Dedicated to the Pursuit of Warmwater Fish in Georgia's Rivers and Streams


GRF Home About GRF River Descriptions GRF Message BoardSupport GRF Links & Resources Braggin' Board GRF Store


The Beginnings of a Kayak Flyfisherman by Andrew Kerlin (aka Yakfisher)

    This article is about how to begin fly-fishing out of a kayak. It will contain several bits of information and advice that I have picked up through reading books and magazines, advice from fellow kayak fisherman or off of kayak fishing forums. The hardest but most remembered lessons that I have learned were a couple of my own stupid and somewhat humorous mistakes. One such lesson I will refer to later in the article. I am writing this article from the perspective of a kayak fisherman who wants to learn to fly fish and then do so from his kayak, and second, a fly fisherman who wants to extend his wadding range by learning to kayak

    The one thing that I want to stress to anyone starting out kayaking is SAFETY! There are several aspects to kayak safety that need to be mentioned. The first one is ALWAYS wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) that is sized correctly and is rated for your weight!! There are many types of PFD’s that are specifically designed for kayakers and fisherman and are relatively comfortable to wear.

    The second is that the proper clothing needs to be worn. A kayaker needs to be dressed for the water temperature first and then the air temperature second.  Dressing in layers is the best method to stay warm and dry. Most of us start out trying to learn to kayak in the early spring of the year. The trouble with this is that the air temperature is warm outside, while the water temperature in most of the nations waterways is still dangerously low. Water temperatures in early spring can be in the upper 40’s and lower 50’s. Temperatures like these can cause hypothermia in a matter of just minutes if a person is not wearing the proper clothing!

   The rule of thumb is basically the same as inclement weather survival: “Cotton fiber kills". Cotton fiber is one of the most absorbent materials made. This is why most towels are made out of 100% cotton.” Wet cotton against a persons skin will drain the body heat from it and prevent the body from re-heating itself.

   The first and main layer that needs to be worn for cold-water temperatures is some kind of material that wicks moisture away form the body such as Polypropylene, Polar Tec, Polar Max, Cool Max or one of the best products on the market, Mysterioso, which is based on what the US military uses for winter survival clothing. I hear that this stuff is really warm. The second layer depends on the air temp. Normally wool or insulating fleece material is good. Make sure if you choose fleece that is the insulating kind. The final layer should be a breathable layer of Goretex, breathable waders with a breathable top or a complete breathable suit. This final layer keeps water/wind out, but allows moisture to escape so that you don’t over heat and also stay dry.

   The third aspect of kayak safety is to learn how to get back in or on your kayak once you have fallen out. In the water recovery is essential if you are going to be kayaking in moving water. Methods of self recovery are explained in many kayaking books, one of which is Captain Ken Daubert’s book, “Kayakfishing: The Revolution”. Another way to learn these techniques is to take a class. Most of your kayak dealers, outfitters and guides offer these types of classes. These techniques must be learned and practiced before you kayak solo! To illustrate why, we will return to the story I mentioned earlier.

    The first time I put my kayak in the water was at a friend’s pond with him looking on. I had paddled a kayak before on an echo tour where they gave a paddling and kayak safety lesson. And of course when I decided to put mine in the water for the first time I didn’t have time for all of the safety and equipment stowage I had learned. I was in a hurry and did not put my PFD on or stow my stuff properly. I had a stadium seat that that I had bought from Walmart. It didn’t feel quit right, so I lifted up and leaned on the side of the kayak with one hand and reached behind me with the other. This put my center of gravity higher and outside of the right edge of the kayak and of course I was dumped, cell phone, wallet, rods not tied down and all! I broke the first rule of paddle craft safety here, which was not wearing a PFD, and the second rule, which is to be aware of your center of gravity.

   Fortunately I was all right and did not drown in the cold water that I was dumped in. But if I had panicked when I dumped, I might not be here to write this article. But the point I am trying to make here is that I had no clue how to get my kayak flipped back over so I could get back onto it! If I had been in some swift moving water I could have been in real trouble!! The other lesson I learned (after my hysterically laughing buddy and I successfully fished one of my brand new rods out of the pond with a grappling hook and I had to go get a new cell phone because the one I had on me got dunked and never worked again and the two days it took to dry everything out in my wallet) is stow everything in your kayak properly. Make sure all of your equipment is tied to something or you will lose it in a spill. All electronics that are not waterproof and probably your wallet need to be in a waterproof bag!

    Ok, enough about safety, lets talk about some kayaks. There are two basic types of kayaks, which are the Sit Inside Kayak (SIK) or the Sit On Top (SOT). Many manufacturers make both types in models that would be suitable for fishing. Most kayak fisherman prefer the SOT type, due the ease of entry and exit and they are also self-draining. The particular model that is suited for you depends on your height and weight and the intended use. It would take a really large article to go through all of them. The best advice I can give you is to research it on the Internet on the manufacturer sites such as Ocean Kayak, Wilderness Systems, Perception, Malibu, Dagger and Cobra. Another good place to look is on kayak fishing forums. These forums are a wealth of information from people who have already tried many boats, rigging and done a lot of fishing out of kayaks. Some of the most popular models are the Ocean Kayak's Prowler, Caper and Drifter, along with Wilderness System’s Tarpon Series. Try to buy a used boat first to see if you like the sport. Don’t worry about selling the used kayak or owning more than one kayak. Kayaks are like fishing rods, you can’t own just one! Selling and buying used kayaks can be done through local papers, kayak shops and most of the time over the Internet. Shipping is usually less than $100.00, which isn’t much considering you can save $300-$600 or more on a used, fully rigged kayak with a paddle.

    Rigging a kayak is a personal thing. Just remember one thing; you need to paddle your kayak before you mount accessories on it. You don’t want to mount anything somewhere that will interfere with your paddle stroke or interfere with you getting on or off of your kayak. Once you determine where you can mount things, you will probably want to mount either some flush mount and/or surface mount rod holders. In particular for fly-fishing, Scotty makes a rod holder specifically for a fly rod. Another accessory that you might want is a fishing crate, which is a milk type storage crate that usually will have pvc tubes mounted to it to hold extra rods, a net and/or a gaff. Small plastic utility type tackle boxes can also be bungeed into the crate for fly, lure or terminal tackle storage. Some other accessories include compasses, fish finders and even a mount for your portable GPS unit. Kayak fishing forums will come in handy here. Many pics of already rigged kayaks of all types and models are on these forums. I have gotten lots of suggestions and tips from people off of kayak fishing forums.

    Once you have got your kayak rigged and ready to go and you have learned to paddle it with reasonable confidence or if you already are a kayak fisherman then you are ready to learn how to fly fish. The first thing I want to talk about is equipment. The most economical way to get started is to buy a combo outfit. Many manufacturers offer these and they are matched outfits. The rod, reel, fly line and leader all match. Most manufacturers also list what line weight to use for a particular species. For panfish anything from a six weight down will do. For largemouth bass a seven or eight weight is the ticket. For heavy fresh water or light to medium saltwater fish, an eight to ten weight is required. Most manufactures have entry-level combos that are good enough to learn on and if you decide you like fly-fishing, more outfits will probably follow. Just as with any sport, the more you learn, the better equipment you will want.

    I recommend using a good fly shop to help you with these decisions. They will usually know what works in your particular area. Most shops also provide lessons. I highly recommend some casting lessons. Fly-casting is a lot like learning to golf. It is all technique. If you learn either sport using bad habits, you will never reach your potential performance in either sport. Learning from an instructor will cut the learning curve substantially and will only add to your enjoyment of fly-fishing. This will also keep you from spending many frustrating hours trying to learn on your own or being taught by somebody who doesn’t have the correct skills and techniques. There are many books, videos and DVDs available on fly-fishing. These will also help out tremendously. Lefty Kreh has written several books on all aspects of fly-fishing and fly-casting. Captain Ken Daubert has written a book on kayak fishing titled “Kayakfishing: The Revolution”. This book is a must for the kayak fisherman to have. And as previously mentioned kayak fishing forums are a really good place to ask questions about fly-fishing. Most of them have a separate board just for fly-fishing.

    When you go fly fishing for the first few times I would recommend doing it from the shore or at least wading before I tried fly-fishing from a kayak. Casting while in a sitting position will be a little different. But once you are comfortable with your casting, then get in your kayak and as OLN says “Out You Go”.

    If you are already a fly-fisherman, then the main thing I recommend to you is to paddle your kayak until you are comfortable maneuvering in it and can do self-rescues out of it. Also get comfortable trying to access items from the different hatches while you are on the water. Once you have accomplished this, then grab your fly rod and “Out You Go”.

     Fly-fishing is a challenging and very satisfying way to catch fish. Fly-casting is an art form and is revered by most fishermen who have either tried it or not tried it for one reason or another. Kayaking and fly-fishing is the ultimate stealth method to catch fish. I hope you try both and enjoy the same countless hours that I have putting fish in the yak with a fly rod.



Suggestions? E-mail us at grf-at symbol-negia-dot-com

Back to Georgia River Fishing Homepage

Back to American River Fishing Homepage

© 2007 American River Fishing. All rights reserved.