March 14th, 2005

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Is There a Kayak in Your Future?

Jim Hatch

By Jim Hatch, S.C.

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 fisheries.

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

About Jim:

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 the fly.

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