I recently took the kayak out for the first time this year to shake off the rust. It’s been nearly a full year since I last went kayak fishing. I now remember why I rarely went kayak fishing last year… or more specifically why I rarely go kayak fly fishing at all.
Kayak fishing is a level up in difficultly over regular stand-around fishing, or even stand-around-a-boat fishing, mainly because of the limited space available to you– both in terms of gear, and all ability to maneuver to properly cast. When I used to spin fish I would throw a small tackle box and a 6′ ultralight rod/reel into the ‘yak… and even then I felt cramped. Today I pulled out a “small” 8-foot fiberglass 6-weight, one of my sling packs, and a lanyard to hang about my neck.
Worse, I didn’t bother to rig up the ‘yak with an anchoring system. This is a little bit of laziness but also the result of the fact that this ‘yak is shared with my wife (we have another kayak, one that I do not enjoy using because it is heavier and the cockpit is more cramped; with my lower back and the sitting position I have to take up in that ‘yak, there is no good position that will keep my legs from falling asleep). I would love to modify this bare-bones ‘yak for fishing purposes, but she doesn’t need all the excess stuff.
I didn’t catch a thing… didn’t even see a fish… but I came away with a few good reminders to adhere to going forward:
– Rig the kayak with an anchoring system. Preferably one with both fore and aft anchors. Trying to both fish and steer/control the ‘yak in wind is not fun and not what 75% of kayak fishing should be about
– Carry a light rod setup. And use lightweight flies. The glass rod and old Medalist reel just wore me down way too quickly. Modern lightweight graphite is the way to go here. I’ll also argue that shorter is better for trying to deal with rigging issues out of the ‘yak, and lighter weight flies simply cast better from the sitting position in the boat. The 7’9″ 3-wt I’m wrapping right now will be perfect for this. I’m also intrigued at the potential of using the Orvis Clearwater 765-4… I love how that rod casts and bet it would do well as a boat rod.*
– Carry less stuff. The sling pack was way too much. Next time I’m thinking one small fly box and the lanyard. I was actually very, very happy with the lanyard, much more so than I am when using it while wading. It was unobtrusive and had all the tools I needed within easy reach rather than scattered about the bottom of the hull.
I did remember why I used to kayak fish all the time back when we lived in West Bend… it’s such a joy to work silently across the water, stalking fish among the lily pads and drowned timber. I usually get a bit miffed when I walk away from a days’ fishing empty handed, but I was okay with it today but I still got a good ‘yak adventure in at the same time. It won’t be much longer until I set out again.
*The question you may ask is “Well, why not use a longer rod to get better height over the water, especially since you’re sitting right at the water line?” I’ve used a 9’ 5-weight from a kayak before, and I’ll mention the one downside I see when having a long, long fly rod: if something goes wrong with your line rigging– knots, twists, broken line, etc.– it’s very difficult to work on it in the boat itself. The rod is simply too long to effectively reach all of the guides if it needs to be re-lined, for example. Even at 8 feet the glass rod today was a bit of a chore when I started having some issues with the reel drag and needed to pull the line off in the middle of the lake. Thus I think a shorter rod is simply my choice for fishing out of a small boat.