Updated: Jul 23
When it comes to the serene sport of fly fishing, anglers often find themselves torn between two unique experiences - fly fishing from a canoe and fly fishing from a kayak. Both offer distinct advantages and disadvantages, making the choice a matter of personal preference and the desired fishing experience. I have used both floating around the tributaries of the Shenandoah and James fishing for smallmouth bass and other warm water species. In this blog, we'll explore the benefits and challenges of fly fishing from these two small watercrafts and discover why each option provides a unique connection with nature, and why both are a good way to catch fish.
Paddling into Tranquility: Canoe Fly Fishing
Fishing from a canoe allows enthusiasts to embrace the true essence of traditional angling. Canoes offer a sense of stability and comfort that allows for a relaxed fishing experience, perfect for those looking to immerse themselves in the beauty of the surrounding environment. In addition, the canoe's design enables anglers to carry ample gear, coolers, and they are long enough to get that oh so breakable rod tip inside of the boat, making it an excellent choice for extended fishing trips. For those who prefer a more social fishing experience, fishing using a canoe allows you to bring along a fishing buddy to share the adventure.
However, one of the significant disadvantages of fishing from a canoe is the possibility of snagging. The open design of a canoe makes it easier for the fly line to get caught on everything. Bushes, trees, or other obstacles along the water's edge, or even your own feet or the canoe paddle can all be things to pose a hassle. Maneuvering a canoe in tighter spaces can also be challenging, which may limit access to certain fishing spots. Positioning the canoe in rapids to fish a riffle can also be difficult and heavy winds can blow you around.
I have found that fly fishing from my canoe is an excellent option if I want to fish a pond or lake. I have rigged a mount on the back to include a small trolling motor and throw an anchor of the side of the boat in some remote coves with shallow water inaccessible for larger bass boats. I can also able to stand to give my backcast more more and overall feel that I can cast further more comfortably than casting from a kayak.
Glide and Cast: Stealth Fly Fishing from a Kayak
Fishing from a kayak opens up a world of opportunities for anglers seeking more versatility and maneuverability. Kayaks are designed to navigate through narrow waterways and reach secluded fishing spots that larger boats or traditional canoes might struggle to access. The low to the water profile of a kayak, combined with its excellent tracking ability, ensures that anglers can stealthily approach fish without disturbing them, providing an advantage for successful fishing.
For those who have never tried fly fishing before, kayak fly fishing may be the perfect entry point. The stability of most fishing kayaks offers a forgiving platform that allows you to cast and get accustomed to the rhythm of the sport. Being close to the water also allows for good sight fishing if the water is clear. Since the kayak handles on the water well you will use a paddle less than a canoe to get into the spot you want to fish from. You can effectively fly fish in places with a shallow draft between pools, making a kayak a better choice for catching fish in the summer when the rivers become quite low.
However, kayaks may not be as spacious as canoes, limiting the amount of fishing gear and equipment an angler can carry. Additionally, the confined space might not be suitable for social fishing experiences, making it more ideal for solo anglers or those seeking solitude on the water. Casting from a seated position also means that you to false cast with little rocking movement. I have seen people hit the water falling off a sit on top kayak fly casting too hard.
I have found that stable kayaks or sit on top styles are the best kayak for fly fishing. You will want to get in and out more often to fish from banks and wade just to stretch out and sit on tops also makes it easier to stay cool if you are spending the whole day on the water. Just some tips to help but practice casting sitting in your kayak near shore to get the feel before you get into deeper water, and maybe add rod holders so you can keep both hands free to use a kayak paddle through rapids.
Unifying Elements: The Joys of Fly Fishing from Canoe or Kayak
Both canoes and kayaks offer the opportunity to connect with nature in a way that larger boats cannot provide. The tranquility of gliding across the water silently and stealthy, only the sound of the paddle or pole breaking the stillness is an experience unique to small watercraft fishing. Whether you choose to fly fish from a canoe or a kayak, the feeling of landing a fish on the reel is incredibly rewarding, and the joy of the catch remains the same.
Fly fishing from a canoe or kayak presents anglers with distinct benefits and drawbacks. Advantages of fishing from a canoe offers stability, comfort, and the potential for a shared experience with a fishing partner. On the other hand, fishing from a kayak provides versatility, maneuverability, and a sense of stealth on the water, perfect for solo anglers seeking solitude. Whichever option you choose, the thrill of fly fishing and the connection with nature remain at the heart of both experiences. So, grab your paddle, hop in your canoe or kayak, and embark on a serene fishing adventure that you'll cherish for years to come.