- What To Look For In A Fishing Kayak In General
- How To Pick The Best Fly Fishing Kayak
- Sit On Top vs Sit Inside
- Pedal vs Paddle
- Final Thoughts
Fly fishing is almost an art form.
It takes dedication and constant learning to get good at it.
What if there was a way to cut down on how long it takes to start catching the big ones? It may just take one of our best fishing kayaks to get you to that area just beyond where you can cast!
Not all kayaks are also the best fly fishing kayaks and there aren’t really any that are marketed and designed specifically for fly fishing. Side Note: Anybody want to take that business idea and run with it?
Some of the best fishing kayaks have features that make it ideal for fly fishing so let’s take a look at some of them to see which one of these best fishing kayaks suits your needs.
What To Look For In A Fishing Kayak In General
There are some things that you should be looking for in best fishing kayaks and not just one for fly fishing. Here are some of the factors that make some great for any type of angling.
Staying safe on the water highly depends on how stable your kayak is. You’re going to be moving around a lot in your kayak cockpit especially if you plan to cast while standing up. You could find yourself leaning hard to one side while fighting a fish and easily lose your balance if the stability is not that good.
What makes our best fishing kayaks stable?
In a word the width. That isn’t the only factor. In fact, there are two kinds of stability to understand.
One is called primary stability. This is the ability to not tip right away. Kayaks with high primary stability are wider than others. As a result they are hard to actually tip over. When I was learning how to use my Hobie Outback I was practicing reentry and had a hard time actually tipping it far enough to fall in. I actually gave up and just jumped into the water to then try to get back in.
There is another side to primary stability and that is called secondary stability. These are generally narrower kayaks that have a deep keel. They may feel like they are going to tip easily, but if you do find that it is going to turn over, you can recover it by leaning the opposite way. This is the secondary stability that kayaks with primary stability lack.
Wider best fishing kayaks may be harder to tip over, but once they start tipping you’re going to have a hard time recovering and are likely to be taking a dunk.
If you are going to be out fishing then chances are you plan to be in your kayak for quite a long time – thats’s why potential best fishing kayaks need to be comfortable.
While comfort is usually subjective, in this case there are plenty of things that many people will find allows them to fish with less aches and pains at the end of the day.
First and foremost is the seat. At a minimum it should be adjustable. Padded is also good. If it is adjustable, then make sure it supports the lower back as that is where most of the pressure is going to be.
Don’t be tempted to get a seat with too high a back as you won’t be able to use your PFD while seated. Don’t be out on the water at any time without it on as things can go south very fast on a kayak. In fact, read this article on kayak safety to see how you can be safe while on the water.
Having adjustable footrests is also very important. You’ll want your knees bent for proper paddling but not too much. Since everybody is different then having the ability to adjust is ideal.
Self draining scuppers are good to have and they should be at the lowest point of the cockpit to properly drain. You’re going to get wet no matter what while out on the water, but you don’t want to be sitting in a puddle the whole day.
On that note, it is very important to pay attention to the weight limit of these best fishing kayaks. If you are too heavy then your cockpit will be full of water no matter what you do. You can put scupper plugs in to keep the water from entering from underneath, but if any waves splash over the side then there is nowhere for that water to go.
This is way more important than it might seem when considering our best fishing kayaks. You want stability but you also want to make sure the kayak can move quickly and go straight. The more you have to force it to move and the more you need to paddle to make it go straight, the less fishing you’ll get to do. And fatigue is a factor in most kayak injuries.
Look for a flat bottom hull for stability, but with chines to push the water away. A skeg by the rudder will also help a lot as will any channels for the water to pass easily under the kayak.
How To Pick The Best Fly Fishing Kayak
This is the part where the best fishing kayaks and the best fly fishing kayaks intersect. There are some factors to the kayak that are going to make it the best fit for you if you plan to fly fish. This goes for either casting from a seated position or by standing.
Where Do You Plan To Fish?
There are many different ways to fly fish from streams and fast moving rivers to wide open sea. This is a big factor in which are going to be the best fishing kayaks suited to your needs so make sure you get an idea of where you plan to do most of your fishing.
Let’s take the last part as an example. Let’s suppose you are like my friend who loves to fly fish from his kayak in the open sea off the coast of Massachusetts.
You’re likely going to be covering a lot of water so you’ll need it to be fast. A narrow hull is going to get you to cover more area than you will with a wide and heavy bottom kayak. This will mean not being able to stand up to cast, however. That’s not to say that you can’t be out there on a barge but you’re likely to either need to stay close in one area or deal with some achy arms and torso at the end of a long day of fishing.
If you plan to fish in some rivers then you’ll be able to go with a wide hull, but make sure it is lightweight if there is no place to launch and you’ll need to carry your kayak to the river bank. This may also hold true for ponds and lakes, too.
If you are going to be fishing somewhere with lots of reefs lurking right below the surface or in a pond with tree trunks and hidden branches, then you’ll need a flat bottom and a pedal kayak is simply not going to be an option.
Tangles can be a problem even if you are using a spinning or baitcaster rod on a kayak if you have too much stuff on your deck. Add fly fishing to the mix and you have a day of frustration from tangles ahead of you.
If you are looking for one of our best fishing kayaks for fly fishing then make sure that they don’t come with all the bells and whistles. This way you can set things up exactly how you need them to be to successfully fish.
I would even suggest looking for a kayak with molded footrests instead of adjustable pegs. These can snag your line very easily.
The same goes for deck mounted rod holders. If you have one since you like to do other types of fishing, then I recommend one that can be removed easily so you can stow it away while you fly fish.
Fish finders are another culprit. I would at least use one to find the fish and then remove it and stow it once you land on a spot to fish.
Many best fishing kayaks can act like sails in certain conditions and it can be annoying when you are being pushed around. Nothing can cut your day short like having to fight an unrelenting wind. If your gunnels are low then you can stay low to the surface of the water and are less likely to be pushed around.
You may want to invest in an anchor trolley and anchor to be able to maintain your position if you plan to fish in one place.
If you plan to keep your deck clear then you’re going to need space to store your gear away so it is not in the way. Make sure you have good and easy to reach storage space in the multiple areas of the kayak.
They should be tightly sealed, yet easy to open and close.
There are seats available on best fishing kayaks that have pockets in them so you can keep things like your pliers, sunscreen or any other small tools out of the way while you fish, yet still within easy reach.
Behind your seat you should also have a deep well to put a milk crate or any other type of bucket or box to keep your stuff.
A nice thing to have are some tight bungee tie downs that criss cross the well so you don’t have to clasp and unclaso them yet they will help secure your stuff.
Sit On Top vs Sit Inside
There are good reasons to have one or the other just as there are going to be some negatives.
Which ones are best fishing kayaks is really in the eye of the beholder and what characteristics you value over others.
Sit On Top Or SOT
These are the most popular version of the best fishing kayaks since they are safe and very easy to use.
Since they float on top of the water and you literally sit on it they are hard to flip over. And if you do flip they are easy to reenter. You just flip it back over and then slide right onto it. They won’t sink unless a hatch was left open or it got punctured really bad. In fact on a side note I recommend having some floats inside the hull just in case.
Rigging a SOT is also really easy as you have a lot of open deck space and the cockpit is also much bigger.
You can move around easier on a SOT and even dangle your legs in the water if you like to fish side saddle. I have seen quite a few fly guys sitting side saddle when casting as it requires less of a refined technique than casting from inside the cockpit.
Nothing is ever cut and dry and there are of course downsides.
For instance, since it floats on top of the water, you are quite high and that makes it more difficult to effectively paddle. As a result, SOT kayaks are much slower than the sit inside kind.
You also act like a sail when it’s windy so you are going to be pushed off of your position much easier.
Sit Inside Or SIK
Some people swear by SIK being best fishing kayaks but usually those people are not fly fishermen. Casting is very difficult from inside the cockpit of a SIK. the sides of the kayak can come up to mid chest depending on the model and the height of the person inside. This means you are almost forced into an overhand type of cast that is going to prove to be difficult.
Difficult but not impossible.
There are some benefits to having a SIK so you may want to consider changing up your casting technique to have a better chance at success.
You can really travel at a much higher speed in a SIK since you are sitting below the water surface level. The way the keel is designed is also very good at keeping the tracking straight so you don’t have to continually adjust your position.
Besides casting challenges, a big downside is that SIK can be dangerous to a newbie and really should be used by experienced anglers.
They have great secondary stability but the primary stability is very low. An inexperienced kayaker may not have the knowhow on righting it before it tips.
Once in the water, you’ll need to turn the kayak over, retrieve your bilge pump, pump the water out and then somehow get back inside without it tipping again. And this is only possible if you’ve placed floats in the hull beforehand.
I think it just about every scenario a SOT wins hands down as the best fishing kayak, but if you are a fly guy then I can’t think of a good reason to buy one.
For the rest of this article I am only going to focus on SOT kayaks.
Pedal vs Paddle
The last section of this buyer’s guide for best fishing kayaks boils down to the great debate about pedaling vs paddling.
I personally have a pedal kayak, a Hobie Outback, and will never go back to a paddle version again. The advantages are too numerous for that. And I am not even a fly fisherman.
There are two versions of this best fishing kayak. The ones with pedals like the Hobie where you push and underneath the kayak are two fins that move the water. The other was started by Native Watercraft and features a rotary pedal system like a bicycle that powers propellers underneath. Which one you prefer comes down to personal preference.
Hands free fishing is a great way to go for any angler, but especially if you are fly fishing.
Being able to continue to pedal while casting or fighting a fish is essential for fly guys.
There are other advantages that any type of angling can enjoy, like going faster and straighter to cover more area. And not having an aching back, shoulders or torso after a long day out on the water is another huge bonus.
The downside is that these types of best fly fishing kayaks are generally very expensive.
In my opinion it is worth it, however, since it is cheap in operating costs when you compare it to owning a boat.
I won’t go too deep into the pros and cons of paddle kayaks as I think it is pretty obvious that there are more advantages to having a pedal kayak when you are a fly guy.
The thing is that not everybody can afford one. So, yes, you can obviously fish very well from a paddle kayak when fly fishing. Just refer to the buyer’s guide above for the best fishing kayaks and then check out the reviews coming up to see if there is one that suits your needs for your budget.
Wilderness Systems ATAK
This 12 foot fishing kayak was made for fishing while standing. As such it scores really high on our list of the best fly fishing kayaks.
It is 35 inches wide for some incredible stability even if you are standing up while fighting a fish. Don’t think that this wide hull makes for a slow moving barge, however.
The unique design of the hull allows for very precise tracking and you can get speeds you wouldn’t expect from such a wide hull.
The gunnels of best fly fishing kayak are very low which helps to cast while sitting if that is the route you want to go. It also prevents you from getting blown around on those inevitable windy days.
The deck is very clear as long as you don’t over rig it. Most of the area to rig is at the very stern of the boat. Standing up is easy as it has some non slip material on deck so you don’t slip even when it is wet.
You have a cup holder in between your legs but that is about it. The hatch is very forward on the kayak but still reachable easily.
What you’ll really like are the two rail guides on either side of the kayak. This way you can mount some rod holders or even a fish finder that can be easily slid away from you to make more space in the cockpit.
Foot pegs can end up getting tangled, however so this is the one area you need to watch out for.
A transducer can be scupper mounted due to the deck design, but I would be very wary of that since it can be damaged if you beach even one of the best fishing kayaks and forget to pull it up, or if you hit some logs or rocks that you didn’t see. I do, however, love the removable pod for the fish finder as it makes it easy to get it out of the way if you aren’t using it.
It is very comfortable to paddle in as it has a stadium seat that supports the lower back and is quite comfortable. You can also adjust it to fit three different positions.
Downsides, you ask? Two predominant ones. First, the price is very high for a paddle kayak. It does features some great designs, excellent craftsmanship and is made to catch fish, but it is out of reach for some anglers.
The second downside is that it is very heavy. It weighs 89 pounds without any rigging. This will make it very difficult to take to any spots that don’t have a launch where the yak is going to have to be carried to the put in.
Pelican Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak
For fly anglers on a budget you really have to take a look at the Pelican Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak. It is very feature rich and ideal for stand up fly fishing and is one of the best fishing kayaks out there.
As for stability, it is 33 inches wide and has a sort of double hull similar to a hybrid catamaran. This allows water to flow through two channels under the hull for speed, but also adds to its primary stability.
The deck is really its best feature. To stand up, you have plenty of space. And a stand assist cord is there to pull on to help you stand up without risking taking a dunk by wobbling around. The non slip surface of the deck is nice and there is plenty of room to move even while standing up.
Also aiding in standing up easier is the stadium seat. It is elevated in such a way that you can stand right up. Plus it is very comfortable and keeps your bottom from getting wet since it is elevated above the deck.
At 12.3 feet long it is very good at getting some decent speeds also thanks to the catamaran hull. This also adds to the precise tracking to help you keep paddling efficiently.
If you do want to flaunt my advice and go for a rigged deck then there is plenty you can do here. There are already two flush mount rod holders within arm’s reach in the cockpit as well as two behind the seat. Then you have a deck mounted rod holder also within easy reach. It is removable very easily if you’d rather not have anything to tangle your line.
Storage is excellent. With a rectangular front hatch you can easily drop a tackle box in there again within easy reach. What I really love is the bungee covered front well instead of a larger hatch for in hull storage. Things are easier to reach here. In fact you could put a modified milk crate in front of you. Behind the seat is a very deep and well protected well, also covered with bungee tie downs.
The downsides. The foot pegs are really easy to get tangled up in as they are quite close to the top of the gunnels.
Then it is quite heavy at 78 pounds. It can still be doable if you have to portage best fly fishing kayak, but if it is rigged you may need a hand.
Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14
The absolute king of the best fly fishing kayaks is the Hobie Pro Angler Series. I wish I had a dollar for every time I see a fly guy out on a kayak and it turns out to be a Hobie Pro Angler.
When you see the design and the way the deck looks like it is tailor made for fly fishermen then it is no wonder they are so popular.
First, it is more like a human propelled boat than it is the best fishing kayak. You can pretty much do anything on it including bring somebody else on it on the back behind the seat. It’s a beast that is not going to tip over unless you are in some serious seas.
The deck is wide open and gives you plenty of room to stand and even walk around a little bit.
The railing is very solid and can help you to stand up without rocking the boat or needing a line to hold on to. And it has a non slip area so you won’t slide around when it’s wet.
On the rails is a horizontal rod holder so you can keep extra rods handy without them getting in the way of your casts.
Then there is the comfort. The Vantage seat is seriously as comfortable as one you would sit in during a barbecue. It is webbed so you can breathe and not sweat while fishing. Supports your lower back for a long day of fishing without getting fatigued. And once again, standing up from a seated position is made easy since the seat is elevated and your posture doesn’t have you sinking into it.
One thing I always notice when I see a Pro Angler out on the water is the lack of a milk crate. You don’t need one. This thing has tons of storage. Both on the stern and on the deck you have everything you need within reach.
Pedaling is also very easy on the knees and super efficient. Turbo fins underneath are very good at moving a lot of water quickly with minimal effort. Even as heavy as the Pro Angler is, it moves swiftly without putting your back into it at all.
Speaking of heavy here are the two downsides to this best fly fishing kayak. It weighs 138 pounds. No, that isn’t a typo. You’ll either need somebody to help you load it, have an electric assist to get it to the roof rack or use a trailer for it.
The other downside of this best fly fishing kayak has got to be the price. It costs as much as a small boat. I still would rather have one of these best fishing kayaks over a boat any day of the week,however. But, the price point outs this out of range of most anglers.
BKC Sit On Top Solo Fishing Kayak
If you are on a budget but still love the idea of a pedal powered best fly fishing kayak, then you will love this BKC Sit On Top Solo Fishing Kayak. It beats the Pro Angler in a couple of categories and costs a fraction of what you pay for the Hobie.
It is only 10 feet long, though so let’s get that out of the way. Bigger guys may not be able to use this effectively.
If the length is good for your body type and the type of fishing you are looking to do, then this is one awesome kayak. First, the deck is very wide and provides a lot of stability. You have a wide open deck that allows for a lot of movement. The rails on the gunnels will allow you to mount rod holders and a fish finder that can be moved out of the way quickly simply by sliding.
Then there is tons of storage for such a short kayak. Both in the stern and behind the seat in the deck well. Which can fit either a milk crate or cooler and even has a recess for a bucket.
The seat is your typical stadium seat that seems to be finally becoming more or less ubiquitous for the best fishing kayaks. Not only easy on the back it allows you to stand up without fear of falling into the drink.
Now, let me point out a few features that I think are better than the Pro Angler when it comes to the best fly fishing kayaks.
Though I prefer the fins of the Hobie’s, I think a lot of people will appreciate the fact that the BKC can go in reverse just by pedaling in reverse. The Mirage Pro Angler at 14 feet is a beast to try to turn around due to a poor turning radius. You don’t have to turn around unless you want to since you can just back it up if you are running into trouble.
Then there is the weight. At only 56 pounds it can be roofed on top of a car or carried by yourself very easily. This makes it much more approachable than other best fishing kayaks since you can’t always buddy up when getting it to the launch.
One of my favorite features of these best fishing kayaks is the ruder. It is flush with the skeg so if you beach it, it isn’t going to break the pin or axle of the rudder. And you don’t have to worry about lifting it up or the line breaking and not being able to lift it.
At over a thousand less than the Hobie, I think this is a great deal for a pedal driven kayak.
Though I am not a fly guy myself, I have loads of friends who are and also love to go out on their kayaks.
If you have been hesitant to pull the trigger and think that you may have to stay on shore then think again. The best fishing kayaks for fly fisherman are readily available now and are so well suited for that style of fishing that there is no reason to hold back.
If you have any questions about these kayaks or others then drop a line in the box below and I will get back to you ASAP.