The Best Kayaks for Fly Fishing

Kayaks are a great and easy way to get to tough-to-reach fishing spots! Fly Fishing Expert Robert Levin shares a few of his favorite models.

A kayak on the water at sunrise.

Kayak Fishing in Hilochee at sunup. Photo by Robert Levin

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If you are a fly fisher that has passed up narrow inlets with your boat because they were too small to navigate or have no boat but still want to be out on the water, consider a kayak. Small watercraft for fly fishing has evolved into many choices in the last few decades, the most popular being the kayak.

What to Look for in a Kayak

A man stands on a kayak in a body of water.

It's me! Photo courtesy of Robert Levin

Propulsion Method

Several manufacturers have kayak designs that are specific for fishing. To propel the boat, you’ll need a paddle. However, several kayak models are fitted with a pedal device that allows you to propel the kayak with your feet, freeing your hands for your fly rod. There are also electric units that mount in the space used by the pedal unit available for some kayak models. Of course, a conventional electric trolling motor can be attached to your kayak. If your budget is limited, you don’t need to start with anything more than the conventional paddle though.

Length and Where You Plan to Fly Fish

The first decision to make will be choosing the length of your kayak. Typically, shorter models will weigh less and be easier to transport, which is great if you are fishing alone. That being said, many folks use launch sites on any given day, and most are not going to let you struggle alone to handle your kayak! But, you can’t depend on that happening, so consider that when choosing a model.

You also need to consider where you will be fishing. Even on smaller lakes and ponds, if you are in a smaller kayak, head for shore when the weather turns for the worst. What is a smaller kayak? For solid hull (not inflatable) kayaks, most manufacturers of well-made products offer a 10‘– 11’ length model. Larger kayaks will be up to 14,’ and some models have two seats for two people to fish.

Hull Choices

There are, generally speaking, the two most popular types of kayak hulls. The first is where the seating is below the water line, and your waistline is even with the top of the gunwales (the top of the sides of the craft). This is called a sit-in kayak.

The second type is where the seat is elevated, and your waistline is above the gunwales. In this design, water that splashes into the hull will drain through scupper holes, and the area you sit in stays dry. These are called sit-on-top kayaks. The inside of most of these hulls is filled with some volume of expanded foam. Although the kayak can capsize, it will not sink. You can learn how to reset the kayak upright and get back in should this happen, but it will take practice.

Fishing Features

Several manufacturers offer kayak models designed for fishing. They typically come with rod holders built-in to keep extra rods out of the way and protected. They often have storage wells for gear and ice. They always have mounting rails for depth sounders, drink holders, and numerous other equipment you need for fishing.

Here are some things you should have on your kayak.

  • Anchor: Wind and current will move you along on the water. If you want to stay in an active place, you need a good anchor. Don’t lean over the gunwale and pull up on the anchor quickly—unless you want to go swimming! Instead, mount a smooth ring for the anchor rope to go through.
  • Net: Nets come in various sizes and with multiple-length handles. A net should be within easy reach. You will have to find the right place. Someplace behind you but in a flat position usually works best. Some folks use a rod holder, but it is easy for it to get in the way with the net upright.
  • Map: Keep a man on you of where you’re fishing. If the fishing action is good, it is easy to lose track of how you got to where you are with the wind blowing. Landmarks you can now see might not be familiar. GPS in a smartphone will also help a lot.
  • Waterproof bag: This will protect your smartphone and help keep it out of the sun.
  • Small first aid kit
  • Flashlight or small headlamp: This is hand to have in case you get delayed in coming back to the launch.
  • Plenty of water to drink
  • Warning device: No matter how good a swimmer you are, if you are fishing in a rural area, alone and out of sight of any other people, consider a warning device like this.
  • Floatation device: This is a given!

All of the items above should be attached to you or in a storage container attached to the kayak with a lanyard. Even your rod and reel can be secured with a lanyard. Your paddle should be in clips and also tied with a lanyard.

Here are some kayak models to consider which are all designed for fishing. Remember, you will be sitting in there for several hours out on the water so make sure you look at what features each model has. Your Fly Fishing Expert on Curated can also help you make the proper selection for the type of fishing you intend to do.

Hobie Kayaks

Hobie is one of the premium kayak manufacturers, and they developed the Mirage drive, which is a petal drive that works with flippers that mimic the swimming strokes of penguins! The seating and petal spacing are adjustable.

Outback

Top down and side view of the Hobie Outback kayak.

The Hobie Outback Model has plenty of gear storage spaces, rod storage spaces, and longer mounting rails for electronics like depth sounders and GPS units. These models have elaborate seating arrangements as well, with seats that are really comfortable, even after long trips on the water. These wider kayaks even allow you to stand up while casting and the seats are designed to make it easier to stand. Notice the stretch pouches mounted in different locations. These are great for storing maps, keys, and licenses—all the things you can’t afford to lose while fishing!

Pro Angler

A top down view and side view of the Hobie Pro Angler Kayak.

This is Hobie’s ultimate fishing kayak. Besides all the accessories and features mentioned for the previous model, the steerable rudder is a retractable skeg for improved course-keeping. A sail accessory is available, as are a number of other accessories. The seat is fully adjustable and includes lumbar support. This kayak is available with different pedal units that offer flip-up fins for when you are in the shallows or deep weeds and a model that offers power in forward and reverse. You also have the option of an electric drive unit that replaces the Mirage pedal drive. This is the battleship of fishing kayaks!

Sportsman Kayaks

Old Town

Top down view and side view of the Old Town Kayak.

The Old Town has an ultra-stable Double-U Hull that glides quietly through the water while providing a stable and comfortable stand-up fishing platform. The low-maintenance pedal drive has a patented docking system for easy launch and landing.

This kayak has these great additional features:

  • The seat design has lumbar support and is adjustable to accommodate different leg lengths.
  • Mesh cover provides ventilation and drainage to keep you dry.
  • One forward-facing and two rear-facing flush-mounted rod holders.
  • Rod and tackle management is made easier by the oversized tank well in the stern.
  • Dedicated horizontal rod storage for quick access.
  • Cup holder for your favorite beverage.

Old Town with Minn Kota Motor

Top down and side view of the Old Town with Minn Kota Motor Kayak.

The saltwater-ready kayak with a 45lb-thrust 12V Minn Kota motor gets you out there and back! Spot-Lock technology holds your kayak in position while the motor combines foot brace steering for hands-free fishing.

This kayak model has the following features:

  • Premium seating for all-day comfort.
  • Adjustable and removable seat for sitting high or low in the kayak.
  • Large, open cockpit and aft tank well provide a platform that is easy to organize.
  • Two forward-facing and two rear-facing flush mount rod holders.
  • Equipped with shallow water anchor mounting inserts.
  • An extra-large rudder provides excellent boat control in forward and reverse.

Native Kayaks

Slayer 12.5 Max

The Slayer 12.5 Max Kayak. There is a top down view and a side view.

A popular design that has stood the test of time, the Slayer Propel 13 has been updated to the 12.5 max, which specializes in both freshwater and saltwater environments.

This new model has these features:

  • Propel pedal drive.
  • The bow hatch area has a small bucket, a location for battery placement, and easy transducer wiring through the integrated hull scupper.
  • Dual horizontal rod storage.
  • Dual side tackle storage and under-seat storage drawer.
  • Hi-performance rudder.
  • Three molded-in rod holders, molded-in cup holder, and split paddle storage.

Bonafide Kayaks

Bonafide SS 107

Two views of the Bonafide SS 107 Kayak. One is top down and one is the side view.

Check out the hybrid catamaran hull on this well-made kayak! It will take you where you want to go in comfort.

This kayak has the following features:

  • Sliding drawer under the seat.
  • Multi-rod and paddle management points.
  • Ultra-high seating, for a bass boat-like position.
  • An additional standing.
  • Bow hatch and drop-in bow storage bin.
  • Integrated transducer protection and wire routing.

Bonafide P127

Two views of the Bonafide P127 Kayak. One is top down and one is the side view.

This fishing kayak has been carefully designed for versatility and comfort and offers good stability with paddling performance and handy angler features.

Some features of this model include:

  • Pedal drive.
  • Hybrid catamaran hull.
  • Bow hatch and stern tank-well.
  • Transducer through-hull scupper.
  • Sliding drawer under the seat.
  • Multi-rod and paddle management points.
  • Ultra-high seating, for a bass boat-like position.
  • An additional standing.

Let's Get Gliding!

I hope you have a great time picking out your kayak for your next fishing adventure. If you want to discuss these in more depth or have any other questions regarding fly fishing gear, reach out to your Fly Fishing Expert on Curated and we would be happy to walk you through choosing the perfect selection for your needs!

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Written By
Robert Levin
Robert Levin
Fly Fishing Expert
I have been an avid fisherperson since my teenage years. Caught the bug from my dad who fished exclusively with a fly rod. Not that he ever fished with a fly on that rod, he trusted the weight of the fly line as it would not break when he pulled a five foot Chain Pickerel out of the lily pads in the...
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