The line between life and death, fly fishing from kayaks

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Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides

Lao Tzu

 

Paddle fishing is a term covering a large number angling styles.  Among these styles is the challenge of fly fishing from a kayak.  So, why would someone want to fly fish from a kayak?  For the same reason many of us get into kayaks in the first place; a greater sense of connection to the natural environment, the world around us and to the sport we are so passionate about.  Before you run out and try your hand at flying from a yak, there is one important thing to consider; the humble fly line.

If you think paddling long distances, fighting the wind and trying to locate fish are tough, you obviously haven’t played with fly line.  The biggest challenge facing kayakers with fly rods is line management.  Fly line seems to have the uncanny ability to find each and every element on a kayak that it can get caught on, squeezed in, or hung around… sometimes it finds all three of these elements at the same time.  Making sure your kayak or canoes deck is free of these potential snags is the first line of defense. Some things that can cause problems include rod holders, accessory mounts, and knots in bungee cord ends, buckles, loose straps, extra rods and tackle.  The smoother the exposed surfaces the better off you will be, especially when you cannot reach the further parts of your vessel.

A well worked out system is needed as a second line of tangle defense and to to present your fly from a kayak.  This includes a place to set your rod and reel, pile your stripped line and hold your fly.  Often, this can all be accomplished with the use of a stripping basket.  This is especially handy for keeping your rig at the ready so you can quickly stow your paddle and get your fly on the water without wasting time once you decide to fish.  Some baskets can accommodate the line and your rod as well.  I prefer a collapsing stripping basket that can be worn on the waist.  It’s great for wading as well as use on the kayak and it stores nicely.  Sit on top kayaks and open decks seem to do well with the addition of a stripping basket.  Sit inside kayaks are their own stripping basket if you keep them free of snags and often a towel over the from of the cockpit makes a nice launch pad for your next cast.  Some anglers simply pile the line in in front of them and place their rod between their legs.  Once your ready to fish, you simply put down your paddle and pick up you fly rod.

Standing in a kayak presents special challenges but is a great way to site fish if you have the ability and the right vessel.  Casting and line management can also be easier from a standing position.  A standing angler can strip off the amount of line they are planning to cast into the kayak or stripping basket, hold the fly, rod and line in one hand and pole along with the other hand or drift with the wind and current.  If there are not a lot of weeds it may be easier to leave the fly dragging along behind a bit.  This makes for an quick and easy presentation.

As is always true of fly casting, practice your technique and prepare your vessel before you get on the water.  If you plan on doing any fishing from a seated position, get a nice low beach chair to practice from.  Stow your equipment as you plan to paddle fish it and practice with it so that when you are finally on the water presenting to a fish the struggle is at only one side of the line.