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Finding the Best Fly Fishing Kayak

One of the best things about fly fishing is that you can often fish and wade without the need for a boat. When you’re fishing in a foot of water – a boat doesn’t make much sense.

You can accomplish a lot by wading, but how many times have you wished you had a way to get under that brush or into the deeper water where you spot the big fish? Not everyone has the energy and resources for a full-fledged motorboat, but a kayak is perfect is for fly fishers.

Best Fly Fishing Kayak

Let’s learn what you need to know about fly fishing kayaks including the differences between a fishing kayak and pontoon, features to look for, and recommendations on great fishing kayaks on the market right now. A kayak can get your more places and on more fish without breaking the bank.

Can You Fly Fish from a Kayak?

You can absolutely fly fish from a kayak. Not only is fly fishing from a kayak viable, but it also makes for some thrilling, and sometimes better fishing. Fishing from a kayak is undoubtedly one of the easiest, most affordable, and quickest ways to get on the water instead of struggling onshore.

Benefits of Fly Fishing from a Kayak

You’ve probably heard the joke that BOAT stands for “break out another thousand.” Boats are expensive both in purchase and upkeep, making them inaccessible for many fly fishers. Kayaks are a tiny fraction of the cost of a motorboat while providing many same of the benefits anglers need. They don’t require fuel and have little to no moving parts that need to be serviced.

Kayaks make fly fishing much more accessible for anglers. You normally need a truck and ramp to offload a traditional boat, but you only need a car and shoreline to get on the water with a kayak. You can use kayaks to get more access to areas of your local lake and go much further than you ever could, all without a lot of time or resources. Inflatable kayaks also let anglers make it into the deepest stretches of wilderness with a boat.

A kayak can go several places a larger boat can’t including water only a few inches deep and over weeds. Because they’re quick, nimble, and easy to maneuver kayaks make for excellent fishing through reeds, across docks, and several other places you can’t squeeze a boat in or can’t access from shore.

Types of Fishing Kayaks

What most people think of when they imagine a kayak. The rider sits within the boat and propels it with a paddle or pedals. Sit-in kayaks are nimble and quick but have limited to access to storage options and provide limited sight. Sit-in kayaks are exceptionally light and portable, especially inflatable models.

Also known as sit-up. Kayak where the rider sits up above the kayak instead of within. Because you’re sitting up you get a better view of the water and can normally stand up without tipping. Storage access is easier but sit-ons are slower and less nimble than sit-in kayaks.

The rider uses an oar(s) to prepare a paddle kayak. Paddle kayaks are much faster and quieter than pedal kayaks but requires both hands.

Uses a pedal system to propel the kayak. Using your feet to move forward frees up both hands for fishing. Pedal kayaks aren’t generally used by anglers since they’re heavier, more difficult to upkeep, and the sound and motion of pedals spooks most fish.

Kayak that you’re able to inflate, deflate, and stow. Inflatable kayaks are among the most affordable of kayaks and because you can deflate them, they can be tossed in a backpack and carried anywhere. Inflatable kayaks aren’t the toughest, but most can withstand more than you’d imagine.

Non-inflatable kayak traditionally constructed of fiberglass, PVC, or a combination of hard plastics. Tougher and normally faster than inflatable kayaks.

What to Look for in Fishing Kayak

How much gear do you need, and can you store it all on the kayak? Just as importantly, can you get to it while you’re on the water? Don’t only look for ample storage, look for common sense storage that makes sense for fly fishing on the water.

If you intend on standing frequently, you’ll need a sit-on kayak for more stability. Look for strong foot wells on a sit-on kayak for the most balance.

Don’t underestimate the seat. You might be on your kayak anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, so you need a seat you’ll be comfortable in through the long haul. Look for seats with plenty of comfort and adjustments so your day isn’t ruined by a sore butt.

Just because it’s a kayak doesn’t mean you don’t have options as you can now find fishing kayaks with internal storage, live wells, bait compartments, rod holders, and more.

Fly Fishing Kayak vs. Pontoon

Fly fishing kayaks and pontoons have many similarities but also many differences. The largest difference is in design. A kayak cuts a wedge into the water with the rider (usually) seated within the boat while a pontoon uses pontoons on opposite sides of a suspended driver’s seat.

Pontoons have many benefits. They’re affordable, lightweight, easily stowable, come with easy to access storage compartments, and are much more stable than kayaks. However, they’re bulkier, are more difficult to control, and are easily thrown around in the wind.

Kayaks are also affordable, easy to tow, compact, but they’re much more nimble and faster than pontoons. Kayaks aren’t as stable and don’t have as many storage options as pontoons but if you want to cut through the water a kayak is the way to go.

Now that you know fishing kayak and pontoon basics, let’s preview 9 of the best fly-fishing kayaks (and one pontoon) available right now.

The Best Fly Fishing Kayaks

Sea Eagle Boats Logo
  • Capacity? Designed for 2 individuals or a total weight of 500 pounds, but weighs only 26 pounds.

  • Chambers? 3 chambers total ( port, starboard, floor) help keep this kayak stable. Which is why it can be rated for up to Class III whitewater.

  • Material? 33 mil Polykrylar (K80 PVC) makes for a rugged kayak, whether fly fishing or whitewater rafting.

If you’re a serious angler you want all the bells and whistles of Sea Eagle’s 350fx found further down our list, but if you’re more of a shoreline warrior or need something cheap and easy to get you to spots, then the 330 Sport Kayak is a great bet. The 330 comes in one-person and two-person setups are only 26 pounds and are built stable with I-beam construction. The 330 also comes with many great accessories like a foot pump, repair kit, and stow bag. The Sea Eagle 330 Sport Kayak is also available on Amazon.

Key Features:

  • Weight. The Sea Eagle 330 weighs only 26 pounds and is 34 inches wide by 11 feet, two inches long when inflated, 24″ x 16″ x 7″ when deflated.

  • Capacity. This Kayak can be used by one or two people, making it a flexible choice if anglers decide not to fish solo.

  • Inflation Time. Can be fully inflated in about 6 minutes through 5 one-way valves and an inflation pressure of just 1.1 psi.

  • Configurations. Available in 4 unique configurations: Quiksail, Pro, Pro Solo, and Deluxe.

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  • Capacity? Designed for 2 individuals or a total weight of 400 pounds, but weighs only 46.73 pounds.

  • Chambers? 3 chambers total help keep this kayak stable, with I-beam floor for rigidity.

  • Material? 30 gauge vinyl, 3-ply super-tough construction with a high molecular PVC that is unaffected by gasoline, oil and salt water.

Intex’s Excursion is a great balance between value and quality. Ready for fishing, this inflatable sit-in kayak comes with two comfy seats, recessed rod holders, mounting bracket for GPS, aluminum oars, and storage space in stern and bow. Constructed of 3-ply PVC, the Excursion resists damage from the sun, oil, and saltwater. Accessories include patch kit, oars, pressure gauge, and pump. A great first fishing kayak.

Key Features:

  • Size. The Intex Excursion Pro weighs in at 46.73 pounds but packs down small neatly into a 24.38″ x 12.50″ x 22.88″ carry bag.

  • Capacity. This Kayak can be used by one or two people with adjustable seating.

  • Inflation Time. Unknown, but can be fully inflated with a the included hi-output pump. through the spring-loaded high-pressure valves.

  • Configurations. Single configuration with multiple seating adjustments.

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  • Capacity? Designed for a single fisherman, but has is a high-capacity pontoon with extra storage.

  • Chambers? No. Heavy-duty pontoon boat with abrasion-resistant PVC bottom.

  • Material? PVC bottom, nylon top, powder-coated steel tube frame, bronze oarlocks, cold and heat-resistant bladders.

Yes, a pontoon. We’ve included the Colorado Pontoon on our list as an option for those more interested in a lazy and fun day on the water compared to white-knuckled angling. You’ll give up some agility, but the Colorado is loaded with fishing accessories like 10 mesh pockets, 12 zippered pockets, and a storage rack. At under 75 lbs. and less than 500 bucks, the Colorado Pontoon is a great way to while away the hours.

Key Features:

  • Size. The Colorado Pontoon Boat assembled size is 108″L x 56″W x 26″H and weighs 71.5lbs.

  • Capacity. One fisherman or lazy river rider.

  • Inflation Time. N/A

  • Notes. Some states require a bill of sale document, and the manufacturer cannot provide the bill of sale

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  • Capacity? A maximum total weight of 275lbs and a one person capacity.

  • Chambers? Non-inflatable, twin-arched multi-chine hull.

  • Material? High molecular weight polyethylene

Pelican produces excellent mid-range kayaks, and the Sentinel is one of their most popular models. This hard side sit-up model is only 44 lbs. and less than 10’ long, making it totable for one angler. Fishing-specific features include center compartment, two rod holders, front, and rear storage. Pelican’s proprietary technology makes the Sentinel both lightweight and one of the most buoyant single-person kayaks on the list. Load it down with gear – the Sentinel can handle it.

Key Features:

  • Size. The Pelican 100x Angler weighs in at 37 pounds and measure 114″ x 13.25″

  • Capacity. A single angler or average paddler looking for a fun day on the water.

  • Inflation Time. N/A

  • Note. Only available in Canada, unless purchased through Amazon

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  • Capacity? Single seat with multiple footrest positions for different size anglers.

  • Chambers? Non-inflatable, flat-bottom hull for maximum stability.

  • Material? High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

Lifetime’s Tamarack Sit-Up kayak is popular thanks to its value and middle-of-the-road price point. Constructed of high-density polyethylene, the Tamarack is tougher than most inflatable models and while not as portable, the Tamarack can be stowed in or on most mid to full-sized SUVs. Fishing features include tackle compartments, rod holders, and paddle holders.

Key Features:

  • Size. The Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 weighs in at 51 pounds and measure s 120″ x 31″ x 14″

  • Capacity. One angler up to 275lbs

  • Warranty. 5 year

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  • Capacity? Single seat with adjustable ERGOFIT G2 seating system

  • Chambers? Non-inflatable, multi-chine flat bottom hull

  • Material? Proprietary multi-layer material RAM-X durable high molecular weight polyethylene (HMWPE)

f you like the Pelican Sentinel but need a few more features, check out the Pelican Basscreek. This ultra-stable sit-in hard side kayak is feature rich with ErgoFit G2 seating system, locking hatch in front, secondary storage hatch, two flush-mounted rod-holders, swivel rod holder, and six eyelets for other accessories. One of the best overall values for your dollar without a doubt.

Key Features:

  • Size. The Pelican Basscreek measure 120″ X 30.5″ X 16″ and weighs in at 50 pounds.

  • Capacity. Single seat with a max capacity of 325lbs.

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Sea Eagle Boats Logo
  • Capacity? Designed for 1 individual with a total weight of 575 pounds, but weighs only 51 pounds.

  • Chambers? 3 chambers total ( port, starboard, floor), rated for up to Class IV whitewater.

  • Material? 1000 Denier w/ 2000 Denier Reinforced Sections with glued and quadruple overlapped seams.

Sea Eagle has been manufacturing high-quality fishing kayaks since 1968, and the 350fx is one of their most popular boats. The 350fx comes in three models – Deluxe Solo, Pro Solo, and the Swivel Seat Fishing Rig package. Considering the Fishing Rig Package is only $200 bucks more than the Deluxe Solo and comes with 360-degree seat, it’s well worth it for anglers. The Solo models are sit-in while the Swivel Seat is a sit-up model. Expect lots of accessories for these inflatable kayaks including paddle, repair kit, air pump, stow bag, and much more. The Sea Eagle 350fx Fishing Explorer is also available on Amazon.

Key Features:

  • Weight. The Sea Eagle 350fx is a heavy-duty kayak weighing in at 51 pounds. It measures 11’6″ x 3’3″ inflated and deflated: 31″ x 19″ x 10″

  • Capacity. This Kayak is for solo use only.

  • Inflation Time. Can be fully inflated in about 7 minutes through 3 recessed one-way valves and an inflation pressure of 3.2 psi.

  • Configurations. Available in 3 unique configurations: swivel seat fishing rig, pro solo, and deluxe solo.

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Brooklyn Kayak Company PK11 Angler Kayak ($1,437.00)

  • Capacity? Seats 1 individual with a total weight of 420 pounds, with a dry-weight of 60 pounds.

  • Chambers? No. Roto Molded single piece hull

  • Material? High Density Polyethylene HDPE

Most of the kayaks on our list are paddle-driven but the Brooklyn Kayak Company PK11 is driven by foot operated pedals. The PK11 is made for fishing with 3 built in rod holders, a cargo bungee tie-down, two waterproof storage hatches, and can support up to 420 pounds. The BKC PK11’s pedal drive is strong enough for the ocean too. BKC also produces a longer version and tandem version of the Angler kayak.

Key Features:

  • Sizew. The BKC PX11 is a 60 pound vessel. It measures 10 feet 6 inches long by 34 inches wide.

  • Capacity. Solo use, up to 420 pounds

  • Propulsion. Unlike the other paddle driven kayaks on this list, the BKC PX11 has a reverse pedal for instant reverse maneuvers.

  • Warranty. 5 Year Hull, 1 Year parts, and 2 year pedal warranties.

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Alpacka Mule ($950-$1,450)

  • Capacity? Single open or with a removable whitewater deck.

  • Chambers? 11.7-inch tube diameter

  • Material? Proprietary 210-denier high count nylon hull and 840-denier ballistic nylon floor (Made in USA)

If you like hauling into the backwoods and need a high-quality (and lightweight) boat to tote with you check the Alpacka Mule. At only 7 pounds, the Mule is strong enough to carry 250 pounds of person and 100 pounds of gear without hitting the bottom. A tough 210-denier nylon construction protects you from rips and snags so you can take the Mule into the thick of it.

Key Features:

  • Size. The Alpacka Mule holds up to 500 pounds, and weighs between 7 and 8.3 pounds depending on configuration.

  • Capacity. One rower or fisherman

  • Configurations. The Alpacka Mule can be configured with an open top, removable whitewater deck, self bailer, and/or cargo fly (dry bags sold separately)

  • Warranty. Limited Lifetime

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Frequently Asked Questions about Fly Fishing Kayaks

Yes. You can do all types of fishing from a kayak whether it’s fly fishing or ocean fishing, if there’s a kayak built for those waters it can be fished.

There are numerous material types for fishing kayaks. The most common are some form of Polyethylene, Denier, Vinyl, or PVC.

It truely depends on the kayak and the range is large. Alpacka rafts make a kayak small and light enough for backpacking, at 7 pounds. Whereas a Polyethylene kayak may weigh more than 60 pounds.

The entry level price for a kayak is around $300 and can easily cost more than $1000. Before purchasing a kayak for fishing, it’s important to understand the features and buy based upon needs, not just cost.

Go Further with a Fly Fishing Kayak

Fishing kayaks are affordable, convenient, and can take you to places you’ve always wanted to fish. Think of your needs, fishing style, and look over features and options to choose the best kayak for your budget. With the right kayak at the right price – you’ll hit a new level of angling fun.