The Kayak Advantage
by Lou Perez
There are essentially 2 types of kayaks used for fishing; the sit-inside (SIK) and the sit-on-top (SOT). I highly recommend the SOT as the ultimate kayak for fishing. SOT kayaks are extremely easy to get in and out of, very stable, tough, and reasonably comfortable. A SOT kayak is the safest way for a beginner to get into the sport because if you do happen to flip the boat (which I’ve never done………….. yet), you can simply flip the 'yak over and climb back aboard. In fact, SOT's are the perfect water taxi to reach those hard-to-reach flats that you can easily get out onto and explore on foot. This is a great way to learn new water and find those honey holes.
I will not get into all the specific brands or models here but will recommend you do a quick on-line search to get familiarized with all the different boats available. I fish a 10 ft. 50 lb. Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 that is short enough to fit in the back of my Ford Ranger pickup, but long enough to track pretty well. Throw in a good quality lightweight paddle, PFD, and an adjustable backrest and you are set to go. I paid somewhere in the vicinity of $650 for my kayak, paddle, and PFD and it was worth every penny.
There is one thing that many aspiring yak fishermen worry about with a SOT, and that is the "elements." In the Summertime it is a non-issue, as there is no better way to cool off as going for a paddle on a local lake in a pair of shorts, sandals, and a t-shirt. On the other hand, Spring and Fall pose a slight problem and you will definitely want to wear some protective clothing. I find that a pair of breathable stocking-foot waders, neoprene booties, a snug wading belt, and a waterproof top with adjustable wrist, waist, and neck closures is the ultimate combination for comfort and safety. The wading belt and waterproof paddling top will ensure that you stay nice and dry if you do take a spill, at least long enough to get back into the boat. I highly recommend a few “test spills” in order to learn how this combination of waders and dry-top will behave. Even though I’ve never flipped my boat while fishing, I feel very confident that if I do it will not be a big deal.
SOT kayaks can be used on any body of water from lakes, ponds and streams, to oceans and bays, but in my opinion they thrive on those tiny out of the way ponds and lakes. That is the bulk of my fishing and it really is a beautiful thing to be on the water at sunrise with nothing but the sounds of your paddle and feeding fish to guide the way. Any small pond or lake that has enough shoreline to be able to launch from is worthy of exploration as you truly never know what you will discover. One of my favorite lakes is merely 10 acres in size, but it holds an astonishing number of big bluegills, bass, and crappie. SOT kayaks and small ponds go together like PB&J!!!
When it comes to fly-fishing from a kayak I like to follow one rule….K.I.S.S. You do not need to bring every fly in your arsenal or a variety of rods, reels, lines, and what-not. I usually carry no more than two rods from 2-6 wt. and no longer than 7.5 ft. Many people like to use longer rods out of their boats, but I find that a shorter rod allows for very accurate pinpoint casts to shoreline structures such as boat docks or fallen trees. In fact, two of my favorite 'yak rods are a custom 6 ft., 6 wt. that I built from a fiberglass spinning blank, and a 7.5 ft., 4 wt. that I overline with a 6 wt. line. I prefer softer rods since they are easier to load while sitting and will practically do the casting for you. If you’ve never fly-cast while sitting, it is very difficult to generate much line speed so I rely on the rod to do it for me. When it comes to lines, floating lines are the rule for me as I am usually fishing shallow ponds and lakes and target active fish. I carry 3 fly boxes, a few spools of tippet, nippers, and hemostats in a small shoulder day-pack designed for camera gear that I picked up at Eastern Mountain Sports for $20. That’s it….any more gear than this and you may as well fish out of a bass boat.
I usually start off by trolling a streamer while searching for fishy looking spots. You would not believe the number of fish that will take a trolled fly. It seems that the wake from the kayak stirs up all sorts of juicy critters that bring out the fish en mass. The basic trolling technique is to let out about 30 feet of line and lay the rod between your leg and the side of the yak, pointing at an angle that will give you a good line of sight to the rod tip. Use your leg to brace the rod and if you see the tip go into a bow it is fish on!! Lay the paddle on your lap, pick up the rod, and you are good to go. A white Woolly Bugger is hard to beat on the troll!
Once I have found a fishy looking spot, usually along a weed line, I like to anchor and fan cast to cover as much water as possible. Notice the small dumbbell in the picture above; it makes one hell of an anchor. Drop the dumbbell overboard on the upwind side, tie off to the carrying handle and fish away. One trick I’ve learned is to cover an area by fan casting with a popper and if you miss a few fish, switch to a streamer or nymph. You’ll most likely pick up those fish that missed the popper. A dropper rig consisting of a small nymph tied to the bend of a popper with about 12 inches of tippet is also a great searching tactic.
Fishing out of a kayak is a little awkward at first, but a little time on the water will help you find your comfort zones. Short casts are the rule and always try to get as close to your target as possible without disturbing the water. I find that casting toward the bow, slightly off to one side, is the most comfortable position and puts you in line with the kayak’s stern to bow orientation. If a gust of wind puts you at an angle where you would need to turn your body to cast to your target, it’s better to adjust your position and point the bow toward your target. I like to keep my paddle resting on my lap and have learned to use one hand on the paddle to adjust my position while holding the rod in the other.
Once I have covered an area entirely I pick up the anchor and lay it between my legs (sounds a little fruity, huh), rest the rod with the reel in the area just in front of my seat, pointing toward the bow, and simply begin to paddle. This helps to keep the rod out of the way while paddling to a new spot. If you are moving to an area that is a long paddle away….don’t forget to troll a streamer along the way!!!
I mainly target Bass, Bluegills, and Crappie interchangeably by fishing size 8-10 buggers, wet flies, foam sliders, poppers, and nymphs. I find that a size 10 foam slider will bring the bigger bluegills to hand and provide a big enough meal to entice your average 1-2 pound bass. I guess you could say that I fish for panfish with bass, perch, catfish and carp being pleasant and welcome bi-catch. This type of fishing is a simple, no-frills way to pass a lazy summer afternoon and to me it’s pure bliss. You will experience non-stop action with 50 fish days being quite common.
Not bad for “incidental catch!!
If you are one of the countless poor souls who suffer from “the plight of the shore fisherman”, get yourself a kayak and suffer no more. Here fishy, fishy…who’s laughing now!!!
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