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Home / Susan Thrasher / Fly Fishing with a Kayak or SUP

Fly Fishing with a Kayak or SUP

August 6, 2015
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Adding a kayak or paddle board to your fly fishing adventure is sure to enhance the experience.  Although it may seem daunting at first, you can easily get the hang of it.

One of the things I enjoy sharing with beginners new to fly fishing is that fly fishing is an activity that can be studied and built upon for a lifetime. Some beginners are surprised to hear that access to the water extends beyond simply wading into the river or stepping into a drift boat with a guide. Many are intrigued by the idea of fly fishing from a kayak or paddle board. This is one of my favorite ways to fish, and if you haven’t ventured out to try it, this article may help to pique your interest and provide you with some helpful tips.



To some, fly fishing from a kayak may seem intimidating and may appear to require more coordination than they are capable of producing. However, it just takes a little practice. One way to test this out is to sit on the ground and cast. All the essential casting rules and techniques apply; you’re just starting your cast a little closer to the water. You’ll need to practice line control and line management, and this comes with practice. For some, stripping in line and placing it in your lap works well. For others, allowing the fly line to float along side the kayak is best. The best way to find out what works for you is to get out and try it.


Outfitting your kayak

Basically, you can fish out of anything that floats; however, I have found that a sit-on- top kayak, the type with no enclosure, or a SUP (stand up paddle board) works best. It makes line management easier and gives you more room to move around and to access your gear. You also have room to pack extras such as a rain gear, bug spray and sunscreen. Today, you can purchase kayaks specifically designed for fishing which are very stable.


I typically lay my paddle across my lap once I reach a location where I want to cast. However, paddle holders may be mounted along the side of the kayak, which gets the paddle completely out of the way. Be sure and attach a leash to your paddle in case you drop it in the water. That way, you won’t have to swim after it or have it swept away with the current. This was a lesson I found out the hard way.


Small kayak anchors are ideal when you find a successful fishing spot and want to stay in one place. Either the current or the wind can move you out of position, and using an anchor will keep you from having to paddle back up stream.


Mounting a rod holder within reach is also a handy accessory. This gets the rod out of the of way when you are paddling between fishing areas.


Small coolers are perfect for the kayak. You can secure your cooler with a carabineer or bungee cord and is just the right size for lunch, a few snacks and a bottle of water. On a SUP it actually serves as your seat!


A dry box is strongly suggested to hold a set of keys, your phone and a small camera. Nothing ruins a day faster than dropping your iPhone in the water! The box may be attached to your seat or the boat so it stays secure, and there is no risk in having it float away.


Don’t forget your personal flotation device (pfd). Not only are they a must for safety, but they are required on most rivers and the fines can be steep if it’s discovered that you don’t have one in the boat with you.


Kayaking vs. Wading

One of the many advantages of fishing out of a kayak is the ability to float beyond the crowds. I have arrived early at river access points, only to find anglers standing shoulder to shoulder. When you are wading, you may be limited to the distance you can put between you and your fellow angler. In a kayak, you can quickly move beyond the access point and fish in less populated areas. Kayaking is so versatile. You can spend the full day floating and never leave the boat, or you can skip between locations and step out of the kayak to wade into new areas.




Everyone on the river is out to enjoy the day, so remember the “golden rule.” You wouldn’t want someone walking through your fishing spot, so be polite to others. When approaching other anglers, bring in your line. If possible, paddle behind them and avoid disturbing the water where they are fishing. If it’s too shallow or impossible to move behind them, excuse yourself and float quietly past them. The river is for everyone’s enjoyment, so please be kind. Also, don’t forget to pack out more than you take in. Unfortunately, we have people who use our rivers as garbage cans. It doesn’t take much to pick up a discarded can or bottle that you see floating in the water or along the bank.


So, if you haven’t tried fishing from a kayak, make this the year you give it a try.

Pack a lunch and be ready for a relaxing day. Even on days when the fish don’t cooperate, the float alone will be well worth the trip!



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About Susan

Susan Thrasher

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My Bio

Susan Thrasher, an FFF certified instructor, is the owner and operator of Southern Brookies Fly Fishing in Lancaster, Tennessee. For over a decade her teaching passion has extended into leading Casting for Recovery in Middle Tennessee and as a staff instructor at the Joan Wulff School of Fly Fishing in the New York Catskills.  In 2007, Susan and Nikki Mitchell founded the Music City Fly Girls, a Nashville based women's fly fishing club with over 40 active members.