Updated: Apr 17, 2020
Anglers fishing from shore are still connected to the real world by the sand under their feet, but kayak fly fishing makes you an island of your own.
Growing up on Cape Cod, MA, buying a boat wasn't an option, it was a necessity. Looking out the car window going anywhere, you'd pass sailboats on the hook, fishing boats hauling gear, or center consoles and skiffs racing out to the shoals.
I didn't want a boat, I needed one.
In order to get out there in a boat of my own, I paddled out in a kayak, and soon after, decided to make it my life. Ever since, I've written and photographed my way around the country, into Canada and back, fly fishing from a kayak wherever I ended up.
First Taste of Kayak Fishing
I was never the angler in my family. I fished here and there as a kid, but it was my little brother who was obsessed with fishing. He tried getting me to fish with him, but I had other things to do. Eventually, he started fly fishing and started pushing that on me. It wasn't until he showed me fly fishing videos of saltwater species, from tarpon and permit, to striped bass and bluefish, that I decided to give it a try.
Soon, I carried a fishing rod in the trunk of my car at all times, stopping to fish whenever I had even a few minutes to spare. I then heard about kayak fishing from a friend who worked at a paddle shop. One day he asked for help launching his new kayak for the first time, and as soon as I pushed his stern off the sand and watched him paddle out to the far bank, I knew I needed one too.
After securing a kayak of my own, I started fly fishing from it, even in places I shouldn't have been paddling. Six foot swells in an opened canoe-kayak hybrid? What's the problem? Soon, I started writing about my experiences and convinced Kayak Angler Magazine to give me a shot at a full time job.
Soon after that, I wrote a book, Kayak Fly Fishing: Everything You Need to Know to Start Catching Fish, about everything I had learned, with tips from many of the friends I had made within the industry. Even after all this time, when others have started shifting their focus on other craft or techniques, I still find kayak fly fishing vastly rewarding.
Why I Still Fly Fish from a Kayak
I could list a thousand reasons for fly fishing from a kayak, but above all it's the paradox simplicity and confounding nuance that keeps me fishing from a paddle craft. Even after a lifetime, when my face is wrinkled like sun-baked bait, I'll still be learning both crafts, fly fishing and paddling.
These classic traditions feature the perfect blend of art and technique that I've found to be addicting. I learn something new every time I go out, every time I don't catch a fish, and every time I fish with someone new. To put it simply, I fly fish from a kayak exactly because it's hard. The more it frustrates me to the point of wanting to throw my rod into the drink, the more satisfying it becomes to finally catch a fish.
Still, I can't leave you with just one reason to try kayak fly fishing. I've whittled down a giant list to three that may convince you to give it a shot yourself:
Disconnect from the World, Connect to the Water
The most profound aspect of fly fishing from a kayak is how connected you are to the water. Every shift of your weight, tilt of your hips, all translates to a specific input into the kayak beneath you. Once you learn to harness this effect you can start to steer your kayak while drifting, all by shifting your weight, even if you're fly casting at the same time.
Fish Where Others Can Only Dream of Fishing
Like when I was a kid, kayak fly fishing is still about getting where another angler's cast will fall short. I can slide into a backwater marsh where fish are hunting crabs in only a foot of water, or take shelter in an eddy beside massive whitewater. While there are more micro skiffs and other small craft on the market today, kayak fishing still feels the most practical and rewarding for getting into these tricky fishing spots.
You Simply Catch More Fish
Another reason I keep fishing from a kayak is because I consistently catch more. Since I like to fish the flats, and other hard-to-reach environments like the saltwater marshes around Cape Cod, I need a boat that can get me anywhere. Even if the water runs out and I need to hop across marsh grass to reach the next spot, a fishing kayak is versatile enough to get me there. Since I can reach all the spots I'd like, and because of the stealth of a fishing kayak, in these spots, I can catch more fish.
Give Kayak Fly Fishing a Try
You don't need to buy the most expensive boat and gear just to start fly fishing from a kayak. Any boat that gets you out there and any fly rod that won't shatter under the weight of your first fish is good enough to start. Once you get out there, you'll start seeing why so many anglers have fallen in love with this sport.
Stay tuned for the next blog post, How to Start Fly Fishing from a Kayak, to learn how you can get started yourself, going live this Wednesday.
If you already know you want to get started, learn the skills and tactics in my book, Kayak Fly Fishing: Everything You Need to Know to Start Catching Fish.
Header photo credit: Jon Leavitt