As fly anglers we share many common
interests. One of the foremost is in
having good access to our fisheries. In
the case of some fisheries, it's simply
a matter of transportation to your favorite
stream or pond. However, for many of us who
fish larger lakes or rivers, getting to the
better fishing spots can be more of a challenge.
Often wading may not be an option. Sometimes
tubes or pontoon style kick boats are not
practical due to distances or unfriendly
environment. Canoes may not work well on
some waters due to their tendency to weather
vane in wind. Kayaks on the other hand can
successfully defeat many of the problems faced
by boaters and they are the focus of this article.
I have been an active kayaker since the fall
of 1968 when Mechanics Illustrated published
plans for the Plyak, a sporty kayak of plywood
construction. In the 37 years since building
that first kayak, I have owned a steady
progression of them.
I use them for fly fishing, exploring new waters
and overnight fishing and camping trips with
friends. I paddle larger waters where I can
not see the other shore as well as those that
barely permit access for my kayak. I have
found the kayak to be both practical and safe
under most conditions and have developed
considerable confidence in their capabilities.
The first thing that appeals to me about kayaks
is ease of transport. They can be carried either
on a simple roof rack or in the bed of a truck.
It takes only seconds to transfer the kayak from
my truck to the water or back again. That is a
very big plus in my book. I can grab a rod and
my small tackle bag from the rack in my tying room,
a bottle of water from the fridge, load my kayak
and gear, and be en route to the landing in about
three minutes flat. At the landing, it takes
about the same amount of time to launch the kayak,
stow my gear and park the truck. I can easily paddle
to a favorite fishing spot in a matter of minutes,
some of them virtually inaccessible by any other
means. I can also cover a lot of water in a kayak.
They are light, quick and agile. And of course, you
don't really require a landing for launching a kayak.
You can throw them in any water you can reach. It's
just quicker and easier for an old guy like me to
back down the landing and drop the kayak in the water.
Once on the water, I rig my fly rod and stow
it in easy reach using the bungee on the forward
deck area. As I paddle to my fishing hole, I
will slow frequently and cast my fly to any
structure in the area. Some days I never reach
the intended spot, finding plenty of action nearer
the landing. Once I settle into a spot, I will
strap my double paddle to the recessed paddle
holder with the bungee provided to keep it out
of the way. I carry a small canoe paddle for
ease of movement. I have heard others complain
about the difficulty of maneuvering under paddle
in a kayak while fly fishing. If you ever have
an opportunity to watch a freestyle canoeist
perform, you might change your mind. With a
single paddle using a sculling stroke and a
minimum of movement, their canoe will move
three ways from Sunday with hardly a ripple.
You can perform similar moves with your kayak
with a bit of practice. Due to their low center
of gravity kayaks are quite stable. They are
less affected by winds because of their low
profile. They can easily be loaded and
transported by a single individual. They are
not subject to registration fees or annual taxes.
Prices for some very suitable kayaks are no more
than the price of a good fly rod.
In my opinion, kayaks are an excellent choice
for many fly fishers, particularly in the warm
water environment or for those fishing larger
bodies of water for trout. And let's not forget
the salt water fisheries many of us prefer.
There are a whole host of well designed kayaks
on today's market that are well suited for our
I won't try to tell you which one best
suits your fishery as there are many advertisements
and forums that will explain it for you in minute
detail. My interest is simply to present another
option that you may not have considered. If perhaps
like me, you choose to use the "minimalist" approach
to fishing larger waters, you may find kayaks a
very interesting option. I challenge you to give
it try. You may be very pleasantly surprised. ~ Jim Hatch
Since retirement from the Navy in 1985, Jim
has been very active in paddle sports. Initially
setting up a Wilderness Adventure Program for
the Navy, he has been a guide for almost two
decades and is currently the Paddle Sports
Coordinator for Berkeley County, South Carolina.
When not paddling for the county, you can find
him plying the waters of the Santee Cooper Lakes
by kayak in the pursuit of red eared sunfish on