The full guide to fly fishing from a kayak

19th of March 2023

The tranquility of paddling along the water's surface, the thrill of casting the perfect line, and the excitement of reeling in a catch create a unique experience. In this guide, we'll take you through the various aspects of fly fishing from a kayak, including the benefits, essential gear, kayak selection, techniques, and safety precautions. By the end of this article, you'll know all the basics about fly fishing from a kayak.


Access remote waters

A significant advantage of kayak fly fishing is the ability to access hard-to-reach areas that are often teeming with fish. Kayaks are quiet, maneuverable, and can navigate shallow waters, allowing you to explore rivers, lakes, and coastal regions that are inaccessible to larger boats.

Increased stealth

The silent glide of a kayak allows you to approach fish without spooking them, increasing your chances of a successful catch. The low profile of a kayak also makes you less visible to fish, further enhancing your stealth. Compared to an electric belly boat this can be a significant advantage, so if you're also considering a belly boat keep this in mind.

Low impact

Kayak fly fishing is an eco-friendly activity. Kayaks have a minimal impact on the environment and can help preserve fragile ecosystems by reducing erosion and disturbances to aquatic life.

Essential gear for Kayak Fly Fishing


Choose a stable, comfortable kayak designed for fishing. Consider factors such as storage space, seating, and overall performance in the water. It's difficult to recommend kayaks here, but this will greatly depend on the water and location where you'll be fishing. Start from listing where you want to go kayak fishing, and then search online and ask in stores for kayaks that are suited for these water types and locations.


Select a lightweight, durable paddle with a comfortable grip to make paddling more efficient.

Personal flotation device (PFD)

A PFD is a critical safety item. Choose a comfortable, well-fitting PFD designed for kayak fishing that allows for a full range of motion while casting.

Fly rod and reel

Select a suitable fly rod and reel combination based on the species you plan to target and the type of water you'll be fishing. If you have a kayak that's specifically designed for fishing, there might be rod holders and you can bring different types of rods. Our tip is to not overpack: you rarely need more than 7 rods. Bring 2 or 3, and ensure that their weight is not too close to each other so you can better vary the weight type (eg: don't bring a 5 and 6 weight, but rather a 4 and 6 weight if you can).

Landing fish

Use a long-handled net or a lip-gripping device to land fish safely and minimize stress on the fish. As always, try to keep the fish in the water was much as possible. This should be much easier than fishing from the bank, given that you have water all around you! 😅

Anchor system

A small anchor or drift sock can help you maintain your position in the current or wind.

Selecting the right kayak for Fly Fishing

Sit-on-top vs. sit-inside

Sit-on-top kayaks are more popular for fishing because of their stability, ease of entry, and self-draining scupper holes. Sit-inside kayaks can be more maneuverable and offer better protection from the elements but may not be as stable.

Length and width

Longer kayaks are faster and track better, while wider kayaks provide more stability. Choose a kayak that balances these factors based on your needs.

Storage and customization

Look for a kayak with ample storage for your gear and the option to add accessories like rod holders, paddle clips, and gear tracks.

Techniques for Kayak Fly Fishing


Practice your casting technique from a seated position. Work on shorter, more efficient casts to maintain control and minimize the chance of snagging.

Stripping line

Use a stripping basket, mat, or apron to manage your line and prevent it from tangling around your feet or the kayak's components.

Safety precautions

Weather and water conditions

Always check the weather forecast and water conditions before setting out. Be prepared for changing conditions and be willing to postpone or cancel your trip if necessary.


Carry a fully charged cell phone, VHF radio, or personal locator beacon in a waterproof case to communicate in case of an emergency.

Buddy system

Whenever possible, fish with a partner or let someone know your planned route and expected return time.

Dress appropriately

Wear layers of quick-drying, moisture-wicking clothing and dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. Consider wearing a wetsuit or drysuit in colder conditions.

Self-rescue techniques

Learn and practice self-rescue techniques, such as re-entering your kayak after a capsize, and carry a bilge pump or sponge to remove water from the cockpit.


With the right gear, kayak, and techniques, fly fishing from a kayak can be a truly rewarding experience. The ability to access remote waters, combined with the stealth and low impact of kayaking, creates a unique and memorable adventure. By following this guide and prioritizing safety, you'll be well-prepared to enjoy the incredible world of kayak fly fishing.

Also see

Our article about fly fishing from a belly boat.

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