The Fly Fishing Yak E-mail
Sunday, 18 October 2009 16:11

The sun was setting just above the western horizon on this warm, balmy evening as my kayak was gently rocked by a light breeze. Suddenly, the peaceful silence was interrupted as a feisty Smallmouth Bass engulfed my top-water minnow imitation just off a rocky drop and small weed bed. As the 14” fish headed back down after release, the small grin on my face reassured me that having taken the time to properly rig my yak had just paid off.

Recent experiences like this have occurred on numerous occasions – being in the right spot seems to be making the difference. It has been over a year now (and many, many hours) since I took up kayak fly fishing, and it had become obvious that proper rigging could enhance the new venues and opportunities paddling afforded. Being a fly fishing fanatic, getting my boat properly set up became a priority. There is a fair amount of information available for “rigging” a fishing kayak, but when it came to fly fishing there was little guidance. While the rigging is similar, subtle modifications made it successful.

The major change from traditional rigging is providing for proper line management and open casting spaces. This means keeping the cockpit clear and no additional rods or rod holders (carry a cased spare in the hull storage area). Though fly fishers typically do not rely on electronics and other gadgets, they are proving worthwhile when fly fishing from a yak. 

  

 The Rigged Quest

 

Rigged Hobie Quest

 One might think setting up a kayak would be vastly different from fresh to salt water.  However, having the opportunity to regularly fish in both, I found the needs quite similar . . . . . the major exception being the use of stainless steel, brass and plastic hardware when salt is part of your repertoire. 

 What kind of rigging should a fly fishing kayak include?  While rigging is a personal preference, it is an evolutionary and on-going process.  Here’s how my Yak is currently dressed:

 

 

  • Folding anchor, 50’ of line and a float
  • PFD
  • Anchor trolley
  • Fly rod holder
  • Rod and paddle leashes
  • Lip gripper; folding measuring board
  • Storage bag/cooler to hold extra reels, lines and other comforts that sit behind my seat, keeping a low profile
  • GPS
  • Fish locator with “thru hull” transducer

 

Note:  My leashes are made from discarded coiled cell phone charger cords that my cell phone dealer was glad to give me.

 

Why all the “toys” (as my wife refers to my rigging) when we, as fly fishers want less clutter?  Let’s consider how rigging can contribute to kayak fly fishing success and enjoyment.

 

PFD – The best life vest is the one which is worn.  This age old advice holds true even more today as kayaks share the water with bigger and bigger boats, and head into more distant and remote areas to fish.  There is no excuse for not having a quality PFD – there are many styles that offer large, open sides that do not interfere with paddling or casting.

 

My PFD has a high back that fits my kayak seat making it as comfortable as my recliner (okay, that might be a stretch) – comfort is important so you wear it.  Never compromise your safety.  A whistle and nippers are on a retractable pin and a small flare resides in a pocket to round out my vest. 

 

Anchor – My 1½ pound folding anchor may seem inadequate, but has not failed me yet.  The key is sufficient scope or line out to allow the anchor to bite into the bottom, especially if there is some wind or current.  Most fly fishing is in relatively shallow water (less than 12’) and many times when working a flat, channel, reef, oyster bar or drop, an anchor can really help.  The trolley makes anchoring fore or aft easy.  Using an “H” float to hold the excess line, which stores in a side compartment on my Hobie Quest, keeps the line off the floor and out of the way, yet readily accessible.

 

Fly Rod Holder/Leashes – The holder keeps my rod safely stored when paddling or ashore.  The rod leash is a precaution should the rod fall overboard (and believe me it happens) saving expensive equipment.  Likewise, it is quite easy for your paddle to get away; a leash, especially when you are out alone avoids being up the “proverbial creek  . . . . .” They quickly attach to pad eyes, though you may have to add a few.

 

Lip Gripper/Measuring Board -- While nets, especially larger ones are nice for landing the “big” one, they unfortunately can be a hassle when fly fishing.  For whatever reason, netting tends to catch on everything, tangle with the fly line and seems to toss things overboard from time to time.  I rely on a lip gripper to help land fish, which really helps with those toothy critters.  Bear in mind that it does take some time to get the hang of properly using the lip gripper.  Add a leash – lip grippers can be dropped easily and are a bit expensive.

 

 

A measuring board can help document the “fish story” that is certain to follow you home.  Besides, it helps keep you legal should some of your fish be destined for the frying pan.  Mine also floats and stores out of the way.

 

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