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.
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
Affordable – 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.
Accessible – 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.
Go More Places – 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
Sit-In Kayak – 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.
Sit-On Kayak – 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.
Paddle Kayak – 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.
Pedal Kayak – 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.
Inflatable Kayak – 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.
Hard side Kayak – 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
Gear Storage – 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.
Can You Stand? – 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.
Seat – 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 adjustability so your day isn’t ruined by a sore butt.
Fishing Specific Features – 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.
9 Great Fishing Kayaks
Sea Eagle 330 Sport Kayak ($299)
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.
Intex Excursion Pro Kayak ($416.59)
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, and pump. A great first fishing kayak.
Classic Accessories Colorado Pontoon ($609.79)
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.
Pelican Sentinel 100X ($678.98)
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.
Lifetime Tamarack Angler ($797.68)
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.
Pelican Basscreek 100xp Angler ($994.56)
If 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.
Sea Eagle 350fx Fishing Explorer ($1,099-$1,299)
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.
BKC PK11 Angler Kayak ($1,437.00)
Most of the kayaks on our list are paddle-driven but the BKC PK11 is driven by foot operated pedals. The BKC 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.
Alpacka Mule ($950-$1,450)
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.
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.