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Canoes, Kayaks, And the Challenges of Fly Fishing

Updated: Mar 19

Most of the streams here in the Shenandoah Valley and the surrounding Appalachian mountains are tiny, easily accessible streams. Wading is the norm and most streams you can step across at many points. A dry fly is the only thing you are going to float down the stream. However, we do have some larger waterways like the Shenandoah River and it's tributaries, and several waterways with boat ramps or places to launch.

Fly fishing from a canoe or kayak can be quite difficult, but also can be worth the effort to reach water otherwise not accessible from the bank. It is important to be aware of the limitations of the boat in rapids and the water conditions. It is also important to be aware of the safety considerations of fishing from a boat, such as wearing a life jacket and having a whistle or other signaling device. Additionally, it is important to be aware of the local laws and regulations of entering and exiting a waterway. Most states I have ever been in allow access at most bridges for navigable waters, and the rule is you stay below the high water mark. However, it is important to make sure of this so you are actually able to fish instead of arguing with landowners or game wardens.

Line management is the hardest and first problem besides the actual water current and wind. Casting has to be totally controlled and you should be able to haul without moving yourself too much or you can flip your craft. When fishing from a canoe or kayak, it is important to use the right tackle. A longer rod is best for casting from a boat, as it is easier to control. A reel with a good drag system is also import as you need to land fish quickly so you can get back to rowing. However, once you manage your craft you can get to water normally not able to be fished. These fish should be less spooky and not quite as picky as some fish that get cast to more often.

General patterns such as wooly buggers, crayfish, poppers, and clouser minnows will cover you most anywhere in the Shenandoah Valley that you would be able to float. We also have many small lakes that hold sunfish and bass, and are stocked during the cooler months with trout. These lakes do not allow gas motors and a canoe or kayak is actually a good option to pick shorelines.

Overall, fishing from a canoe or kayak can be a great way to access water that is otherwise not wadeable. It also allows you to get away from the general public and surrounded in another environment I find different than wading. However, you should really be realistic about your boating skills and casting abilities and secure your gear or otherwise a tipped canoe can get costly and make for a long, soggy day.

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