Choosing the best fly fishing kayak – our reviews and guide

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What’s the best kayak for fly fishing

Fly fishing and kayaks are not items that most fishermen will put together. How do you fly cast from a kayak? It’s hard enough to get a decent cast while standing on dry ground or wading in shallow water. But it can be done and done well, and all of the practice is fun. When you set the hook on the first fish from a kayak on a remote patch of water or lay a perfect cast out to a spooky gamefish that would have been gone as soon as a piston-powered craft hit the water, you will see how worthwhile it all is.

FeelFree Lure 11.5 Kayak
Our favorite for 2016
Perception Pescador 13.0 T Tandem Kayak
A great value option
Ocean Kayak Prowler Big Game Angler Kayak - Sit-On-Top Urban Camo
A quality product

More than any other fishing style, fly casting benefits from the mobility and stealth a well-handled ‘yak can offer. For reaching off-road secret spots, navigating small streams, working shallow water, and getting close to feeding fish, nothing matches a kayak. For speed, maneuverability, and silence, prams, skiffs, canoes, and float tubes do not even come close. With a modicum of paddling skill, you can cover miles of water in a kayak. And while canoes have long been associated with stealthy angling, a kayak and fishing gear can be carried by one person farther than any canoe, and it is way more difficult to master fly casting standing in a canoe than in a kayak. Those are the benefits of trying a kayak for taking your fly fishing adventures to the next level. Now let’s look at a few of the best fly fishing ‘yaks.

Our five favorite Fly Fishing Kayaks for 2020

FeelFree Lure 11.5 KayakThe Feelfree Lure 11.5’ Winter Camo Kayak is the best of this bunch from a fly fisherman’s point of view. It is purpose-made for standing with a 36” inch beam and a padded deck that make it an ideal casting platform, with a wide-open and snag-free deck. The extra-wide seat is easily removable and has a unique height adjustment feature. The steering peddles are low and tucked away, and can be easily covered while casting. Plenty of storage space in the bow sets this boat up for all-day trips, and the built-in keel wheel helps when getting the boat down to the water.

Ocean Kayak Prowler Big Game Angler Kayak - Sit-On-Top Urban Camo, RegularThe Ocean Prowler Big Game Angler 12’ 9” sit-on-top kayak is a solid fishing boat. It has the broad beam needed for stability when standing, and a built-in bow hatch makes it easy to store the gear and supplies needed for longer expeditions. However, the Ocean Prowler has a few downsides for the angler looking to specialize in kayak fly fishing. The lack of a flat deck is probably the biggest drawback. The molded-in tray between the leg slots will make standing difficult and cause stripped line to tangle. Also, the many fittings protrusions around the cockpit are guaranteed line-snaggers.

Old Town Predator 13 KayakThe Old Town Predator is a 13’ 2” kayak with a lot of fly-rod friendly features. It is a tip-proof boat, and the slip-resistant Exo-Ridge deck was designed to stand on. The aluminum-framed seat provides all-day comfort, and low gunwales in the seat area make reaching the water or landing fish easier. The Predator is set up to take a fish finder and trolling motor, and has six removable high-strength mounts along with many other customized features. It is a great boat except for placement of the center storage console right where it will create havoc with stripped fly line.

Perception Pescador 13.0 T Tandem Kayak, Red/YellowThe Perception Sport Pescador is our low-price favorite at less than half the cost of many other boats. This 12’ foot sit-on-top kayak has a clean design, the open front deck will hold a pile of line with minimal fuss, and it should be easy enough to stand on after a little practice. The sides of the boat and deck area are relatively clear of line-snagging fittings, but the foot brace system might have to be covered for ideal casting. Another drawback of this boat is the aft placement of the wide point, not an ideal design for stability.

Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12 Kayak 2015 Ivory DuneThe Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12’ is a serious fishing kayak. The side-rail mounting system, heavy-duty aluminum-framed seat and well-thought out storage systems all speak of deep fishing experience. The broad beam and flat deck are made for standing, and the side rails help when getting up. The boat has a couple of problems when it comes to fly fishing. The rudder, skeg, and Mirage drive fins limit access to shallow water, and the drive peddles will make it impossible to store loose line. The last problem might be remedied by covering the peddles with a towel while casting.

Buyers guide – what to look for if you want to do fly fishing from a kayak

When shopping for a fly-fishing kayak, keep a few details in mind. Most fishing kayaks have designs focused on gear storage and accessory mounting capability. The result is a boat with a lot of lumps, bumps, screws and snags that will attract fly line like steel to a magnet.

fly fishing kayak reviewsAs a fly fisherman, you will be going out with minimal gear, just as you would while working a stream, and that will be compactly stowed. You do want room for the emergency gear, extra clothes, food and water that will be needed on longer trips or big-water expeditions. For that, look for generous bow storage bays with smooth, low profile covers. Overall, you want a boat that is slick and clean in its lines and finish. The same principle applies to the deck in front of the seat. It must be flat, open and clean, and the sides of the hull in that area should be snag-free as well. There will be a pile of line there, and when you get a fish on, that line has to run out with no snags or tangles. The boat should be light and simple.

Often, the point of fly fishing from a kayak is to reach out-of-the-way spots and move quietly once there. Most fly fishermen will have no need for batteries, trolling motors, or fish finders. Finally, look for a boat with no exposed rudder control gear and wires on the stern, as those are a snag waiting to happen.