Fly Fishing from a Kayak? You Bet! E-mail
Thursday, 08 October 2009 07:04
Fly Fishing from a Kayak? You Bet!

At first blush you might wonder how one could possibly fly cast perched in a kayak. Impossible come to mind, or why would you? Well, I’m here to tell you that while kayak fishing is a truly enjoyable way to fish, getting you where the fish are, it is also one fantastic way to fly fish! The SOT kayak provides a great platform from which to cast and whether it is rivers, lakes or saltwater, they are all ripe for the fly fisherman. Above all, you can catch fish.

Now, being totally up front, there are some nuances to fly casting out of a kayak. Yes, it will require some effort on your part to become somewhat proficient, but certainly nothing an hour or two can’t solve. Once you have given it a try, you will see it does differ some from your other fly casting/fishing experiences.

So, just what are those nuances? Probably the biggest challenge kayak fly casters face is generating sufficient line speed from the casting motion while sitting in a somewhat supine position. While relatively comfortable, sitting as such eliminates your legs and body from being an active part of your casting motion. This seated position tends to temper the line speed, thereby creating slack and a cast that surrenders to gravity, resulting in the dreaded “slap” of your fly.

Further, the wind, wave and boat wake environment will hamper your casting efforts as well. I think this is Mother Nature’s way of protecting the fish – hit the water on a front false cast and you may well be moving to another area.

That brings us to where one should begin. Our focus is on four (4) actions that can make your casting motion more effective. The objective is to target the fundamentals that will help generate sufficient line speed to load the rod and form a tight loop that will properly unroll. If you follow the modest suggestions discussed here, you will be well on your way to adding fly fishing from a yak to your repertoire.

1. Make sure that the 5 Essentials of Casting are a firm part of your casting mechanics. Since your line is so close to the water (at times a mere 6’ or so), any small breakdown will probably result in a “slap”. Remember to accelerate to an abrupt stop and maintain a firm wrist – let me repeat that, maintain a firm wrist! It is also important that at the stop your forearm does not go beyond vertical, which will help keep the rod in a 1:00 position,

2. Use drift (allowing your arm and rod to drift back after the stop) on your final back cast to lengthen your casting stoke, thereby increasing line speed, acceleration and loading of the rod. You can shoot a small amount of line on the final back cast as well, but shoot the majority on the presentation. The more line you try to hold in the air, the more difficult it is to make a good cast.

3. Now, the “key” to an efficient fly cast from a kayak -- the Double Haul. This technique allows you to add significant line speed and loading with a relatively minimal amount of effort. The Double Haul was the secret that made a difference for me and I bet it will be for you as well. If you do not know how to double haul – learn. But, make it part of your arsenal.

4. Don’t overcast. This is not a distance casting contest or any type of competition – there is really no one to impress. We’re fishing so why complicate the tranquility. Kayaks are a stealthy means of getting close to the fish, so take advantage of this benefit. I have found that casts of 40-60’ are more than adequate for 95% of my kayak fishing. Occasionally, there might be a situation that calls for a 75-80’ cast; however, a quality cast of 60’ will trump a sloppy 80’ attempt every time. No matter how good a distance caster you may be, the nature of fly casting from a kayak makes distance casting tenuous at best.

Another benefit from keeping yours casts more modest is “line management”. As we are all well aware, if there is something for the line to catch on it will. And, the more line out the more opportunity there is for tangling. My yak has a nice flat floor area in front of my seat where the line rests as I strip it in. If the floor is not an option for you, just lay a towel on your lap – not ideal but it works.

Finally, the “rocking and rolling” motion of a kayak will play a part in your casting and you will not always win. However, by watching the water around you and, if necessary, waiting a bit for the motion to abate before you begin a cast, you have the ability to minimize the impact. Like I said, every once in a while it will get the best of you. That’s a kayak fishing fact of life.

Good luck and I hope these basics have helped take the mystery out of fly casting from a kayak. We’ll get into casting where the wind plays havoc, equipment and some other issues in subsequent months.

As future articles evolve, your input will help me select topics or issues that you want to hear about. One of the things I would like to do occasionally is talk about various flies, including providing the pattern at the end. Being a mediocre tier at best, most of my flies are relatively simple and fast to tie. But, they all will have caught fish. In addition, techniques, equipment, locales and casting tips will be on the agenda. And, remember, my being new to kayak fishing will keep things on the basic, but evolving level.

So, this month let’s look at a fly we call the “Fuzzy Minnow”. I know not from where it hails or the original tier. A fishing buddy had one and asked if I could tie it. It looked simple, but I had to turn to another friend who helped me dissect it. While it may look and appear difficult, it is fairly easy and can be tied quite quickly.

The “Fuzzy Minnow” is a flashy, silvery white minnow imitation that is a great attractor. We’ve used it for smallmouth bass, but there is no reason that it shouldn’t work for walleyes, crappies or jumbo perch. They have also produced at times for large trout that hold in deeper pools or under cut banks. This winter I plan to give it a try on some saltwater fare – again it is a good baitfish imitation, so why not. The pattern follows.

So, until January, safe paddling and tight lines. Remember, “Anything worth doing well is worth doing badly at first.”

Steve Osterhaus is a Federation of Fly Fishers Certified Casting Instructor and lives/ fishes in Door County, Wisconsin and Tybee Island, Georgia (Jan. – Apr.). He can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

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