Fly Fishing

Usually, you want to get something a little wider. Having something more stable will really help you when you are casting and reeling in a big guy.

 Many fishing kayaks on the market can be used for stand-up fishing, but it all depends on the dimensions and shape of the hull. Ideally, you want a kayak that’s around 12 to 14 feet long, and wide enough to offer adequate side-to-side stability — generally at least 30 inches wide.

With that, most fishing kayaks suitable for stand-up fishing have either flat or pontoon-shaped hulls for maximum stability.

A clear deck is pretty much essential; your fly line will find every exposed protrusion on your boat and foul. If your boat has a storage area for your tackles, that is ideal. Most don’t though and you want to make sure what you have is in waterproof storage. Having rusted hooks is the worst.

A good open deck is great. the more you have room the less likely you will get snagged on casts or anything else really. Plus room to stand. A lot of people like to stand on the kayak but you can’t really do that if you don’t have room.

Personally, I usually like to just sit. My balance is not all that great and I am more out there to relax and have a good time. I will stand from time to time, but I don’t have the best kayak in the world either.

I think I am going to invest in one sooner because writing this post makes me want to go back out there but have even better equipment to be more comfortable.

If you already have a kayak but it isn’t made for fishing and you are on a budget, try it out. I think angler kayaks help a lot, but at the same time, if you can get by on one you have, mine as well save an extra $600 to $6,000 or more.

If you are in the market, Fishing picks named top 8 best kayaks for fly fishing. So here they are.


Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 17T
17′ 43.5″
Ocean Kayak Prowler13’4″28″
Oldtown PredatorO13’2″33.5″
Sevylor Coleman Colorado10’9″39″
Wilderness Systems Tarpon 130X13′32″
Perception Pescador Pro 1212′32″
Big Tuna by Jackson Kayak14’2″35″
Eddyline C135 Yakattack13′ 5″34″

Reasons to Fly Fish from a Kayak

The easiest, most plain and simple way to put it, is it is relaxing. Which is why most people get addicted to fly fishing in the first place. Now if you are one of those people, imagine that while sitting and floating on the water. It really doesn’t get much better than that.

Fly fishing is the most rewarding type of fishing for me. from tying my own flies to actually hooking and reeling in a fish. Even sometimes bringing home dinner to my family. Too bad I’m the only one in my family that really likes the taste of fish, but its the thought that counts, right?

While I am still no pro from the kayak, I find it more of a challenge as well, which I enjoy. Out there it is just you and the fish. You are responsible for getting yourself into position to set a cast and it is much harder than just walking.

I like to go with friends from time to time, but when you are on the kayak it is just you out there and you are responsible for everything. To do all the work by myself and when all of those things come together and you have the satisfaction of catching that fish, it’s such a feeling of accomplishment.

To be honest, if you get the chance to go out on a kayak and fly fish, you will feel an unreal sense of freedom. You are no longer limited to the bank on those waters you can’t just stand in.

Something I love is being able to be more adventurous and hit spots that I didn’t think would bring in anything before. Or I have even hit the same spots as before but from a different angle because I could and it has actually worked well before.

You will be able to go anywhere and fish any posts you can imagine. maybe you have stood at the bank and thought, “Man I wish my fly could reach over there, it seems like a great spot.” yeah well now you can.

I love it because when I get a little frustrated from the lack of bites, I can go paddle around for a bit and just lay back and relax. it is the simple pleasure of being able to go do whatever you want and not being tied down to the bank.

Not to mention the sunsets out on the water are usually unreal, at least where I come from. You don’t need a fancy boat to enjoy the pleasures of being out on the eater, so give it a try and see how you love it.

Related Questions:

Do you need an anchor to fly fish on a kayak? Technically, you don’t need one, but it can make staying in one place easier than not having one. Especially on a river, where the current is always trying to take you somewhere else, an anchor can help you stay closer to where the fish are.

Do I need a permit or other legal document to use a kayak? It depends on what state you live in, but in general, there is no requirement to have any for a boat smaller than 14 feet. It is required, however, to have a life jacket and whistle in most states. Ownership of a kayak is quite similar to the ownership of a pool noodle.

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Striped Bass.

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